Earl's On Top is a difficult one to rate with star ratings. For example, if you pick the right dish, it's one of the best on the Downtown peninsula (more on the ribs and chicken later); and if you don't, you'll quickly forget you ate it. As a fellow reviewer pointed out, if you go here when it's busy, the service will most likely be desperately amateurish; otherwise it'll be friendly and surprisingly knowledgeable, even with the delightfully short skirts.
My fianceé and I have been here at least 50 times in the last year as it's in such a convenient spot right above London Drugs, and usually we go at moderately busy week nights when the waiting isn't overwhelmed and the music doesn't burst the eardrums.
Usually we'll go for so much food that we end up taking a lot of it home. A starter course comprising of a simple but exceptional wedge of pan bread with a saucer of dipping vinegar and oil, and perhaps appetiser plates of ribs and some hot wings (the latter should be mandatory, the wings are incredible) set us up nicely for the exceptional entrée.
That Cajun blackened chicken breast with hickory back ribs and potato salad warrants a 6-star rating. We've had it more than twenty times and never does the tenderness of the chicken or the flavour of the ribs fail to impress. The potato salad on the side is so good that I think I could live on it and it alone for a month. I think that dish is about $29 and it's still a bargain.
As an Englishman, I'm somewhat disappointed by the lack of variety where the beer is concerned. One would expect a much wider range at a place like this. On the other hand, the martinis are expertly mixed, so a bit of Sex Appeal can suffice.
There have been disappointing times, though. Just a few weeks ago I tried the tacos and they were the epitome of bland. But then, to balance it out, just last week I tried a burger there - simply because I was in a big silly burger and beer mood - and it was the best burger I've ever had, completely outclassing the likes of Handburger Mary's. It was 8 ounces of sirloin steak!
The service can be good and it can also be totally retarded. Regulars will know which members of staff to avoid. Sometimes you can get lucky and all will be fine and dandy.
While not low, the prices are fair. The martinis seem somewhat overpriced while the food is good value (if you pick the right thing, of course). At weekend, the lounge/bar area can get very noisy, but the dining area is still quiet and comfortable.
We love Earl's On Top because we know what they do well - and that they do brilliantly - and we don't ask much of the service. If you pick something that isn't one of the chef's specialities, and you pick it on the wrong day, you'll probably avoid it like the plague in future.