(I couldn’t help myself. One of the great movies of my childhood was the goofy 1959 Peter Sellers comedy, I’m All right Jack. It’s a comedy about unions and corruption and several other things and if you’ve never seen it, you should. It’s timely.)
Jack’s Seafood Restaurant, which opened August 14th, in the Fishermans’ Terminal building, has been avidly anticipated and heavily subsidized. As you may recall, the City put out an RFP for restaurant operators back in 2013 and received around a dozen applicants but-mysteriously- NONE of these folks were deemed qualified and we mere peasants and taxpayers are not privy to the reasons. The contract was awarded to Jack Wu, a crony of former Councilman Chet Albin. Mr Wu has operated the nearby Bayfront restaurant for four years. For Jack’s Seafood, the CIty spent $550K on the building, another $240K on fixtures installed at City expense and will collect NO RENT for the first nine months, after which Mr Wu will pay $4500/month.
Now the Bayfront has not exactly been an unqualified success. Their Yelp reviews have run about 50/50 with positive reviews for the scenery, sushi and teppanyaki, negatives for the rest, especially the service. Mr Wu has had years now to solve his service problems, so how does Jack’s measure up?
First of all, the space is beautiful. The waterfront views are great and the bar, which looked like they were still setting it up, is nicely appointed.
I guess we should start with the chowder, which should be the hallmark of a waterfront joint. The chowder has a nice flavor, but a thin consistency, off-putting to folks like me who like a traditional chowder such as that available at Gill’s or the Seascape. It’s not terrible, but, as one of our party said, it was “not yummy”. Both people finished theirs but no one was licking the bowl. Our third person had a salad instead, which was large and very fresh.
In fact, the ingredients overall are fresh and presented nicely. I had the fish sandwich made with rock cod. I thought it might come on a bun or roll but it was served on toast made of sandwich bread, which was different, with a huge mound of romaine and some sliced heirloom tomatoes. The fish part was fine. I ended up eating it with a knife and fork. The other two had the fish and chips, also with rock cod, and the halibut and chips. The remark was made that the halibut could have been tastier. The “chips” are quarter-sized slices of potato, fried. Again they were “not yummy”, but okay. The coleslaw was served dry and definitely needed dressing.
What about that old bugaboo, service? The staff are young and eager but the service was awkward. We waited quite a while and then our server brought our chowders and salad at the same time she brought our mains. She explained that they had run out of chowder (at 1pm on a Tuesday, with the place only half full) and had had to make more. I kind of think we should have been ASKED if we wanted everything dumped on the table at once but I guess I’m an old grouch.
Now, let’s talk prices. One would expect a “view” restaurant to charge a dollar or two more than a place in McKinleyville, and the $15 fish and chips does include soup or salad. It’s not a rip but it’s not a good deal, either.
Bottom Line: Has YOUR money been well-spent? As I said, it’s a beautiful space. Of the three of us, not one was eager to return, at least for food. The bar, however, has real possibilities. The food is okay, “not yummy”. The service is cheerful but raggedy. Jack’s has a captive audience of tourists just from its location, which is about thee feet from where the Madaket boards. Will it develop a local following? I really hope so. But they definitely have work to do. If you get down there, let us know what you think.