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Jack Allen’s Kitchen

Posted: March 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

I’ve realized that I don’t post many restaurant reviews. There’s actually a good reason I don’t. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I eat out significantly less than I once did. Moreover, when I do eat out, I tend to return to restaurants where I’ve had a positive experience in the past. Unless my experience changes, it seems rather silly to keep writing posts on restaurants I’ve already reviewed. I also tend to be rather cautious with new restaurants, which is another reason I only have one post about a more negative experience. (Ironically, that post on Red Lobster is one of the most popular I’ve written. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get multiple visits from people who found it via a search.)

This past week was one of our large meetings with our business customers. Our development project team leader planned a dinner out at Jack Allen’s Kitchen after the last day of our meeting. I wasn’t optimistic that a restaurant with a Chicken Fried Anything section on their menu would have anything I could eat, but I dutifully emailed them to ask. I received a really nice response that I want to go ahead and share.

Hello Scott,

Thank you for choosing our restaurant for your office dinner.  We do offer a few Gluten Free items on our menu such as our taco platters, bacon wrapped Texas quail, smashed guacamole, chips and salsa, and our Country Club Fancy Chicken Salad.  We will also gladly grill you any piece of chicken, meat, or fish that we are offering that day.  None of our items are certified gluten free by the Gluten Intolerance Group and there is a chance that cross contamination may occur as we are not a gluten free establishment. I hope this helps you and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to call or email.

Thank you,


@Jack Allen’s Kitchen

I didn’t actually get to meet Shannon, but I decided to give them a try based on his or her response. (Shannon being one of those names that both genders get to use.) In Austin, when a restaurant is familiar both with the Gluten Intolerance Group and the risk of cross-contamination, I’ve never had a problem despite their disclaimers. I believe such kitchens have good food preparation discipline, at least in Austin. There tends to be a sensitivity here to special dietary needs that I’ve not found in other cities that I’ve visited.

I’m really glad I decided to give them a try. Our waitress, when I described my special needs and the response I had received, told me they had a gluten free menu and brought me a copy of it. Later, when she was describing the special of the day (tostadas with a layer of beans, pork belly, grilled scallops, and a relish of jicama, peppers, and some other things), I realized that it didn’t sound like it contained anything with gluten. I asked her if she could check with the chef and she did. When she came back, she said Jack (Jack Gilmore I presume) confirmed that there were no gluten-containing ingredients. However, the tostadas were fried in a fryer that was also used for dishes that did contain gluten. I was impressed that he immediately recognized the risk of cross-contamination, but the waitress went on to say that he could prepare the dish without the tostadas and substitute corn tortillas instead. The “crunch” would obviously be missing, but everything else would be the same.

So I ordered the special with that modification and I was not disappointed at all. Every element of the dish was exquisite. I loved the beans. The pork belly practically melted in my mouth.The scallops were grilled to perfection. And the “relish” was magnificent. Oh, and the corn tortillas were pretty good as well. It was a fun evening and I heard just how much our customers are going to miss me while I’m working on my new job.

My vegetarian and vegan friends can now be appalled at my dinner selection. 😉 What can I say? I can resist many things, but pork belly and scallops? In one dish? Willpower only takes you so far. Of course, my meal also didn’t conform to Orthodox Lenten fasting rules. So I guess that night it was a good thing I’m not Orthodox! The restaurant is a very long way from our home, otherwise my wife and I might be dining there a lot. I noticed they have shrimp tacos that sound exquisite and are a particular weakness of my wife. We will almost certainly go there sometimes, but not frequently because of the distance.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, though, has definitely made my list of the restaurants at which I will eat. Even if you do not suffer from celiac disease, you will like them. In fact, you will be able to eat a whole lot more off their menu than I can. Everyone enjoyed what they got that night. It was a success all the way around, not just for me.

6 Comments on “Jack Allen’s Kitchen”

  1. 1 Jessica Meyer said at 12:51 pm on March 8th, 2010:

    I have eaten gluten-free at Jack Allen’s as well. It is always nice to know that restaurants know what cross-contamination means!! Great post 🙂
    Jessica M.

    Twitter: ATXglutenfree

  2. 2 Scott said at 2:18 pm on March 8th, 2010:

    It always gives me a ‘warm fuzzy’ when a chef points out something that could be contaminated that’s not obvious to me from the description. It demonstrates both knowledge and attentiveness and it means they are taking my dietary restrictions seriously. If I get cavalier or non-specific answers to my questions, I tend to worry a bit more. And usually once I’m worried I tend to become extremely conservative about what I will or won’t eat.

