Jack’s by the Tracks
709 Krebs Ave.
Pascagoula, MS 39567
It’s an unlikely find. In sensationalistic times, nothing shocks us as much as things did a decade or two ago. The unlikely doesn’t raise our eyebrows the way it used to. We don’t bat an eyelash to the outlandish political rhetoric, nor do we blink at the fictional work we find in books, television and movies.
Art hasn’t been watered down, we’ve just been inundated with and desensitized to it. So for me to say Jack’s by the Tracks is an unlikely find, I’d hope that would be enough for you to pay attention.
An unlikely find, you say? Yes. When living in California, if you’d told me the best sushi I’d have would be in the sleepy little town of Pascagoula, the very same place where the squirrel went berserk, I’d have been convinced you were mentally on par with the captured and freed tree rat who caused a famous ruckus at the First Self-Righteous Church.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is littered with hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems from the Alabama state line to the Louisiana demarcation. The charming downtown Government Street section of Ocean Springs merges art with food, drink and music. For better AND for worse, the casinos stretch almost endlessly beginning in Biloxi and fading to the west around Bay St. Louis. From there you will find a gorgeous stretch of Hwy 90 that changes your perspective on Mississippi beaches. On a good day, Mary Mahoney’s can bring you to tears with oyster soup. But if you’re heading from Mobile toward the left side of the map, your first stop should be Jack’s by the Tracks.
What was intended to be The Third Rail, a whiskey bar with food and live music, eventually became something much different from the original vision. Sure, there is whiskey and live music, but no matter who is playing or drinking, the food is the star of the show. By food I mean sushi. Mississushi.
Though it may conjure up images of redneck, deep-fried abominations to be eaten well done with ketchup, don’t let that moniker fool you. Jack’s offers what most sushi lovers are looking for, and as a gigging musician, I’ve tried most of the menu. However, they’ve made some recent changes. Now is definitely the time for a review.
It was an off night for music as Katie and I made the 35-minute drive from our midtown front door to Jack’s. I had to deliver a guitar to the area, so I thoughtfully made arrangements with a babysitter for an impromptu date night. Katie has had their sushi before, but was as eager as I to try the new menu items. Lucas and Graham were out, so Ursula came to take care of Henry.
Sitting at the bar and looking at the walls lined with paintings of bands by local artist Robby Amonett, I finally got to examine the recent changes.
The appetizer menu still had the favored fried Crawfish Balls ($12) as well as goat cheese, kani and shrimp-stuffed Spring Rolls ($13), but we had to try the Maque Choux ($14). The stewed corn, peppers and tomatoes with sautéed shrimp were superb, but without cream. Served over smoked Gouda cheese grits, there I found the creaminess I was looking for. I’m glad to see this addition.
One of my Jack’s never-misses is the Korean BBQ Taco ($5). Find me a better taco anywhere and I’ll buy for both of us. Pork roast is marinated in fermented Korean peppers and cabbage with pickled vegetables and cilantro. Did I mention it’s five bucks?
We were told the new taco was giving it a run for the money. Seared Duck Breast Taco ($7.50) is a sweet yet sour formidable opponent to the Korean pork. With bacon and what they call duck “quacklins,” cabbage, sweet orange chili sauce and lime coulis, you can probably taste it just by reading the description. It’s stellar. But you can pry the Korean version from my cold, dead hands.
I knew tuna would be in my future. With that in mind, we had Salmon Nigiri ($9.50). The salmon was so fresh I almost cursed. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even use sauce for any of the three pieces.
I’ve had enough Bob Marley ($13.50) and Black Pearl ($13) rolls to choke a Rastafarian Kraken, so tonight I ventured out. The new Rainbow roll ($14) is centered around Momo’s (there’s a story in there) kani salad. Adorned with tuna, avocado and salmon with sesame seeds, this isn’t the run-of-the-mill. Get it.
There’s a new Mango Tango roll with tuna and cream cheese that sounded great, but the similar Hot Sweetie ($12) won us over. With crab salad and mango, it was the spicy tuna, sesame seeds, green onion and sweet soy that captured us.
There are other rolls that indeed have fried shrimp or crawfish for those not looking for the raw fish experience, but they are tastefully done. The Crawsome or the Jockamo are still favorites of mine. If you are seeking that entire deep-fried roll, they have you covered with their battered Big Bayou. I’ll let you judge that one.
I was told the Vanilla Bean Cheesecake was not to be missed. Why was I not told the hundreds of other times I was there? No matter. They were out. We settled for Jack’s Crème Brûlée ($7). I say settled, but that real vanilla bean flavor in every bite with the sugary crust did not hurt my feelings that the cheesecake was absent. This was actually my first time eating dessert at Jack’s. What kind of fool am I?
Of all the Gulf Coast gems, I’m not sure how hidden one would consider this place, but to me, it’s one of the best. With a vibrant live music schedule and fun, happy atmosphere, you’d be pressed to find many who’d argue with me. Go for the sushi, but enjoy the rest. For a complete menu and non-sushi items visit jacksbythetracks.com.
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