I don’t usually do restaurant reviews here, but I’m making an exception for my newest obsession, Jack Allen’s Kitchen.
When my dissertation chair, the elitistacademic, invited me to lunch at JAK, she pitched it as “serious farm-to-table fare.” I usually don’t take much convincing to check out a new-to-me restaurant, but then I looked at the menu. HOLY PIMENTO CHEESE, HOW SOON CAN WE GET THERE?!
(Side note: When I was in high school, I went to a tiny Southern Baptist church in Crockett, Texas. Once a month the youth group would have a Sunday-night volleyball game in the annex, and the church ladies would make us sandwiches and provide chips and drinks and stuff. Every time they served pimento cheese, I would act like a five-year-old and make yuck faces and just generally be a brat about the vile orange glop. One night, one of the ladies pulled me aside and schooled me, rather fiercely, about my rude and childish behavior. I now have an enormous appreciation for pimento cheese, as well as for how annoying children who make yuck faces at the food you’ve made for them. So, sorry church ladies. But that stuff in the tubs from the Safeway was pretty darn gross.)
Anyhoo, I met up with the EA around noon-thirty today and after perusing the menu (I was curious about the Navajo chicken taco, but because spinach isn’t in season here yet, it’s not currently being served. I LOVE THAT.) we made our selections.
We started out with the pimento cheese appetizer (you get a wee sampling taste as a sort of equivalent to the basket of bread you’d get at another restaurant). I really, really had to restrain/pace myself. The housemade flatbread crackers were thin and crunchy and nicely seasoned, and the pimento cheese itself was creamy and mild.
Despite the wealth of truly fattening and enticing items, I opted for a salad, something called the Chicken Club Fancy Salad or something. It has achiote grilled chicken, sliced apples, figs, and blue cheese in it, and is tossed in a champagne vinaigrette. The chicken bore a surprising bit of sneaky heat, but nothing too overpowering.
The EA boldly ordered the chicken-fried pork chop. Look at this beast!
Underneath that monster is mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley that had zucchini and pattypan squash, as well as some others. EA sliced me off a piece and let me tell you: you have not had chicken fried ANYTHING that tasted as good as this pork chop. “You can tell this is local,” said EA, “because you can actually taste the pork and not just the [perfectly seasoned and crisp] breading.”
Because we were going whole hog, we asked to hear the dessert selection. There was apple-pecan cobbler. Banana toffee cream cake. And wah wah wah wah and also wah wah wah wah. We stopped listening after “banana” and “toffee.”
Friends, I have no words. “It reminds me of my Big Mama’s banana pudding,” I said. “It reminds me of the pies we ate when I was a kid,” said EA. It was pudding-y and cream pie-y and … well. I had to force myself to stop eating it because I was stuffed beyond comprehension. In fact, I skipped dinner tonight, I ate so much at lunch.
But I also got a souvenir!
Oh yeah, baby.
The space itself is lovely: open and airy with a lot of natural light and clean lines. Each table or booth is afforded its own generous footprint; there’s none of that elbow-to-elbow nonsense here. Our server, while scruffily goateed and ponytailed, wasn’t the burnout of my first impression. He was informative and polite and efficient and didn’t hover. Well played, sir.
So, all told: solid, solid dining experience. I called my husband on the way back into town and told him we had to go there together immediately. I think the words “homemade pimento cheese” and “chicken fried pork chop” sealed the deal.
(P.S. Sorry the pictures are sort of blurry. I think I need to clean my phone’s camera lens.)