Thursday, 10 December 2009
ILLEGAL JACK'S SOUTH WEST GRILL
Fast, fresh, convenient
A south west grill is a familiar concept to this American. Places like Chipotle and Moe's are among the favorites in the States serving up fast but fresh Tex Mex, with specific pride placed on a variety of salsas and the ability to walk away with a giant meal for a tiny price.
This is a brand new concept to Edinburgh, and to my knowledge, Scotland. 'Jack' and company realised a potential for a south west grill within a city that can be barren of places to actually sit in and have a large, impressive meal for under six or so quid; and so, Illegal Jack's is born.
It has completely taken over the old and uninspiring home of Pizza Hut on Lothian Road after a mind-boggling transformation requiring unfathomable amounts of love and patience for a result so tremendous. Gone are the manky walls and aroma of stale dough, replaced now with clean, white walls, gorgeous oak furniture throughout and far more inviting scents emanating from the completely re-fitted kitchen.
On my first of, inevitably, many visits, I go for the tacos (£5.25), a portion of three corn tortilla shells and the option to fill them with any variety chicken, beef or sauteed vegetables. I try one of each, and top each one with three different salsas, cheese and a side of, apparently, one hour fresh guacamole.
Although the shells could have been crispier, the contents made it more forgiving. Everything is marinated with chipotle peppers for 24 hours, rendering a smokiness, however, discernibly different flavour within each filling. The salsas are obviously fresh, with hotness ranging as mild, sweet (roasted) and super hot. For real fire lovers, there's plenty of Louisiana Hot Sauce on-hand too - a brand they believe is more excellent than the many they sampled during a search for the perfect complementary sauce.
Also on the menu are fajitas, chili bowls, salad bowls, nachos, quesadillas and, the next item on my agenda, burritos. I got a glimpse of the latter, and they are truly served in American-sized portions and come with instructions to 1. Put back the fork and knife. You won't need it; and 2. Grab the burrito with both hands.
It should be noted that there's no booze served at all, so come only with an appetite for lots of rather great examples of American South West flavour. (K. Smith)
-113 Lothian Road
Also in the January 2010 issue of Bite Magazine