Restaurant: Jack Allen’s Kitchen
Cuisine: American/South Western
Last visited: July 23, 2010
Location: Oak Hill (Suburb of Austin, Texas)
Address: 7720 Highway 71W
Price Range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Chef Jack Gilmore
- Contemporary comfort food with Southwest twist
- Southwestern food
- Made in house old/new dishes
- Local, fresh ingredients
- Texas style
- Great for drinks/appetizers
- Great lively atmosphere
- Busy/line-ups at lunch and dinner
- Local favourite
- Homemade desserts
- Available for private parties
- Outdoor patio/outdoor bar
- Events/Live Music/Classes/Tastings available
- Daily lunch and dinner – open late
- Sunday brunch on weekends
- Daily happy hour – 1/2 price appies/drink specials
- Free parking
- Complimentary valet Thurs-Sat.
- Free appetizer with e-mail subscription
**Recommendations: Barbacoa Stackers, Texas Gulf Blue Crab Gratin, Chorizo Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Medallions
Jack Allen’s Kitchen is located in a suburb that’s pretty far from Austin and kind of in the middle of nowhere. Despite it’s location it draws in steady traffic and is really busy on weekends. Opened by Chef Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen’s Kitchen focuses on traditional dishes with contemporary Southwestern twists. It’s a great place for appetizers and drinks and there’s always something going on whether it’s their 1/2 price happy hour, live music,or special Tequila tastings. It’s very Texan in food, style and ambiance and the portions are large and reasonably priced so it’s worth a check out if you’re in the area. I was only visiting Austin, so I’ve only been to Jack Allen’s Kitchen once, but overall the experience was positive.
Walking into Jack Allen’s Kitchen you would think it’s a chain restaurant, but it’s actually not. It reminds me of The Cheesecake Factory, or for the Vancouver, BC readers – it’s like the Texas version of our local chain restaurant Cactus Club. It has a Southwestern feel with the wooden interior and it’s a huge space with ample seating and parking. Despite it’s far away location, it’s apparently filled all the time with a lively atmosphere. All the food is made in house and it’s made with all fresh and local ingredients. Jack Allen’s Kitchen offers an extensive lunch and dinner menu with veggie, meat and fish appetizers and entrees. I did enjoy the appetizers more than the entrees though because with the entrees some thing started to taste the same with similar sauces and rubs. However, everything from salad dressings, sauces to desserts is made in house so I liked that a lot.
The food is undoubtedly Southwestern with popularized Mexican flavours, but there’s also creative contemporary twists that appeals to the masses. Talking with the locals and I can easily see it being a local favourite and a good reliable place to for casual lunch or fun night out.
On the table:
- Served with flatbread crackers $5.99
- Pimiento Cheese is a classic Southwestern appetizer. I almost couldn’t guess what this was at first, it looks and tastes like crab dip without the fishiness.
- It’s very chunky and very cheesy and creamy with a slight kick at the end, but I wouldn’t even say it’s spicy and I thought it would be. It’s made with lots of mayo and cheddar cheese and it’s blended together to make a paste or dip. The dip wasn’t bad, but it was also my first time trying Pimiento cheese.
- It’s served room temperature and it’s a bit too creamy and rich for me, and I like cheese. I prefer cheesy dips to be served hot, so maybe that’s why.
- I actually liked the flatbread crackers more than the dip.They were really crispy and addicting and perfectly seasoned with Southwestern taco-seasoning like spice.
- Farm raised and flash fried, served with chipotle spiked tartar sauce $8.99
- Another traditional Southwestern appetizer. Catfish is super popular in Texas and I tried the deep fried version at a couple places and this one was very good. It almost like fish and chips, but it’s fishier tasting than cod and has more texture, but it’s not as firm and meaty as halibut.
- It was 5 pieces of catfish and they were very crispy and crunchy! They just do deep fried anything well in the South. The batter was a crispy batter made with flour and cornmeal and is was so crunchy and well seasoned. The tartar sauce was like a Chipotle mayo and it was quite thick and slightly spicy.
- The cole slaw is actually pretty good too and it’s on the sweeter side and the dressing isn’t just mayo but it’s like a tangy sweet ranch vinaigrette.
- Slow roasted barbacoa, layers of black beans, jack cheese, JAK’s slaw and Cotija cheese $9.99
- These are delicious! I could eat this as an entree. These are basically mini tacos – in the South it’s stackers and on the West Coast it’s all about the mini sliders or mini burgers.
- Barbacoa is a traditional Mexican meat dish. It’s marinated and slow roasted beef and cooked until it’s tender and falling apart like pulled pork. I actually thought it was pulled pork at first. It was really juicy and flavourful, and now I just want to try the authentic Mexican version of Barbacoa.
- The Barbacoa is piled on top of deep fried crispy corn tortilla shells. It’s layered with lots of creamy black beans and a great crunch with a lightly dressed tangy and sweet honey cole slaw. They use Jack cheese and Cotija cheese which is a firm and hard crumbly Mexican cheese that tastes like Greek Feta.
- It was savoury tender juicy meat, a refreshing crunchy cole slaw and salty bites of cheese with warm creamy black beans all on top of a crispy taco shell. It was a delicious appetizer and a great start to dinner. It didn’t even need any other sauces because the beans and dressing on the slaw were enough.
- These stackers were so flavourful and it was the perfect combination in texture and flavours. Everything was so fresh and well executed.
- Crab baked with artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan and grilled ciabatta $9.99
- This was almost like spinach and artichoke dip, but it was more gourmet with the added Blue Crab.
- The Ciabatta was really crunchy and nicely toasted with olive oil and fresh herbs. It was 4 really big pieces and I liked it better than the standard tortilla chips or pita bread I expected something like this to be served with.