    I recognize that some people take more risks than I do, but even though I’m still figuring out just how sick I was, and I’m still recovering, I never want to return even slightly to the condition I was in by the time I was diagnosed.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. 3 Dana Ames said at 4:33 pm on March 8th, 2010:

    Well, the scallops would have qualified… I have an Orthodox friend whose protein intake during Lent is almost exclusively oysters (yuk). Our first post-Presanctified communal dinner featured clam/corn chowder.

    Scott, you’re about as Orthodox as a person can be without having actually been received into the church 😉


  4. 4 Scott said at 8:30 pm on March 8th, 2010:

    While the scallops and the rest of the dish except the pork belly would have qualified under the letter of the rule of fasting, I don’t believe that meal could in any way have been considered a ‘fast’. And it seems to me that while the letter of a rule of fasting matters in making it a communal rather than an individual undertaking, the spirit of the fasting rule still matters a great deal. And while I may not know much, I know the difference between a fast and a feast — and the meal I described was a feast. 😉

    I suppose I can’t really dispute your characterization, since there’s really no point I know on which I dispute the teaching of the Church. But I didn’t get to that point because I encountered the Orthodox perspective on God and reality and was convinced by something new. My understanding of God developed over years during which I was only vaguely aware that the Greek, Russian, and other Orthodox Churches existed. I mean, I was familiar with them in sociological and historical terms as well as in “current events”, but never really considered what they did or did not teach or practice. (Nor did I associate many of those I read with Orthodoxy.)

    If I had not come to see and believe that the God we see in Jesus is a good God who loves mankind, I would never have flipped from anti-Christian to Christian. I think that left me predisposed to an Orthodox perspective. And then, with the few exceptions like Brother Lawrence (who basically taught me the Jesus Prayer), I was always more comfortable with the ancient Greek Christian writers than with anyone in the Latin tradition. (Besides, there was a lot more to read from those who originally wrote in Greek the first thousand years than from those who wrote in Latin.)

    And so when I finally did become aware of modern Orthodoxy as a distinct tradition, and began to read and listen to its voices, I didn’t really experience a shift of any sort. They described God and recognized the God they described as the one I knew, loved, and worshiped. There was a sense of relief, of course, in some areas where I had wondered how my understanding could be so drastically different from that of what seemed like almost everyone else. But I never had any sense of encountering anything new.

    I think that’s one reason why I’m not in any rush to become Orthodox. While I wouldn’t dispute that the fullness of Christian worship is in the Church, it’s the fullness of worship of the God I already worship, the God I already know, the God who, for lack of a better way to put it, relentlessly and patiently loved me into Christian faith. And it does not feel to me like this is something I need to rush. I’m neither willing to run ahead of my family nor try to drag them into an experience and understanding for which they are not presently prepared.

    Over the course of my life, I’ve learned something of what it means to wait. And that seems to be what I should do now. I’m content to wait. If I’ve learned anything about God, it’s that his love and mercy are inexhaustible.

    But thank you for your kind words. Obviously you flipped my reflective switch.

  5. 5 Dana Ames said at 12:16 am on March 9th, 2010:

    Glad it’s a reflective switch and not a black hole kind of thing 🙂

    Reflecting back, I’m glad you found the God who found you… For me, it was reading Dallas Willard, and later (and more deeply) N.T. Wright, that convinced me that God is good and loves mankind. After about five years of Wright, when I became aware of Orthodoxy, I found myself saying to myself over and over, “Yup, I’m there about *that*.” Then I waited another couple of years to iron out a couple of issues and be sure that’s where I was being led. My kids are all grown and out of the nest, so that part of it was not a problem. If I had waited for my husband, I might not have ever gotten in… But now that I’m in, I find myself not reading so much, and what I do read is much more along the hesychastic, experiential lines. I think my heart is seeking equilibrium, after so many years of collecting “head knowledge” for my own ego and because of how that has been valued in our time and place… Amen and amen to the inexhaustible love and mercy of God. And I’m sure you know that Orthodoxy recognizes that there are people who are not “official” who are nonetheless Orthodox. May the Lord keep you in contentment.


  6. 6 Scott said at 5:21 am on March 9th, 2010:

    I do love Bishop Tom and Dallas Willard, but I discovered them both fairly late in my journey (though perhaps a year or two before I became truly aware of Orthodoxy as such). Coming from the background that shaped me, I’ve always wandered through a mix of knowledge, practice, and experience. I suppose it’s fitting that I became aware of Orthodoxy through my discovery that the Jesus Prayer (though I didn’t call it that at the time) that I had already learned to practice was among the oldest prayer traditions of the Church.

    I don’t claim any special experience of or insight into God. It’s just that he had to break through my hardened attitudes about Christians and convince me that he was truly good before I could experience or accept his love. So for me, the understanding that he was a good God was a necessary precursor to my turn in faith toward him.