Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thunder Road, Stop 1: Jack's Grill

Jack's Grill is the quintessential small-town steakhouse. One of those places that you hope still exists in this world of Ruth's Chris and El Gaucho high-end martini-of-the-moment driven showplaces. You walk into a small dim room and take a seat at the bar that takes up half the room, order a drink from the bartender who's worked there for going on 30 years and wait for a table to open up. And the drinks are masterful...strong and direct, not foo-fooed up with star anise or passion fruit.

The menu couldn't be more straightforward: seven steaks ranging from New York to filet mignon to a brochette. Each comes with a choice of baked potato (with sides of butter and sour cream) or fries and Jack's famous salad that's just like the one your mom used to make...iceberg lettuce soaked with creamy dressing and tossed tableside in a plastic bowl that looks like it came from Goodwill. Jack's does make a token effort at non-steak options by offering fried chicken (which I've heard is quite good), scallops and prawns, but really, if you're not into a lovely, tender piece of top-quality beef treated with the kind of respect (i.e. the searing heat of a grill and no more saucing that Lee & Perrins provides), then you'd best head elsewhere. If you want to move on from cocktails, the wine list is adequate but it might be best to bring a bottle from the cellar that will do justice to cuts of meat like this. And forget about dessert. You're going to be so full of steak and potato goodness that it just doesn't make sense. Best to just sigh deeply and head out into the shimmering summer night.

Read the rest of the posts in the series: Thunder Road Redux, Stop 2: The Sundial Bridge, California Campin', Back in Oregon

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