- The dip is very hot in temperature and really fresh from the oven. I do wish it had a better gratin topping because that’s the best part and it was good here too. It was a combination of Parmesan and bread crumbs so there was a nice crispy and salty bite when you got some topping.
- The dip was actually made of large chunks of crab and artichoke hearts. It wasn’t blended and it was a dip that required a spoon. I did like the heartiness of the ingredients but it could have been a bit more chopped up because the crab was hard to split up when everyone is sharing the same dip.
- It was a very cheesy dip with lots of Parmesan and was more soup like in texture than creamy. It tastes much better than it looks and there’s a lot of tender and juicy artichoke hearts in it.
- Achiote chicken, Boerne figs, pears, candied walnuts, crumbled Bleu cheese and champagne vinaigrette $10.99
- This was an excellent salad with lots of gourmet ingredients, it’s all fresh from local farmers and suppliers too.
- The combination of ingredients was fantastic and you can actually see all of them and they don’t skimp anywhere.
- The chicken was a bit dry, but I did like the seasoning around it. Achiote chicken is a Mexican dry rub and it was almost like Cajun spice to me, but smoky and not really spicy.
- The champagne vinaigrette was the only part that didn’t really do anything for me. It was a bit light and heavy on the olive oil with slight bitter notes. I would have preferred a balsamic vinaigrette or something a bit richer.
- Red pepper linguini, spinach linguini, chipotle cream and Cotija cheese $11.99
- Half the people liked and the other half not so much. The sauce is made in house and there’s a lot of spice, but some reason it was still bland for me. It was the weirdest thing because it had 13 spices and looked really rich and creamy and almost like gravy. Texture was hearty, but flavour was missing.
- The noodles were orange and green linguini but they had no flavour of red pepper or spinach. They were very overcooked and a bit mushy and swimming in sauce. I love sauce too, but it didn’t help here.
- The Cotija cheese (tastes like Feta) did add a nice saltiness so I liked that part. The Mexican spiced chicken itself had flavour too, but other than that I though it looked better than it tasted.
- Served with chunky red potatoes and Chef’s veggies $15.99
- This was my favourite entree. It was creative, new and well executed with lots of Southwestern flavour.
- The pork was really tender and well seasoned with a Mexican spice rub.
- It was stuffed with a slightly spicy chorizo and coarsely chopped bread pieces. The ratio was good though and it reminded me of a Southwestern version of a stuffed turkey.
- The sauce was a cream based gravy that was very similar to the pasta sauce and could have actually been the pasta sauce. The pork itself had more flavour than the pasta though so the sauce worked better here.
- There was also a drizzle of sour cream over top and it added even more richness and a nice tang to the overall dish.
- The chunky red potatoes are actually pretty good. It’s mashed potatoes done with red potatoes so they’re very creamy and buttery rather than starchy or dry. I would have preferred the skins on, but most people probably like them off.
- With crab and hothouse tomato wedges in a roasted tomatillo sauce $16.99
- The salmon was a pretty big filet, but it was a tad overcooked and dry. I’m spoiled being in Vancouver, so expectations are quite high for a West Coast girl 🙂
- The salmon was pretty crispy with a nicely browned and caramelized exterior, but the flavour was quite ordinary. I couldn’t even pinpoint the flavours exactly but it was probably a Mexican dry rub… this is when things kind of started to repeat themselves.
- The side was awkward and the crab was just chunks of crab in a heavily dressed mayo dressing. It didn’t compliment the salmon and tomatillo sauce and I found it quite random. For me the execution of the side wasn’t well thought out and a waste of the crab – I know they can do better too.
- The tomatillo sauce was a nice change from the hearty gravies and there was a lot of dry spices you could see. It was very mild though and I could have used some spiciness. It’s not an authentic traditional tomatillo sauce and I would have liked it a bit thicker because it was hard to pick up with the salmon. It just needed more tomatillos, lime and cilantro rather than just dry spices.
- Served with chunky red potatoes and Chef’s veggies (I ordered this at a special event so this isn’t on the menu)
- The menu version: with a 1792 Whiskey demi-glace and King Ranch Potato Casserole $19.99
- This was seriously a massive piece of steak and it kind of freaked me out when they put it down… it was very unexpected.
- It was at least a 10 ounce steak and it was cooked medium and in West Coast terms it’s actually medium rare. It was nice and pink and it had perfect grill marks, but I could have used more of a dry rub crust. It wasn’t the best steak ever, but the quality of meat was good and Texas knows how to do steak even if it’s not a steakhouse.
- I wish the demi-glace was better reduced especially for a demi-glace. It was too thin, and it did have a nice beef pan jus flavour to it, but it wasn’t big enough to hold up against the steak. It could have been kicked up a notch with some Dijon mustard and that would help thicken it too. I would rather it just be more reduced though.
- The sauteed veggies of julienne squash, zucchini and carrots were nice and tender with lots of buttery flavour.
- The chunky red potatoes was chunky mashed red potatoes and they were also very buttery and silky in texture.
- Overall the size of the stead was more impressive than the flavours of it, but it’s still good.
- The dessert vary daily and they’re all made in house and they’re supposed to be actually quite good. This one was a miss though.
- If I didn’t know it was a cookie dough pie, I would have thought it was a sweet potato pie with marshmallows and a pecan crumb topping. It would have been better as that than a cookie dough pie.
- The filling was the texture of sweet potatoes with the flavour of caramel and then there were some random mini marshmallows in the filling. It was overly sweet and didn’t taste like cookies at all. Even a cookie dough crust would have helped. The topping was the only part I liked and that’s because it had pecan pieces in it.