A couple of weeks ago, my mother saw an advertisement in the Amador Ledger-Dispatch promoting Grumpy Jeff’s Public House in Ione. Coincidentally, last week I was looking at new places to eat and found Grumpy Jeff’s. I was particularly interested in their fish sandwich, which most restaurants don’t offer anymore. So, my mother and I decided to pick up dinner there on February 10.

Though Grumpy Jeff’s has a website, they publish new menus regularly on their Facebook page. Once my mother and I decided on our meals, I called Grumpy Jeff’s and talked to Jeff directly. Jeff didn’t sound grumpy at all, took our order over the phone, and confirmed the order and price.

A few minutes after I hung up, my mother and I drove to Ione and parked on Main Street across from Ione City Hall. Grumpy Jeff’s is located kitty-corner from City Hall at 12 West Main Street. The building has had past lives as a restaurant and pub, most recently as Clark’s Corner and Ione Public House.

Once my mother and I entered the restaurant, you wouldn’t know there was a pandemic in progress. There were several people sitting at the bar, one person sitting at a table at one corner of the restaurant, and a family with children sitting at a large table on the opposite end of the bar. The only person in the restaurant who was wearing a mask was Jeff himself, and he looks like the logo on the company website: a stocky guy with a long beard.

My mother and I made our way to the bar area in the center of the restaurant where a plastic bag containing our food was waiting for us behind the counter. We paid at the register and took our food as Jeff returned to scurrying around the dining area waiting on customers. It seemed he was the only one working at the front part of the restaurant.

Once we got home, my mother discovered that she didn’t receive the salmon burger she ordered. The plastic bag contained a Styrofoam box with my fish sandwich, a paper bag of French fries that she ordered, and a paper bag of onion rings I ordered.

My Meal

The fish sandwich included a toasted bun, a fried cod fillet, and tartar sauce on top of the fillet. Pieces of romaine lettuce and slices of white onion came on the side within the Styrofoam box. The bag of onion rings contained six pieces of medium-sized to large rings.

When I put the lettuce and onions on top of the fish, put the top bun back on, and took my first bite, all the pieces of lettuce and onions promptly fell onto my plate. I decided that I wasn’t going to struggle with keeping the produce on the sandwich and decided to use a fork to add pieces of lettuce and onion after taking a bite of the sandwich.

Grumpy Jeff's Public House fish sandwich and onion rings

I quickly discovered that the bun was toasted nearly all the way through, and the fish patty had thick breading. The result was a sandwich that was hard to chew. My mother noticed the look on my face as I was eating the sandwich and she asked me if the fish tasted like a hamburger.

I looked at the inside of the fish patty, and I could see flakes of cod. However, when I tasted a couple of pieces of fish without the breading, I responded that I couldn’t taste any fish and her description of a hamburger taste was pretty accurate.

When I took my first bite of onion rings, I was overwhelmed by the amount of salt on the breading. It was impossible to taste the onions, and I was only able to eat half of the onion rings before my stomach complained about too much salt. I put the last three rings in the microwave for dinner a couple of nights later and found the breading to be the thickest and chewiest of all the leftover rings I’ve eaten.

My Mother’s Fries

I offered to split my fish sandwich with my mother, but she declined and decided to eat the last of the leftover pork-fried rice we ordered from Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant the week before. She also ate about a dozen of the shoestring fries that had potato skins on one side.

She found the fries to have more coating than potato, and she also thought the fries were too salty. When she put her fries in the microwave a couple of days later, she couldn’t eat them because what potatoes there were inside the fries dried up.

Grumpy Jeff's Public House french fries

The Verdict

After my mother told me that she didn’t receive her sandwich, I called Grumpy Jeff’s and told Jeff what happened. He offered to either make a salmon sandwich “on the house” or return the money my mother paid for the sandwich. Making a sandwich on the house didn’t make sense since my mother already paid for it. Since I wasn’t interested in driving from Jackson to Ione again, I asked for a refund.

My mother initially paid $24.19 for our dinner. Three days later, my mother logged into her bank website and discovered that not only did Grumpy Jeff’s not only return the money for her sandwich, but they also refunded the cost of my fish sandwich and the tax for both sandwiches—a little more than $18. All she paid for was her fries, most of which she couldn’t eat, and my onion rings.

As we finished our dinner, my mother remarked this was the first time in her 25 years living in Jackson that we’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in the county, either in person or take out, that didn’t serve what we ordered.

We were left grumpy. Red light.

Want to Try Them?

Grumpy Jeff’s Public House is open from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, as well as from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Though they have a website, their most up-to-date information is available on their Facebook page. They are located at 12 Main Street in Ione, which is at the corner of Main Street and South Church Street (also known as Highway 124). You can call them with questions or order at 209-332-0577.

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.