In a cutthroat industry of 99-cent wars and classless gimmicks, Jack Box got the idea in his bulbous white head that he had to elevate his brand to compete with places like Subway and Baja Fresh. Hence the JBX Grill, a "fast-casual" restaurant with better food, better service and better atmosphere than big brother Jack in the Box. Did I mention they have beer?
From the outside, JBX Grill looks like a play dough factory. The colors are vivid and the architecture cartoonish, and the State Street location even has a faux footbridge and a patio. Inside, the fluted lights and leather furniture look ripped from the nearest Starbucks, and the dozen or so uniformed employees had the same over-caffeinated, bustling charm. The menu is eight pages long, and fixings includes applewood bacon, fresh avocado chunks, fire roasted red onions, gourmet spreads, premium breads and cheeses and a sauce bar. A sauce bar! Noticing my excitement over the fry-dipping options, a scamp named Brad stepped to the register and granted my every "fast-casual" wish. He brewed a fresh pot of coffee for me while the kitchen got to work on my sandwich, potato pancakes and French fries.
Hitting the sauce bar, I filled a stack of plastic cup-lets with zesty ketchup, honey Dijon, sweet and tangy BBQ, spicy habanero, ranch and fry sauce. I took a seat next to the fireplace and noticed that all of the furniture is equipped with sliding arm trays. I went for the sandwich first. The grilled egg, black forest ham, avocado, pepperjack cheese and spicy sauce looked plenty tasty. The ingredients were obviously fresh, but the flavor combination was anticlimactic-bland, but not bad. The skin-on fries were a bit starchy, but I liked the fact that they ranged from stubby and crisp to long and soggy, a fry for every taste. The potato pancakes were sinfully delicious, and I dipped them in each sauce, BBQ and zesty ketchup topping the list.
In the restaurant ecosystem, JBX is an aberration. Not quite fast-food, not quite upscale pub, its atmosphere will probably not appeal to people who want to run in and out for cheap and those who want good food and good beer will continue going to the Bittercreeks of the world. So what makes JBX Grill stand out? The service. I could tell the employees enjoyed being at work and they were more open and friendly than a lot of servers at the aforementioned juggernaut brewpub. I would go back just for the sauce bar and more anecdotes from Brad.
-Erin Ryan has crushes on fry sauce and Brad, in that order.