photo credit: Nate Watters
Jackalope is a Tex-Mex restaurant in Columbia City from the Jack’s BBQ team with a simple concept: take their prized smoked meat and throw it into tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas. If you’re hoping to experience a meal where crimson-barked beef shines the brightest, though, that’s not going to happen here. Instead, you’ll find some pretty good Tex-Mex food served in a rowdy and fun space that ultimately steals the brisket’s spotlight.
The buzz surrounding Jackalope is undeniable the second you open the door and hear all the chatter and sizzling cast-iron skillets. The bar is full. All of the tables are full. There aren’t many restaurants in town that are slammed every night of the week, but Jackalope makes a Tuesday feel like a Saturday, and a Saturday feel like a Pink Floyd concert. Sure, your server might mishear your order and give you the wrong dish, and you might have to yell at your dining companions, but it’s still fun to be in a hermetically-sealed brisket den full of talkative humans drinking strong margaritas.
For the most part, the food here is good, especially for a city that’s approximately 1,250 miles from the birthplace of Tex-Mex cuisine. As for the brisket, it trends on the dry side without too much smoke flavor, but when it’s stewed down into brisket chili gravy, fusing to melted cheese in an enchilada, it’s excellent. When it’s featured in picadillo, swirling within a hot crock of queso, we find ourselves using the little crunchy tortilla chip bits at the bottom of the basket to scoop up as much as we can.
But it’s really the pescatarians who’ll be laughing through the haze of beef-scented fajita steam—for Jackalope’s baja fish tacos covered in chipotle cream and sweet-tart mango pico de gallo is the best dish in the house. The beer batter on their tender rockfish is puffy, complete with little grooves and fried stalagmite pieces that crunch like cornflakes.
If you're in Columbia City, Jackalope is a solid choice. We like it best for some prickly pear ranch waters and liquid cheese at the bar with a date, a solo fish taco fix, or an impromptu fajita fest with a couple of friends. But it's smartest to use this place for planning a group dinner involving six or more people, since they take reservations for a party that large. Just be sure to warm up your vocal chords beforehand.
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Chile Con Queso
When this crock of silky-smooth white cheese sauce first hits the table, it’s a bit watery and needs some time to thicken up. Once it firms up a little, this becomes an excellent dip that clings to lime-spiked tortilla chips quite nicely. Add the brisket picadillo for even better results.
We appreciate fresh citrus-marinated rockfish on an avocado-slicked tostada, but this thing is piled high with so many pieces of pineapple and orange (and not nearly enough fish) that it feels more like a fruit salad than ceviche. If you want seafood, get the fish tacos.
Stuffed Little Peppers
Whoever came up with the idea to fill hollowed-out miniature peppers with cream cheese is a genius. But whoever came up with the idea to fill them with smoked jalapeño cream cheese and charred brisket hunks? A visionary. If you want a lighter appetizer that doesn’t involve six handfuls of tortilla chips, order these with confidence.
This cheese-stuffed and fried pepper has some tasty stuff going on but ultimately falls flat. The batter loses its crunch pretty quickly upon contact with salsa ranchera, and the large quantity of gooey cheese overpowers everything.
Texas Brisket Tacos
With spears of brisket covered in bruleed cheese, seared peppers and onions, and salsa ranchera, these are some pretty solid tacos, even though they trend on the dry side.
Baja Rockfish Tacos
In a stunning twist, the platter of fish tacos is the greatest dish at this meat shrine of a restaurant. With a beer batter that possesses appropriate levels of salt, puff, and crackle, it pairs perfectly with tender rockfish, drizzles of chipotle crema, and sweet-tart mango pico de gallo.
Imagine a tortilla rolled around a rectangular hunk of brisket, then topped with just a bit of guajillo sauce and cheese. Sounds great in theory, but this dish is overwhelmingly dry. Skip it.
Cheese Enchiladas With Brisket Chili Gravy
These are the brisket-based enchiladas you should be spending your stomach real estate on. Here, the brisket chili gravy does a lot of the heavy lifting, giving a savory, saucy punch to plenty of melted cheese. Does it border on being too salty every time? Yes, but you should still order it.
Rice & Beans
Both the bacon-infused refried beans and the vegetarian black beans are delicious legumes. The rice, on the other hand, is dry and bland. You’ll receive both with every entree, so just ignore the rice.