Having the Usual

Developing a habit with Jak's steaks and chops.

Know someone who frequents a particular restaurant so regularly that the servers know their usual order by heart? Someone for whom certain tables symbolize extra-special memories of romantic date nights, birthday dinners, and "the best damn [insert customary order here] we've ever had"? Meet my friends Kerry and Steve. After eons of nagging me to visit their favorite steak house with them, Kerry and Steve finally got me into Jak's Grillbut only after 30 minutes spent browsing the neighboring shops: Jak's, a West Seattle staple for over five years now, was packed at 6 p.m. on a recent Wednesday night, but they took my cell number so that we could wander around the Junction until a table opened up. After we got the call and took our seats on the mezzanine level, my friends promptly began sweetly quibbling about where they sat on Valentine's Day. And where they sat that night after that movie. And where they sat on their anniversary. And who it was they brought with them last month. And so on and so on. As opposed to steak houses that offer an ࠍ la carte menu, Jak's makes it easyand more affordableby simplifying matters. Each disheach cut of steak, each stuffed pork chop, each charred salmon fillet, each special (inventively marinated steak skewers are typical)comes with a perfectly simple house salad (just greens and some cabbage and carrots for color dressed with chunks of blue cheese) and your choice of potato: baked, delicious garlic-mashed, or a pancake of griddle-fried hash browns. You can't go wrong. Now I hate to have to tease you this way, but Jak's does offer one other very fine tater alternative, but I can't tell you about it. It's a secretfor regulars only. Your server, who will probably resemble a Swedish model, will clue you in only after you've proven to be a valuable, frequent customer worthy of this otherworldly (that's a hint) option. For my benefit, Steve inquired as to how many people actually knew about this very special side dish, and our waitress rolled her eyes and told us that some food critic (disdainful italics hers, not mine) had given the secret away in one of the daily papers, so now almost everyone knows. I kicked Steve under the table, thereby successfully communicating my need to keep my little secret a secret, and ordered the special of the eveningpeppercorn-encrusted ahi tuna steak ($18.95) served with a honey-ginger sauce. Steve selected one of the skewer specials ($17.95), two spears of New York strip adorned with a Gorgonzola and sun-dried tomato sauce. Kerry, who rarely deviates, requested her usual petit filet mignon ($23.95), medium to medium-rare, thanks. (Jak's offers no appetizers; their main courses are appetizing and generous enough.) Salads and a warm loaf of sourdough bread appeared almost instantly, prompting us to converse about foggy, sourdough-centric towns like San Francisco and Boston. Seattle seems to escape that same romantic association, but if Jak's has anything to do with it, perhaps West Seattle can make up for it. With its warm forest green, brass, and dark wood furnishings, Jak's has an upscale, special-occasion feel, but because its prices are more than fair and it offers a handful of less-expensive alternatives (Steve tells me the burger, for $7.25, is the best he's ever had), there's something wonderfully, well, regular about it, too. As promised, the steaks were excellent. Kerry's naked petit filet, advertised as "Jak's best," was immaculately yet simply prepared, while Steve's saucy, generous skewers were bursting with flavor and tang. Unfortunately, my tuna was not what I would call properly peppercorn-encrusted. It was crusted, with panko (Asian bread crumbs), and there were a few peppercorns hanging around, but I was disappointed. When it comes to peppercorns, this food critic (disdainful italics mine) has certain standards. Even worse, after dropping off our dishes, our svelte blond waitress all but disappeared, so I was unable to request custody of the pepper grinder. All was not lost, however; the tuna, though rather zingless, was a delicious high-grade fillet, and that, uh, "unidentified" (another hint) side dish was absolutely divine. Eat at Jak's once, and you're likely to be hooked. Get hooked, and you'll soon become part of the family. And once you're part of the family, you'll be privy to that delicious family secretand you'll be delighted to be considered a regular. lcassidy@seattleweekly.com

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