Jack Allen's Kitchen - Austin, TX (Oak Hill)
Jack Allen's Kitchen made it to the Austin bucket list during my travels over the past couple of years. I've heard the food is amazing and that the chef, Jack Gilmore, has been a mainstay of the Austin food scene for over 30 years. It apparently runs in the family with his son Bryce Gilmore at the helm of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, future bucket list destinations. I was super excited to finally cross Jack Allen's off the list, especially since it was a family treat. My brother-in-law and his wife saw my bucket list and got me a gift card as a Christmas present (THANK YOU!!). Although The Prof couldn't come with me on this adventure, I was able to catch up with a good friend over great food. The food lived up to and surpassed any expectation I had. Jack Allen's Kitchen is a definite must-try.
Let's start with this (literal) little nugget of goodness. Jack Allen's pimento cheese is pretty well known. It's the first thing they serve you and they even sell mason jars of the stuff for $5 a pop. If I wasn't traveling and it didn't need refrigeration, I would have bought one for the road. I will say I'm not generally a huge fan of pimento cheese, but I've found a recipe here and there that I like. Well, move over other recipes because this just took over the #1 spot as the best - dare I say - cheese dip I have ever had. Thankfully he actually shares the recipe for this yummy goodness in his cookbook, Jack Allen's Kitchen (yes, that's the link, you're welcome). It's simply cream cheese, Monterey jack cheese and cheddar cheese mixed with mayo, bell peppers, Worcestershire sauce, sherry vinegar, and kosher salt. All good food starts with good ingredients and I think that's what sets Jack Allen's pimento cheese apart of the rest. I'm definitely making this for the next girls night in that I host.
I was so happy to see my friend not just because I love hanging out with her and catching up, but also because she's in the know as an official Austinite. She suggested we order the Barbacoa Stackers, which is another menu item they are known for. Wow. These were out of this world delicious. The beef was so tender, moist and chock full of flavor. It's slow roasted to perfection and then layered with black beans, a slaw and Cotija cheese. Cotija cheese is one of my favorites. It's a cheese that's firm yet crumbly and adds a great salty bite to the dish. I couldn't get enough of it. Just look at it! It's making me hungry all over again.
Just like the special pork chops at Contigo that I had the night before, I couldn't say no to the soup of the day, especially when it's something I've never had before. Now, I've had sweet potatoes and I love me some sweet potato fries, but I've never had a sweet potato soup. It was delicious and I would say you would like it even if you're not a huge fan of sweet potato. It was creamy and mild, not overtly sweet, like you might expect. It was almost like a baked potato soup and it kept it's thick and creamy consistency the entire time I ate it. The pesto mixed it added a great fresh layer along with the croutons and cheese. Yum!
When I said earlier that the pimento cheese was the best cheese dip I've ever had, I meant it. That is until I had the queso. Jack Allen's now claims the top two spots of the best cheese dips I've ever had. As short lived as the pimento cheese was at #1, it's all good. Let me put it to you this way, and I'm certain all you queso connoisseurs will agree. I've had queso so good that I actually only eat the queso even though it looks like I'm eating it with chips. In actuality the chip is simply the "utensil" that I use to spoon the queso into my mouth. In all honesty, people would probably look at me funny if I just ate spoonfuls of queso with an actual spoon. I promise I don't double dip, but you know what I mean when I say it's damn good queso. It's chunky and cheesy and topped with avocado and pork. Boom goes the dynamite.
Oh yeah, after all that, finally had the main course. I decided on the NY strip steak, but not because I wanted a steak per se. I actually really just wanted the pimento cheese potato gratin and the steak was the side. It was a very tasty steak. Cooked medium like I ordered and tender. The au jus it was served on top of was equally tasty. It was a TX whiskey demi-glace. I admit that I'm not a huge drinker, but I love cooking with liquor because it gives full flavor to whatever you're cooking. This was no different and added a nice hearty sweetness to the dish. But that pimento cheese potato gratin. Holy cheesiness Batman!! Simply delicious.
I couldn't get enough of the great food happening at Jack Allen's Kitchen. They offer awesome happy hour specials from 3-7pm Mon-Fri so it's a great place to stop by after work. They have three locations around Austin. Order anything with cheese and you'll be good to go.