More About Jack’s
Cheese grits are art. In the wrong hands, cheese grits can be something akin to sacrilege. When a restaurant known for steak and seafood understands grits, it’s worth writing about.
Just off I85 near the ever popular Chateau Elan Winery is “Jack’s”, the quintessential neighborhood bar and grille. It sits in the far end of a nondescript strip mall and is flanked by impressive patio space that holds the promise of a robust and lively evening entertainment scene. Inside, the rhythmic cadence of the ice shaker readies a cocktail and welcomes patrons. Some pull up a stool at the long bar and others just grab their take out. One thing is apparent, everyone seems to know each other. Hugs and handshakes abound and laughter echoes along the narrow space.
“It’s really about having a place to belong and the camaraderie people seem to find here,” explains Jack Ansley, proprietor and namesake of the restaurant he didn’t really want to open. Jack’s exists today mostly because he couldn’t stand to see good craftsmanship, go to waste. “I had this bar in my barn,” explained Jack. An avid horse lover, he sold his acreage and along with it the beautiful barn he’d turned into a hangout for himself and the horses. “They were going to bulldoze my barn, it killed me! I thought, at least … I’ll save the bar.” So he did, and he convinced the owner of the strip to install it in the place it now sits.
The former co-owner of Road Atlanta and several restaurants in the Atlanta area, Jack is no stranger to successful business. He’d reached a pivotal time in his life in which he’d considered working a little less and pursuing personal passions. He wasn’t interested in the “marriage” that is running a restaurant. His friend, now in possession of his bar, asked him “what it would take” for him to take over the space; he made a reasonable offer. Jack, trying to humor his friend made a much less reasonable offer on a bar napkin. Jack was certain his friend would laugh. A bluff was called and now, you too, can enjoy artful grits with melted Gouda and very likely meet Jack in person.
It’s just as likely that you’ll meet Hollie. Hollie Hutchinson is Jack’s longtime girlfriend. Hollie is has a background in social work and is currently finishing up her doctoral degree. It’s a small space, “Jack’s”, but it’s big on hospitality.
“I’m more about the food and the kitchen,” Jack explained. “Hollie is great with the servers and the customers.”
“It’s important to us to be a part of the community,” Hollie said with a sincere smile. “We’re here most of the time and we want people to feel at home, and they do.” Both Hollie and Jack expressed interest in people having the understanding that their food is fresh. They do things like hand bread their chicken tenders, which are enormous. Their BBQ is so on point, a steady stream of customers file in and back out with bags of it in their hands. One patron interrupted the interview to compliment the Oyster stewand commented that he planned to eat his weight in it. The food is high caliber and Jack and Hollie are proud of that. What obviously holds so much more weight with this couple is the undeniable spirit of the place. Yes, the beer is cold and the French fries are crispy. Your steak will be cooked to perfection and your eyes might roll in the back of your head in pleasure when you let the flavors of the Cajun pasta roll over your tongue … that’s all true. What’s truer, is that Jack and Hollie and a long tenured staff are happy you are there. Not only are they appreciative of your business but they genuinely hope to know you.
As Hollie scurried off to take a catering call for a friend who needed trays ready in a hurry for a family emergency, Jack leaned back and smiled, “It’s our own little Cheers”.*