|7720 Hwy. 71 West
Austin, TX 78735
REVIEW – Round Rock
The success of Jack Allen’s kitchen in Oak Hill just past the Y has got to be one of the best restaurant stories of the past few years. The location had housed six or seven failed restaurants since the late 90’s. But former Z’Tejas exec Jack Allen Gillmore and his Z colleague Tom Kamm didn’t look back: they knew that a casual, comfort food restaurant with authentic tastes would work. And work it did. Not long after opening, they had something that I had never seen in the Oak Hill area before: a wait on a Monday night! And it’s just gotten better.
The appetizers alone are one reasons why loyalists flock to Jack Allen’s. Let’s start with the Smashed Guacamole. What sets this apart from other guacs is the deft blend of pumpkin seeds and cotija cheese. What amazing flavor. I often forget to use the chips and just eat it with a fork. It’s that good. The Chicken Nachitos are another slam dunk on the flavor front.The blend of slow roasted chicken, black beans, American and cotija cheeses and pickled jalapenos is just spot on. One of my favs. Another regular choice of mine on the appetizer front is the Crunchy Catfish and Slaw. This is pristine, farm raised catfish flash fried and served with a perfect chipotle spiked tartar sauce. And the Blue Crab Gratin is a great dish. This is lovely blue crab baked with artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan cheese and some appropriately crispy Ciabatta bread. And the Soup of the Day should never be overlooked at Jack Allen’s. You can tell a lot about a restaurant by their soups and I’ve never been disappointed on that front.
The items from the grill at Jack Allen’s roll out of their creative kitchen with aplomb and fundamental taste profiles. Let’s start with the Grilled Ruby Trout. Jack’s blend of sun-dried tomatoes and walnut pesto elevates the flavors of this dish and the apple-pecan relish takes it over the top. Beautiful texture to the trout as well. The Five Cheese Macaroni and Chicken is a show stopper. The achiote chicken is a wise selection and the elbow macaroni is a great choice. I haven’t had a dish like this since the heyday of the Granite Cafe way back in the late 80’s. And if you like chorizo, you’ll love the Chorizo Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Medallions. Man! The flavors in this dish come at you in waves and the creamy roasted garlic sauce is the perfect complement to the tender pork loin.
There’s also category on Jack’s menu known as Chicken Fried Anything. Your cardiologist may not approve but your taste buds will say otherwise. A chicken-fried New York Strip? You better believe it because I was skeptical until I tried it. But the taste of this is so comfortingly unique that it’s virtually irresistible. And then there’s the smoking time bomb of caloric indulgence: the Chicken Fried Beef ribs. Are you kidding me? I eat this about once a year but I look forward to it like a 16-year-old looks forward to getting their first driver’s license. (Remember that?) And it always delivers.
A good comfort food restaurant must have a repertoire of sandwiches and burgers that rock! You think Jack Allen’s has a few? The Fat Jack Burger falls into the category of what I call “stupid good.” I mean first bite taste bliss. This has got hickory sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, onions, dill pickles and a jalapeno mayo. Thank you sir, may I have another? And Gerald’s Hippie Turkey Burger is another killer choice. You would think grilled turkey would be dry, right? Not with arugula, bacon, swiss cheese, Russian dressing (the key) and tomatoes. I had this late one night on my last visit and it just disappeared. Amazing. And I must mention the Real Grilled Veggie Sandwich. What’s not to like about perfectly grilled portabello mushrooms (the NY Strip of funghi) and zucchini adorned with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and served on a fresh whole what bun. Eat your heart out Dr. Oz! And don’t forget to try the addictive Sweet Potato fries that come with all the sandwiches.
There’s another Jack Allen’s on the way in Round Rock and why not? When you have a goldmine like this place, the wealth must be shared. I’ll see you soon at Jack Allen’s, a true Austin feel-good story.