I’ve always loved the all day breakfast concept. Who couldn’t use a little more bacon, eggs, and grits, right? Especially at Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, where you can supplement those breakfast staples with creative additions like fried-to-order crullers ($9), turducken sausage ($5), and a JT spam bowl ($12). While I clearly would’ve been happy to enjoy breakfast, I had the chance to explore Jack Tar’s fall dinner menu with foodie friends recently.
In my ongoing attempt to eat more vegetables, I started with the autumn lettuces ($10) — a light crunchy salad of apple and kohlrabi covered with creamy shreds of Goat Lady gouda, which was so tasty that I’m still trying to recall what lettuces were in there. I personally could’ve used more marrow in my bone ($12), but what I got was certainly unctuous. The mussels ($14) — a Jack Tar staple — were so very satisfying, especially with the creamy saffron broth and the cubes of butternut squash (to make it healthy, y’know?). I’ve always found the taste of mussels to be a bit too fishy, but this preparation might’ve turned me. The mussels were perfectly prepared — not too soft and infused with all of the flavor from the broth — and I struggled to only have a few.
The pumpkin and mushroom pot pie ($18) had a nice flaky crust, though I would’ve loved bigger chunks of mushroom or something to make the dish more substantial. On its own, it’s a great vegetarian (or perhaps even vegan) preparation, especially for someone wanting a lighter meal. But whenever I think pot pie, I think of a dish with more heft, so I wonder if a version with chicken would be even more gratifying. The accompanying greens were nice and garlicky, but may be better as a side dish than a direct accompaniment. On the flip side, I thought the NC crab cakes ($24) were absolutely divine. Considering that crab cakes at other restaurants are often mostly breadcrumbs, I was extremely pleased that the crab cakes here were mostly crab. Unfortunately, they did fall apart quite easily, so the tender ratio of crab to crumb could definitely benefit from slight tweaking. Coupled with the bearnaise, the dish was quite rich, so something acidic would be helpful to offset the richness.
My aversion to pasta (I know I know) kept me from trying the Piedmontese ravioli plin ($18), though the entire table gave the dish rave reviews, particularly the veal and pork filling. The ravioli were also quite sizeable, which is important given that most of us inevitably think about cost to food ratio when considering the value of a dish. As everyone dug into the pasta, I focused on the roasted chicken ($21), which I found well-seasoned and cooked perfectly — moist, flavorful, as if went through an impeccable brining process. Unfortunately, my beautiful piece of chicken was situated against a backdrop of very sad wet vegetables, which definitely took away from the presentation. A fellow foodie friend suggested roasted potatoes as a potential alternative; I might go so far as to suggest a crispy potato pancake for textural contrast.
Towards the end of dinner, I was definitely starting to do a slow crawl toward the finish line. Fortunately or unfortunately, I knew there would be dessert coming, so I held back as much as I could throughout the rest of the meal. Although I had to resist the crullers to manage space, I was able to sample a bit of all three pies ($8/slice) and came to the following conclusions. Given that I don’t love fruit pies, the harvest pie (with apples and cranberries) was my least favorite, though I think serving it hot would’ve been exponentially better than serving it cold. The pumpkin chiffon pie had great flavor, but could’ve been silkier and slightly sweeter. My favorite by a landslide was the French silk pie — I literally couldn’t stop digging at it. Considering that I’m not a chocolate dessert fan, this pie was pretty phenomenal if I couldn’t restrain myself. I’m definitely pressing for it to be available for Thanksgiving sales!
As much as we come in to enjoy the food, the hospitality is really what makes the experience, so I’m particularly grateful to Gray and Jay for taking such good care of us. Gray was especially gracious to come and sit with us for a while, sharing about his time with Tom Douglas, his chef’s journey from Seattle to Carolina, and his fabulous wife and son. I was personally appreciative to get his top restaurant picks in Quebec City as I trek up north in just over a week. I always appreciate being around chefs who really take the time to get to know us and our thoughts on their food. We are all constantly works in progress and it’s lovely to know when chefs approach themselves and their food in the same way.
Kudos, JT — can’t wait to stop in again.
Jack Tar and The Colonel’s Daughter
3210, 202 Corcoran St
Durham, NC 27701
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Hoi Ning Ngai is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s a recent transplant to the Triangle, a native of New York, and a lover of all things bacon, ice cream, and Paris. Follow her life adventures on Instagram at @hoiningngai!