By Richard Eber — When the best eating establishments in the region are mentioned, Jack’s Restaurant and Bar at 80 Crescent Drive in Downtown Pleasant Hill deserves to be on that list. This unique eatery, which combines casual and refined dining, has been a fixture in the local culinary scene since it was opened over a decade ago.
Serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, this place has evolved to become a combination blue collar-white tablecloth experience. Jack’s reputation for being the dining spot for all seasons has its roots going back to when owner John Marcovici, his twin David and younger brother Chris toiled at their Mom’s 24 -seat cafe, Eleni’s, when they were teenagers growing up in Clayton.
With their family being immigrants from the 1974 Civil War in Cyprus, Eleni’s menu had an extensive Greek influence that has followed them in all their culinary endeavors.
After the sale of Eleni’s, the brothers plied their trade in local restaurants including stints at Savoy in Pleasant Hill and Clayton’s Pioneer Inn. While earning a Master’s Degree in Communications at SF State, John worked as a waiter at the iconic Greek establishment, Kokkari, in San Francisco. With brother David’s expertise as a gourmet chef, the foundation had been set for when Jack’s opened.
With such a diverse bill of fare, it is impossible to mention all the different items they offer. Especially noteworthy is their extensive kids’ menu championed by classic favorites as Mac-N-Cheese, Spaghetti and Meatballs, grilled cheese, hot dog, etc. With nearby Sweet Tomatoes recently closing, families looking for a new place to go will be thrilled (especially the kids) with Jack’s selections.
My favorite breakfast here is the Bananas Foster French Toast with a side of applewood smoked sausage and, in my case, a tall Bloody Mary. But the options here are wide, from traditional basics, to burritos, omelets, griddle staples to a slew of tasty specials for those indulge in mornng meals.
The same goes for lunch and dinner. There are many ways diners can go depending on their mood and appetites. Given their Eleni’s experience, a good place to begin is with the Mediterranean Sampler featuring homemade Tzatziki (yogurt dip), cilantro-jalapeno Hummus, Tobouli, and marinated olives served with warm pita bread.
For me, this starter is a perfect palate pleaser before I dig into a plate of Jack’s lamb meatballs smothered in a peppery tomato sauce.
Sandwiches are popular here if one wants to go in that direction. There are several Greek specialties including the grilled Chicken Souvlaki, Gyro, and my favorite, a medium rare lamb burger. Jack’s fried chicken breast sandwich is accompanied with outstanding coleslaw. They also serve a wide number of Angus Burgers cooked to order. Try their “Code Bleu”, served with Blue Cheese, an onion ring and BBQ sauce.
Salad consumers, there are two important features regarding Jack’s salad menu. One, Jack’s offers 12 varieties including Caesar, Buffalo Chicken, Greek, Thai Steak, and Bay Shrimp and others; and two, all their dressings are made in-house.
Now for the main course. I am especially fond of their spaghetti and meatballs and the tour de force, Tutto Mare, a combination of prawns, clams, mussels, and white fish finished in a wine garlic sauce atop a mound of spaghetti.
For traditional entrees, Jack’s sautéed petrale sole reminds me of the dish once served at high end restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Their crispy fried chicken, Yankee pot roast, lamb chops, and New York steak selections comprise “comfort food” at its finest. A cup of tangy Greek Avgolemono soup consisting of chicken, rice, lemon, egg, and cream pair well with any of these.
Dessert choices are supreme. They offer a pistachio baklava, pumpkin bread pudding, crème brûlée, or a caramelized banana split.
Come for the dining experience or come for Happy Hour. In his Online backstory, David’s quips, “I made the leap from dishwasher to chef when my mom and our then-chef at Eleni’s were both simultaneously incapacitated; my mom by a case of pneumonia and our chef by a case of Old Milwaukee.” This is the epitome of the atmosphere, service and casual play locals come back for week after week.
“We learned that a restaurant is more than the sum of its parts or a place people go just because they are hungry, it’s must also be a fun memorable time.”
Enjoy safe outdoor dining featuring a large tent. Hours: 9am to 7:45 pm. Reservations are recommended by calling (925) 849-6195 or go to www.Ilovejacks.com.