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Mar 15, 2008 06:01 PM

jack the horse tavern

so... we had been told by friends who live right nearby that it was hit or miss - sometimes great, quick service and food to match and others sloooow with nearly raw, inedible food.

we definitely have seen the contrast now.

went a couple weeks ago for brunch. i had the baked eggs with goat cheese, prosciutto, etc. my boyfriend had the eggs benedict version with fried oysters. both dishes were delicious. seriously. the flavors of the fried oysters were unique, crisped and salted to perfection. even the side greens impressed as we both had slightly different varieties on each of our plates. the place was bright, airy and packed, bustling with a heights brunch crowd -- every excuse for slow service, but did not notice anything taking more than 2 minutes longer than it should have. left impressed, and told our friends who listened skeptically...forewarning us of our next visit.

just came from dinner there tonight...
i started with the spinach salad with apricots, cranberries, cherries, pecans & goat cheese. this was certainly the highlight of the meal for me. the combination and consistency of the mixed fruits were different than the average salad of this type. i cleaned it off. my boyfriend started with their mac&cheese. he seemed to enjoy thoroughly, i took a bite as well, enjoyed the smoked gouda addition, which distinguished it from your average mac&cheese.
for entrees, we split the burger and the special fish dish -- striped sea bass with broccoli rabe, mushrooms, and sweet potato gnocchi in a mushroom parmesan broth. the fish sounded absolutely delectable when described. when it arrived, the fish tasted like nearly nothing, the broth added nothing, the vegetables surrounding it were acceptable, but seemed like they simply didn't go with the dish, the sweet potato gnocchi was rubbery and again somewhat tasteless. the highlights of the burger were the asiago cheese on top (adding a stronger flavor than most cheeseburgers) and the pickled onions on the side... the burger itself, i tried to pick up, but there was SO much grease and oil running down my fingers, i had to resort to cutting haphazardly. the meat itself - eh. fries were a normal B level...but this is hard to go too wrong with i acknowledge.

since we left some of the fish, we figured we'd let ourselves split a dessert. we probably should have just stopped for tasti-d on the way home. we ordered the chocolate brownie -- sounded much better than it was in reality. three little brownies -- so dry and crumbly (not in the good way) that the only way to eat them was drenched in the gelato on the side. without, they were practically inedible. the chocolate gelato on the side was cloying (and this from chocolate lovers.)

all this being said, the service was excellent tonight. our server was pleasant, attentive, our water was filled up constantly, and we were asked multiple times if we needed anything else. one minor note: diet cokes are $4 each! we weren't drinking tonight, but we might as well have for the same price really.

so... after these two experiences, my question is -- what are other peoples'? i'm not opposed to going back and giving things another shot - i like more than 50% of the food i've had thus far, and do really enjoy the ambiance (though, being a young couple, we did notice just how much older the scene was tonight... not that this is a problem, just very evident.) so my question is: was tonight just a case of bad ordering? would love to hear anyone's thoughts - persuade us to give it another shot or stay away forever.

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  1. I have been there twice. Once it was great; excellent German beer and bratwurst with German mustard. The other time it was mediochre; non-descript salmon with nothingness sauce. I have not gone back because I wrote it off as glorified bar food. I always thought it wouldn't last. It is a really odd location. However I would go back for more bratwurst and mustard. Call it a weakness.

    1. I went once. I love the look of the place but found every dish mediocre.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Claire

        Jack the Horse has a great bar with excellent bartenders but the food is nothing short of mediocre. The service is the dining room is poor as well. It's stuffy and more suited to older folks.

        We are a thirty-something couple with young children, and the place just doesn't work for us. (With or without the kids)

        But, if you're in the area try Henry's End for a great meal with service to match.

      2. We've had two mediocre experiences at dinner (both in terms of food and service) and two great experiences at brunch (both in terms of food and service). Not sure how to explain the inconsistency. We probably won't be back for dinner, but we'll likely be regulars for brunch.

        1. I went last night to see what it was all about. The room itself is cozy and warm. It looks out onto the vine-covered brownstones. The bartender, Maxwell, was friendly and took great pride in his work. I selected a German beer which was heavy but had traces of pear or peach. My original plan was to order bratwurst (I was raised in Wisconsin so anytime I hear about an opportunity for brats, I'm excited), unfortunately, they are no longer offered.

          I switched gears and ordered the Mac and Cheese as an app. This particular version has three cheeses and a baked breadcrumb topping. It was delicious. I did feel after four or five bites that it wanted something else to mix up the taste a bit...nice pieces of ham? Maybe it needs to be ordered with something else.

          Moving on to the main course, I ordered a Gruner Velt which had a strong fruity taste at the front but then trailed off into a zippy dryness. My entree was a special that night: Baramundi fish (an Austrailian cousin of the Bass) with acorn (?) squash gnocci. broccoli rabe, black trumpet mushrooms, and what seemed like mini - vidalia onions. The accompanying mushroom broth was heavenly. The fillet had a perfectly crisp skin and the fish was tender and juicy.

          To finish up, I ordered a Robbie Robbie cocktail (a variation on the Rob Roy) which added a nice fire to a wintry evening.

          I had a great time and the food was perfectly fine. Everyone there seemed attentive and eager to do well. I will definitely return.

          1. On a lark we tried Jack the Horse Tavern last night (was planning on going to Le Petit Marche, but passed by it after parking the car and decided to give it a go.) We had a terrific time. The room is exceptionally warm, cozy and bustling, exactly what a neighborhood spot should be. The waitstaff were attentive without being overbearing. And the food was terrific.

            For apps, I had the spinach and arugla salad with dried fruits and goat cheese. Very nice combination of flavors, sweet, nutty, spicy, although I felt there could have been a touch more goat cheese (but I can never have enough creamy goat cheese.) My wife had a corn chowder which was pure creamy bliss.

            For mains I had the seared halibut over ratatouille. Fish was perfectly cooked and the combination was unbeatable. I'm going to have to try that at home. The chickpea "fries" it came with were very yummy, almost like healthy mozzarella sticks. My wife had the scallops which, again, were cooked perfectly and, with the serrano ham, were delicious.

            None of the desserts caught our eye and we were hurrying to catch a movie, so we skipped that.

            However, the entire experience was wonderful and we will definitely go back. This is exactly the restaurant that I wish Park Slope had. Its what Stone Park Cafe thinks it is, yet, IMO, Stone Park excels at attitude over food. JTH had terrific food with really no discernable attitude.