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 -- again...it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My wife and I have eaten at Jack about 15 times in the last 4 months. 3 brunches, the rest dinner.
Service was always excellent... unless we got one particular waitress who has since moved on.
Brunch? Once ok, twice spectacular. But I usually won't judge a place by brunch.
Dinner? We've had almost every item on the menu. A few items don't work. The pork chop is dry. They don't seem to have figured out fish. And the pasta dish is hit or miss. Desserts have rarely tempted us -- they need a new pastry chef.
But every single appetizer is fantastic. And all the other entrees are great. While they started out a little rough when they opened, I now think they're well worth visiting regularly.
Uhhh, Peter... I trust your opinion, I'm sort of set to go back to JTH (my wife liked it better the 2-3 times we went early on), but you're not being much of a salesman here. I now have been advised to not get the pork chop, fish and maybe the pasta??? How big is their entree list? Gimme a hint here... why is it so good if so many things arent? :-)
re: Steve R
Steve, fair enough. And sorry for the much delayed reply.
Let me revisit those 3 dishes:
The pork chop. I got it once and I found it dry. But LazyLighting below just had it and said it was quite good. I guess I dinged it here because it's generally not my favorite dish AND it was dry AND there are so many other things I enkoyed on the menu.
Fish. They cook fish well, it's just that for most of the Summer it was being served in an odd manner -- with some sort odd Caribbean stew that didn't work well. They've now switched to some other prep so it may well be solid.
Pasta. In retrospect, I have no idea if the pasta itself is good or not, I just know that it always seems to be a preparation that doesn't appeal to me personally.
In general, how many apps do they have? A quick look shows 9 apps and they usually have 1 or 2 specials. So I'm confident you'll find something you like.
Finally, is it the best restaurant around? No. Is it the best in Brooklyn Heights? I don't think so but my wife does. But it definitely makes my top 3 and we always have a pleasant experience to boot so I recommend it.
Jack the Horse Tavern
64 Hicks St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
It is very uneven, indeed -- both food AND service, I might add. If the same maitre'd /manager (male, late 20's) is still working there, don't expect much in the way of poor service being corrected. They blew our order six months ago (my wife now refuses to go back after having been there at least ten times before then since they first opened) with disastrous results. When the runner brought out my dish, he disappeared and never returned with hers. We assumed it was on the way, but, alas, it never arrived. I flagged the server and asked what happened. She seemed stunned. Turns out her order never made it onto the ticket (although her app did -- go figure) -- blamed it on the ticketing system. She didn't want to wait for her entree to be fired up from scratch at that point so we split mine. Maitre'd/manager was ten feet away within earshot and totally unoccupied, but never came over to apologize. Nothing comp'd, either. On the way out, I told him their response was bush league. He then -- and I'm serious -- blamed my wife for not wanting to wait for her entree to be cooked. Then, I let him have it and we've not since returned.
That said, I concur it is hit or miss. And prior to that experience, the service was largely warm if a tad slow. The food has some high points -- the fennel and blue cheese salad in the winter is excellent. Trout salad is very nice. The roast chicken with lemon mashed is also strong. They had a pretty good skate last winter as well as a deft hand with cod. Not a fan of the burger b/c it is on ciabatta which I think is a lousy bread for a burger. Excellent fries, however. I have had good luck with the pork chop in the past, but haven't had its most recent incarnation. I do enjoy the brunch menu, particularly the shrimp club, the homemade pork sausage, and the crushed, fried red potatoes.
Good cocktails and craft beers.
Well, here's my update -- we flinched and decided to give it another shot much to my wife's chagrin...and were pleasantly surprised. The service was excellent and efficient, and the food was very good. Their current pork chop entree is served with a "cornbread sauce" -- something I'd never seen before. I must admit that the sweetness played off the pork well and the consistency was fine -- not too grainy or course, rather smooth. It was served with delicious, well-spiced, and expertly roasted parsnips, and caramelized pears. I still think the menu needs more rotating dishes, particularly the apps. I can appreciate why a neighborhood restaurant with a limited menu needs to stick with the time-tested entrees that please the masses and regulars alike, but the apps should be switched up a bit more. That said, it was nice to be back and be treated well. Recommend.