Chattanooga Now Restaurant Review: Jack's brings Southern-style fast food to Cummings Highway

Chattanooga Now Restaurant Review: Jack's brings Southern-style fast food to Cummings Highway

April 13th, 2017 by Cindy Deifenderfer in Chattnow Dining

At Jack's Family Restaurant, the chicken and biscuit plate includes a breast, wing and drumstick, two sides a biscuit and a drink for a reasonable $6.79.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

If you go

› Where: Jack’s Family Restaurant, 3530 Cummings Highway

› Hours: 5 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays

› Price range: $1.99 side salad to $6.19 chicken sandwich

› Phone: 423-821-6888

On a recent foray into the Cummings Highway area in search of lunch, something curious happened.

As I made the right turn off Brown's Ferry Road onto Cummings, my car was immediately sucked into an unimaginably powerful magnetic vortex. My suddenly sentient steering wheel initiated its own travel plan. My brakes were useless.

I checked my rear-view mirror, then looked way ahead and quickly realized that mine was not the only vehicle caught in the tractor beam. There were others. Many others. And we were all being pulled in the same direction.

Cue the "Dramatic Chipmunk" video.

When my car finally did come to a stop, I was parked in front of Jack's Family Restaurant, 3530 Cummings Highway, with an intense craving for chicken and biscuits. I instinctively knew that the bizarrely specific hunger hex I was under could only be broken by chowing down on some of Jack's lightly fried crispy chicken and a biscuit. With, perhaps, a couple of sides and a cold fountain drink. That would do it. Maybe a single scoop of delicious ice cream for dessert, just to be certain. Two scoops would be my absolute limit. Three, if they're small.

Fortunately, I'd been brought to the right place. And, so it seemed, had everyone else.

Cue the "The Twilight Zone" theme music

OK, so most of the statements above are "alternative facts."

The whole "tractor beam" thing? Big lie. Sorry. "Sentient steering wheel"? Nope, didn't happen.

But I'll tell you what, it sure seemed like there were powerful forces at play that day because, evidently, a nutty-high number of folks who'd shared that short stretch of highway with me had given in to the very same impulse at the very same time: Go to Jack's for lunch. The place was packed.

Founded in 1960 in Homewood, Ala., Jack's Family Restaurant has a mission to bring "great fast food, Southern-style," and it succeeds. There are more than 135 stores across the Southeast, including locations in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. The Chattanooga store has been open since June.

THE MENU

First-time visitors to Jack's will be happy to discover that the menu offers something for nearly everyone.

There's a wide variety of juicy-looking burgers with or without all the trimmings, a couple of different plump chicken sandwiches, several fresh salad choices, desserts (including dipped ice cream) and, last but not least, an all-day breakfast option. That is what I'm going for on my next visit.

The Deluxe Breakfast ($4.69) is a biscuit, gravy, eggs, hash browns, grits and either sausage or bacon. Get it with chicken for $5.68. If pancakes are your thing, you can get a nice stack for $2.85. Add bacon or sausage for a little more.

The chicken fillet sandwich, either fried or grilled, costs $3.99, but one can also purchase boxes of bone-in or boneless chicken fingers with biscuits. Salads range from $1.99 for a side salad to $5.99 for either the crispy or grilled chicken option.

I was too full to try the selection of hand-dipped ice creams, but it sure looked good.

THE ORDER

I'd heard that chicken and biscuits is a Jack's specialty, so I went all-in, ordering a three-piece meal — breast, wing and drumstick — that comes with two sides, a biscuit and a drink for $6.79. I opted for crinkle-cut fries and green beans as my sides. Other side options were coleslaw and mashed potatoes with gravy.

The chicken came out with a pleasingly light and crispy coating, was seasoned well for my taste and was just the right temperature.

Turns out I over ordered though, as all three pieces were fairly large. So I managed to eat only one. The green beans (think doctored-up Allens, cut Italian style) were decent for a fast-food restaurant. The biscuit was good but well Jack's has done nothing to separate itself from every other fast-food restaurant serving pretty darn good biscuits these days.

Meh.

THE SPACE

This particular store seats about 80, so it wasn't terribly difficult to find an open table. It's a clean, tastefully designed dining room like so many other fast-food restaurants, but this Jack's has a comfy conversation area equipped with facing lounge chairs in front of a gas fireplace and with a big-screen TV mounted on the wall above it. Not too shabby.

While Jack's isn't trying to be "upscale" by any stretch of the imagination, it is trying, and succeeding, to appeal to the customer in search of that in-between kind of place. I imagine that if I had visited this restaurant for the first time during college football season that the TV/fireplace/conversation area would have been the place to be.

THE SERVICE

Jack's is a fast-food joint, so you know the drill. 1. Wait patiently in line until you are finally first. 2. Place your order with a harried person at a register. 3. Wait another few minutes to hear your name called to come get your grub. 4. Once heard, step forward to exchange the customary silent nod and brief moment of eye contact to indicate that it is, indeed, your order. Optional: Silently wave the receipt in your hand if your nodding game is weak.

Again, it's a fast-food restaurant, so I got my own drink and found my own table. Ate my own food, too, though the thought did cross my mind that the big, juicy Big Jack Burger ($3.69 burger only, $5.89 for the combo meal) on the table next to mine looked good enough to risk getting punched in the eye for sneaking a bite.

THE VERDICT

I liked it and so did my lunch companion. We vowed to come back soon. I'm planning to try the breakfast, and she's going for a burger. After all, the burger is where it all started for Jack's Family Restaurant. I definitely want to try it.

Contact Cindy Deifenderfer at cdeifenderfer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6362.