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March 27, 2012

Alice Eats: The Jack & Grill

IMG_376418 Severance Green, Colchester, 876-7770

Since the Dragonfly Café opened in the fall of 2009, 18 Severance Green has been a revolving door for restaurants. From the Dragonfly to Sophie's American Bistro and now the Jack & Grill, a new eatery has opened in the space nearly every year. If the Jack & Grill makes some changes, though, it may have a fighting chance.

When I was first seated at one of the dining room's comfy booths, I was nonplussed to look across the room at a large poster of Jack Skellington, hero of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then my dining companion pointed out Jack Black. Indeed, it turned out, we were sitting in a "Jack" theme restaurant.

IMG_3765As for the "Grill" end of things, I'd have to find it on the menu. The large bill of fare was a pleasant surprise. Though there was nothing too exotic, it offered many appealing, low-priced options. Ahi tuna steak with lemon caper sauce sounded good. So did the smoked pig wing appetizer.

However, I couldn't resist the special soup. At $2.99 for a cup, the price was certainly right, and I can't say no to a Greek lemon-chicken soup.

Called avgolemono in Greece, the stuff is usually filled with eggs, too, making it slightly creamy. This version was more of a classic chicken soup with rice — and a lot of lemon. It scratched my sour itch like few other restaurant dishes, sweetened up just slightly by meltingly tender onions and celery.

IMG_3767I was excited to get my grill on with a pork ribeye. Advertised on the menu with the words "Jack's favorite. You'll never have better pork," I definitely got my hopes up.

There was nothing wrong with the chop (that is, after all, what a ribeye is — a marbled rib chop, as opposed to a lean loin chop), but it wasn't the best pork I ever had. The outside had even grill marks and a nice char, and the inside showed just a hint of pink. However, the meat was barely seasoned and dressed only with a bit of melted butter on top.

The scoop of creamy smashed potatoes, if a bit mealy in texture, was flavorful, but it was only lukewarm. I love me some baby asparagus, but the sparse spears I received were woody at the ends. As I ate it, I heard a server tell another customer not to order it. Wish I'd gotten the same warning.

IMG_3768The chicken pot pie seemed like a great deal at $9.99, though I didn't quite believe its description as "hot and healthy." The price turned out to be high for the size of the dish — just slightly larger than my cup of soup.

In its defense, the bowl was filled to the brim, which made a bit of a mess when breaking into the buttery balloon of puff pastry on top.

The stew therein was lacking in personality but nicely salted. Big chunks of chicken made the small portion feel deceptively hearty, but it was the smattering of apparently canned peas, carrots and mushrooms was disappointing.

IMG_3769My dining partner enjoyed the dish, but still felt the need to hit the free, self-serve popcorn machine more than once to supplement his meal.

I was more concerned with saving room for the Lovin' Spoonful Pudding Cake. I had the right idea. The chilled dessert was part pudding, part ganache and all heaven, stacked between layers of intensely chocolaty cake. And it was drizzled with more chocolate.

A good end, then, to an uneven meal. With some pricing changes and a little more attention to detail, the Jack & Grill will no doubt succeed at Severance Green. I'll be rooting for it — and the popcorn.

 Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected].


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