You only need to walk ten minutes from University to find yourself enjoying an authentic taste of American cuisine.  If you’re hungry and have a tenner burning a hole in your pocket, why not try Free State Kitchen – an independent American restaurant located on Maryland Street, serving up a variety of dishes from across the Atlantic.  Describing themselves as offering “a contemporary twist on American classics”, the menu includes “handhelds” (aka burgers, hotdogs and sandwiches), appetizers popular in America, such as buffalo wings and crab cakes, and a choice of 18 different beers and cocktails.

Inside, the restaurant has an inviting, relaxed and quirky vibe.  The walls are decorated with bottles and beer boxes, and your receipt is presented in an Old Bay Seasoning tin, giving a subtle American theme to the decor.  If you visit in the summertime, be sure to take a seat at one of the picnic tables in the beautiful outside space, styled to feel just like a homely back garden.

The Sphinx reviewed this place in 2013, but since then they have introduced a great deal for students.  Monday to Friday from 2pm-6pm during term time, students can choose a burger, side and a drink from the following, plus fries:
– Classic burger, American cheeseburger or Garden Burger (vegetarian)
– Slaw, onion rings or side salad
– Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite or juice
Portions are plenty and it only costs £10, saving you quite a bit of money; buying these without the deal costs up to £14.25.  But the big question is, is it good food?

I visited Free State Kitchen at around 3pm on a Monday, and there was only one other table occupied – although previous visits on the weekend have found the restaurant busy. The 2 to 6 o’ clock time frame during which you can get this deal means that it’s rarely crowded and you will be served quickly.  Over several visits I have tasted the classic burger and all the sides included in the student deal.

The burgers here are delicious. The patties are a decent size at 5oz, with a fluffy toasted brioche bun and high quality beef taste. A lot of burger restaurants pile on so many toppings and sauces that you can’t taste the beef underneath, but here that juicy meaty flavour shines through. They are served with plenty of lettuce inside and a generous dollop of mayonnaise.

The fries are seasoned with salt and finely chopped rosemary.  This makes them a little fancier than your standard chips, and really flavourful. The side salad includes crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, onion and croutons, with a nice sprinkle of chopped parsley on top that gives an impression of attention to detail from the chef.  It comes with a creamy garlic dressing and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.

A portion of onion rings gives four rings, with a crispy flaky coating and tender onion inside.  This is how onion rings are supposed to be.  Finally, the coleslaw was fresh and crunchy.  It included an unusual mixture of vegetables – cabbage, celery, onion, apple and red pepper. I’d never had coleslaw like this before but the vegetables go together well and look more colourful and appealing than your normal cabbage-and-coleslaw combination.

Overall, Free State Kitchen gets two thumbs-up from me.  If you want a high quality, filling lunch at a good price, definitely give Free State Kitchen a visit.  The food is delicious and of excellent quality, plus you’ll get a lot for your money.  As student deals go, this one is great value and gives you a lot of choice.  Why not take a trip with your friends after your lunchtime lectures and treat yourself to some bargain American food!