760 Elizabeth St Waterloo, NSW 2017
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 11am-midnight; Fri-Sat 11am-3am; Sun 11am-10pm|
|Features||Bar, Cheap Eats, Events, Groups, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 9698 1320|
No corkage, free pool and 10-buck negronis? By George, you have my attention.
If there's better value to be found on a Monday night than at this Waterloo warhorse, I'd sure like to know about it. Any BYO needs to be purchased from The George bottle shop, but what the hey? Pub wine at retail prices is a thrilling proposition.
It's excellent juice, too, brought to the southern end of Elizabeth Street by Joel Amos, founder of online natural wine retailer Drnks and co-owner of The George with Jaime Wirth and Mike Delany under the International Worldwide hospitality group banner. The team also count The Duke of Enmore and Woolloomooloo's Old Fitzroy in their pub portfolio.
International Worldwide revamped the 1960s hotel in April. The brick box-shaped facade remains largely unchanged, save for a Drnks bottle-o sign and commanding Rabbitohs mural by illustrator Sindy Sinn.
Inside, the TAB counter has been turned into a DJ booth, but the mosaic floor tiles remain mercifully intact. It's a zone for harness racing, Neil Young and Resch's. Meanwhile, the beer garden is engineered for tacos and Tinder dates with cacti and a pastel paint job positively itching for summer to roll around.
Salsa king Toby Wilson also provides punters with a reason to visit The George for something other then post-Souths' game schooners. Anyone missing Wilson's tortilla magic from Ghostboy Cantina can strap in for a menu starring five usual taco suspects and a daily special such as beef cheek mole or slow-roasted pork shoulder rubbed in achiote paste, garlic, orange and lime juice. Brilliant stuff.
Al pastor ($6) is king of the regular tacos, with a fresh corn tortilla wrapping grilled pineapple, sharp salsa verde and pork neck marinated in guajillo chilli adobo sauce. Exactly 1000 times more authentic than any "Mexican" franchise offering – and only $3 on Tuesdays. Bargain.
Meanwhile, the Ensenada fish taco ($7) sees ling, barramundi or gurnard (whatever the fishmonger recommends on the day) fried in a super-light masa batter and piled high with shaved radish and cabbage. There's also a chicken carnitas ($6) and char-grilled skirt steak ($6) taco, plus a ripping cauliflower number ($6) where nutty golden-brown florets are amplified with cashew cream, chipotle salt and coriander.
You could probably down six tacos over two hours and still have room to tractor juicy elotes (that is, glistening $6 corn cobs covered in microplaned haloumi), but a zucchini flower quesadilla ($7) and kingfish tostada ($7.50) on top might be pushing it. Also note there's help-yourself salsa de habanero on the counter, made with fresh habaneros and apple cider vinegar. It works with everything except churros ($8).
For the ultimate taco booze match, hit the bar for Dominican Agua Fresca ($20) featuring buttery Brugal Anejo rum and refreshing watermelon juice. (Or you could just get among the Vida mezcal.) Corkage from the Drnks bottle shop will set you back $20 when it's not a Monday night, but this still represents great natural wine bang for your buck. A short wine list is on the pour too, and a Minim 2017 Floyd Rosé ($12/$55) made with Heathcote grenache and viognier is a smashable, slightly spicy adventure.
The George pumps with share-housers and hospitality workers most nights of the week and I don't remember this much love surrounding a pub in the area since Wirth and Delany relaunched The Norfolk in 2011, introducing Cleveland Street to lageritas in the process. Kudos to the team for gifting the inner-south another cracking venue to enjoy tacos and cerveza in the sun.
Cards AE MC V eftpos
If you only eat one thing: Al pastor taco ($6).
If you only drink one thing: Dominican Agua Fresca ($20).