Terrible tacos and Chocolate Overlord Cake: Denver's new Jack in the Box
As I'm driving to the new Jack in the Box , which opened yesterday at 2020 South Federal Boulevard, the second new Jack in metro Denver in a month, I'm seriously wondering why anyone would stop to eat at Jack's when both sides of the street, for miles, are dotted with mom-and-pop Mexican taquerías, mariscos trucks, carts and sit-down phở restaurants. There's nothing wrong with grabbing a quick burger from time to time, but that seems like such a waste of cash when compared to sitting down to a steaming bowl of spiced broth, noodles and rare beef, or scooping into a chilled, cilantro-garnished seafood coctel -- for a minuscule price upgrade.
It was easy to spot the new Jack's, because it was surrounded by signs, flags, balloons and people -- lots of people. The parking lot was packed, and so was the dining room, and the drive-thru was humming along to match.
The register line was a good fifteen-minute wait -- which, in fast-food time, is like an hour -- and I had to admire the way the clearly ambushed employees were keeping it together. I ordered the Sirloin Cheeseburger combo with curly fries, the Sirloin Swiss & Grilled Onion Burger and the Chocolate Overload Cake -- which I swear to blog said "Chocolate Overlord Cake," proving that I should stop reading HuffPo in the mornings before I've had my coffee. Jack also has both Fanta orange and strawberry soda -- and Fanta is fantastic.
As I sat down and waited, I mused about how long it had been since I'd last eaten at Jack in the Box. It was my sophomore year in high school, and the next time I asked my Pops if we could stop for curly fries, he told me -- in a testament to laconic parenting -- that we weren't eating at Jack's anymore because their burgers were f*cked up. In culinary school, I later learned about their unfortunate E.coli outbreak, and although my Pops was correct, I also learned there were technical terms for f*cked up.
The dining room, a new look for Jack in the Box, was actually cheery. The pop-art wall graphics were interesting to look at, and I actually kinda liked the shadow-box art with the little Jack head in it -- it made the mascot slightly less creepy.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a stationary order-kiosk. Upon examination, it seemed that this large, ATM-style machine was probably responsible for at least a few cashier positions being eliminated, and I wondered when all fast-food joints are going to replace humans with these. But then my food came, and there was no more time for deep thoughts.
The burgers were big. The Sirloin Cheeseburger had a decent bun; crisp, lengthwise-cut pickles; a beef patty that was very black-peppery; and ubiquitous hunks of iceberg lettuce that were annoying but expected. The Swiss & Grilled Onion Burger had plenty of lightly-grilled onions, and the same peppery burger patty.
The tables around me seemed to be on to something I wasn't aware of: the allure of Jack's Sourdough Steak Melt. I asked a cashier about this sandwich, and he assured me that it was "the best thing on the menu." So I ordered one, since what goes better with chocolate fudge cake than a steak sandwich?
The sandwich was pretty good -- an unhealthy but tempting combination of buttered and grilled sourdough toast, melted Cheddar and American cheese, grilled onions and a salty, white sauce that tasted a bit like ranch dressing.