Colombo's Café & Tavern
(6487 Manchester Avenue; 314-647-2661) and JackSons'
(6655 Manchester Avenue; 314-645-4904) are two similar-looking bars in the same third-of-a-mile stretch of Manchester on Dogtown's southernmost edge. Both appeal to an unfussy happy-hour crowd and both tout their steak sandwiches.
"Everybody loves them!" enthuses our waitress at Colombo's, while JackSons lets its menu do the talking, stars flanking either side the signature dish's name.
On the other side of the jump, the contenders, the battle...and the verdict.
: The night we visited, a bartender was wrapped up in a poker game with a handful of regulars. The Cards were on television, which meant a bunch of well-priced drink specials.
But we're here for the steak, not the sizzle.
Our server is downright ebullient, though she doesn't ask us how we'd like the meat cooked. A short time later, our eight ounces of seasoned, char-marked rib eye arrives atop cheese-garlic bread, where Provel lends its trademark tang. The bread itself is cooked perfectly, straddling the line between too light and too overcooked -- it's crispy, not burnt.
The meat itself (ordered medium rare) is not a consistent pink throughout, but for $9.95 that's not unexpected. Pale, wimpy tomatoes, lettuce and onions come on the side. We don't bother with any of 'em, and the generous portion of fries makes us forgive and nearly forget.
t's a pretty good sandwich, save for the inedible matchbook-size piece of gristle we're left to stare at on the plate. We tell our waitress we'll be back for happy hour sometime soon and actually mean it.
: The same night the crowd skews significantly younger at JackSons' (probably owing to the band), yet the atmosphere is somehow not as lively. Though shorter than the one at Colombo's, the menu at JackSons' is more creative than we'd anticipated, and we impulsively order a soft pretzel/pepperoni pizza hybrid, which we can't help but think would be an amazing food to eat hung-over. But the $10.95 steak sandwich -- grilled medallions of tenderloin on, again, garlic cheese bread -- is what they're most proud of, and so it's not surprising that the waitress does ask how we'd like it done.
JackSons' medium rare is right on the money. The two beef medallions, thick as a pair of hockey pucks, arrive on an admittedly ho-hum bun with melted squares of cheese. Every bite is tender; none results in chomping down and pulling out the entire piece of meat in a single bite like a dog with an old shoe.
Yes, the plate that arrived was rather Spartan: The Crayon-thick seasoned fries were so few in number you could count them, and there were no veggie accoutrements to be found. But steak's the star here, and to muck up the plate with other stuff wouldn't serve a purpose anyway. The Verdict
Though we're already looking forward to returning for the happy-hour specials at Colombo's -- perhaps the bartender can deal us a hand next time? -- JackSons' steak sandwich is the superior one
and well worth the extra buck.