The Austin Chronicle

New Jack Allen's Kitchen Reflects the Best of the Original

By Angela Shelf Medearis, December 26, 2012, 2:00pm, On the Range

I’m a huge fan of Chef Jack Gilmore, co-owner of Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill. His farm-to-table concept using the best ingredients from local purveyors is always evident on his menus. After a year-long search for the perfect north location, chef Gilmore and his partner, Tom Kamm, have opened a second venue in Round Rock.

The Round Rock outlet in the former Blue Oak Grill space has a familiar warm and comfortable atmosphere due to Austin's Mann & Mann Architects' use of reclaimed Texas barn wood and lots of unique, local artwork. Even though the new restaurant can seat up to 300, reservations are already suggested. The new location was crowded and a happy hum of noise and laughter greeted us on our recent Saturday night visit for dinner with friends.

I was thrilled to find that the menu and the service at the Round Rock location is a mirror image of the excellent service and delicious items at the original Oak Hill location. Chef Gilmore selected and trained the wait staff long before the Round Rock location was completed to ensure that the restaurant would open and operate without a hitch. Executive chef Chris Ten Eyck from the original location runs the new kitchen in Round Rock.

Once seated, we were served a tasty amuse-bouche of Jack's signature pimento cheese and crisp, house-fried chips. Our waiter gave us the regular Jack Allen’s Kitchen menu, along with a special printed menu with an appetizer and two entree selections. He explained that the proceeds from the special menu benefited Edible Austin magazine's Eat, Drink Local Week fund-raiser for the Sustainable Food Center and Urban Roots. My husband, Michael, our friends, and I decided to share two of the special menu items to help the cause.

Our appetizer was a plate of Parmesan Dusted Fried Cauliflower from Hillside Farms ($8.99). The balsamic glaze that was drizzled over the golden brown pieces of cauliflower provided a hint of sweetness that perfectly balanced the slight saltiness from the Parmesan cheese. Next, we divided the Crispy Grilled Pork Belly, along with a side of curry sweet potatoes, pickled corn relish, and local greens ($19.99). It was absolutely delicious and showcased the succulent pork from Richardson Farms and local vegetables from Tony Kindle and J&B Farm.

When it came time to order our entrees, I decided to compare some tried and true favorites that I’d enjoyed at the South location with the same menu offerings at the new restaurant. My friends, who are also Jack Allen devotees, selected their favorite entrees, too. We ordered two plates of “Chicken-Fried Anything” Beef Ribs smothered in green chile gravy, chunky red smashers (potatoes) and mixed vegetables ($13.99), and the Pumpkin Seed Pesto Marinated Chicken Breast with Portobello Mushroom stuffed with a “to die for” Artichoke Gratin and a goat cheese drizzle ($13.99). The dishes were as delicious and perfectly prepared as we remembered from the original location. After a few bites, my friend sighed with appreciation and said that “all the flavors were dancing on his tongue.”

My husband was intrigued by the special Edible Austin menu entree featuring Rockin’ B Ranch Braised Cabrito and Grits. The stone ground grits were from Brazos Valley and infused with their Cheddar cheese. The slow-poached eggs that topped the dish were from Coyote Creek. My spouse was kind enough to let me sample the meltingly tender cabrito (goat), the creamy grits, and his side of pickled Texas shishito salad sprinkled with house-made chorizo dust ($17.99). I enjoyed the combination of the flavorful pieces of goat with the cheese grits. Hopefully, this dish will become a regular item on both the North and South menus.

Our attentive waiter asked if we had room for dessert. Jack Allen’s talented pastry chef, DeeDee Sanchez, has moved from the South location to prepare sweets that will be featured at both restaurants. We shared the Banana Toffee Pie ($6.99), the Peanut Butter Pie ($6.99), and the Blondie Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream ($5.99). They made for a decadently sweet finish to a fabulous meal!

Chef Jack Gilmore and Tom Kamm have not only perfected the recipe for creating a successful restaurant – a beautiful location and atmosphere, consistently fabulous food, and a well-trained and attentive staff – they’ve done it twice, in both North and South Austin.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen – North

2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681
Monday – Thursday, 11am – 10pm
Friday & Saturday, 11am – 11pm
Sunday - 10am – 10pm (Brunch 10am – 2pm)

Guest reviewer Angela Shelf Medearis is a cookbook author and cooking teacher also known as The Kitchen Diva.

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