Part of the benefits of Road Trips is the ability to try local places that you do not have in the place where you live. One of the things that Chains and Corporate Culture has done is watered down much of the road cuisine and culture you could have found off of any Interstate, US Highway or State Road. However, Social Media, the local food movement and folks wanting something different from what Canadian author Douglas Coupland called “Generica” in his Magnum Opus Generation X has led to a resurgence in good, albeit higher end local cuisine that can be found on many a road trip around the country. One show I must confess I DVR and watch regularly for good road food around Texas is Good Taste with Tanji Patton. Tanji’s show focuses on the Southern Texas Triangle of Food in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, and parts inside and surrounding said Triangle. I had the pleasure of serving as a Judge at the Grand Tasting first round at Woodlands Wine and Food Week last year, which was fun–and she was a hoot let me tell you! I mention her because I first heard about Shaggy-haired Southern Texas Chef extraordinaire Jack Gilmore on her show. Jack Gilmore is well known for great food, a big grin, a lot of locally sourced ingredients and serving Texas Craft beer at his restaurant Jack Allens’ Kitchen. 80% of his raw materials come from local farms in and around the Austin area. That is something that is important to me, and is part of the reason why we made sure to eat a meal at his restaurant. A little more background per his website:
Signature Pimiento Cheese at Jack Allen’sAt Jack Allen’s Kitchen, you’ll find refined Southern-inspired flavors, crossed with the spice of southwestern cuisine. The bounty yielded from each season and the dedication of every farmer and purveyor chef/owner Jack Gilmore and his team come in contact with, serves as the daily inspiration and reveals the rich history and evolution of Texan cuisine. Every meal begins with a plate of the signature pimiento cheese and flatbread crackers, a “welcome to JAK” hospitable gesture that is never overlooked. A dynamic lineup of wine, beer and seasonally driven cocktails are also available to quench patrons’ thirst. Our crew at Jack Allen’s Kitchen’s is chosen for their culinary knowledge, hospitable nature and, of course, sense of humor. They are there to ensure your experience at JAK is a memorable one. Cultivating a healthy community through charity and comforting them with great food is Jack’s mantra, and now part of the culture at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. Jack and his team couldn’t do what they do without the incredible food that Texas purveyors (farmers, brewers, ranchers and more) put out each season. Whenever there is an opportunity to give back, big or small, Jack and his team are there to help those in need and pay homage to the folks that make Texas so damn tasty.Jack Gilmore reminds me a bit of a Houston area fella with the initials L.E., which already ingratiates him to me. Tanji Patton’s recommendation sets good precedent as well. And as they said on their website, they have been serving Texas Craft beer since they opened in 2009. As we perused the menus, I enjoyed a Thirsty Goat Amber from Austin-based Thirsty Planet Brewing. At 30 IBU, this is a slightly hoppy, reddish-amber coloured beer–in fact I almost mistook it for a Red Ale. It was fairly rich, resinous, had a little bit of bite, was easy drinking, but had heavier gravity than a Pilsner or a Kölsch. I rated it 4 out of 5 on Untappd, meaning a very good specimen, one you should try when you get the opportunity. I will also add that this amber beer worked very well with the signature pimiento cheese and flatbread crackers served as a amuse bouche at Jack Allen’s Kitchen. The pimiento is creamy yet chunky, slightly salty, has nice fresh, sweet pimiento peppers and is garnished with some chopped green onion stalks. And the flatbread crackers had a wonderful salty, savoury crunch! The family agreed this was a nice snack to start with as we checked out the menus, and it didn’t take long for decisions to be made.
Jason and Helena found the menu had plenty of good choices. After resisting the urge to order a full sized appetizer of the Pimiento Cheese, they each found something that appealed to their mood that afternoon.
Jason wasn’t too hungry, so he went with the kids menu Quesadilla, asked if they could add grilled chicken to it and they were amenable to that. He ordered it with the standard Russet fries and fresh ketchup. The portion was quite good for a kid’s size and he gobbled it all up, no leftovers on the plate! He gave it two thumbs way up as he washed it all down with a Dr. Pepper.
Helena, with her broader palate, went with the In The Bun section and chose a Grilled Veggie sandwich, which I would have called a Portobello mushroom cap burger! This is a whole wheat bun, stacked inside with a grilled portobella, zucchini, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, and Russian dressing. This Grilled Veggie sandwich looked good and from a distance you might think it was a loaded burger. Helena allowed me a bite and even though I am a meat lover, this Mushroom Burger works if I need to go for a few days without meat, or am just really craving Portobello caps.
The Adults in the party had their own ideas about what they wanted. We’d been hoofing it around the UT-Austin Campus (HOOK ‘EM HORNS!!!) and had worked up an appetite, so we ordered Jack’s Green Chile Cheese Burger: 100% Texas beef patty grilled to order (medium rare here) topped with green chiles, cheese, dill pickles, and jalapeño mayonnaise, though I had them add lettuce and tomato to the burger. This is a juicy, meaty cheeseburger on a thick, fluffy bun that didn’t come apart, held all the innards together quite well. The green chiles were fresh–more herbal than hot, still crunchy and the burger was prepared as ordered, so we were happy!
Besides the burger, the Adults also ordered the 13 Spiced Chicken Pasta: red pepper linguini, spinach linguini, fresh jalapeños chipotle cream, and Cotija cheese. This is a spicy Tex-Mex take that departs from grilled chicken fettuccine Alfredo by a long country mile! The pasta is tomato and spinach based, giving it more colour, but the spice, the heat, the flavour kicks in hard! If you like a spicy pasta dish, you will love this for sure! And as you can see from the photo, those long sliced jalapeños are fresh, raw and are hotter than the pickled variety. Again, this was no problem for us–we love some complexly flavoured spicy food that isn’t just heat!
I will also add that the Oak Hill location we visited was built into a converted building whose former use wasn’t apparent, but included some huge skylights bringing in A LOT of natural light and making giving the place a nice warm feel to it. The staff was very friendly and willing to accommodate special requests. And the decor was a mix of Southern classic wood furniture, reclaimed and repurposed building materials, and a lot of cool Texana-based artwork all over the walls. It felt like an abstract, cool, funky homage to the Austin area, and we liked it quite well. Overall a great meal, at an easygoing pace (y’all know how I simply LOVE a late lunch, off-peak, with a leisurely pace). I want to thank Jack Gilmore and the staff at Jack Allen’s kitchen for their great food and friendly service. Without a doubt, we will be back one of the next times we are in the Austin area!
Report Card for Jack Allen’s Kitchen:
Call ZZ Top, we gonna Party on the Patio!!! Thirsty Goat Amber: A
Kids’ Quesadillas: A
Grilled Veggie sandwich: A+
Green Chile Burger: A+
13 Spiced Grilled Chicken Pasta: A+
Dining Area: A+
Texana Kitsch Modern: A
Overall Grade: Solid A
Jack Allen’s Kitchen has 3 Austin area locations, with a fourth coming soon!
We went to the location at:
7720 Highway 71 West
Belly up to the Bar!!!Austin, TX 78735
Hours Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Monday-Friday: 3-7 p.m.
**featuring half-priced appetizers plus drink specials
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
HoF in Austin: Review of Jack Allen’s Kitchen on SH 71 syndicated post