Jonathan’s The Rub
BY MIKE PUCKETT
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Jonathan’s The Rub is located in west Houston off of I-10 and Campbell Rd. Well to be a little more specific it is tucked back in the neighborhood a bit. In a way it seems to be hidden. A very inconspicuous space next to a convenience store. It’s pretty funny, I posted a picture on Facebook letting everyone know that I was there to experience the restaurant, and one of the first comments was “Rule number 1 of JTR, don’t talk about JTR”. So I guess I’m breaking all the rules by writing this review, that’s the rub. This hidden little gem is being exposed.
I want to start off by saying that this is not only my favorite restaurant experience I have had since I’ve returned to my hometown of Houston, but it is right up there with any restaurant I have been to in the country. I understand what I just said. I haven’t spent all day celebrating Craft Beer Friday. I will repeat myself, this is one of the best restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of breaking bread at.
Like I said in the beginning, as you walk up you would be surprised where it is located, but there is real beautiful greenery in front and a large sign above the patio that lets you know you are here. The restaurant sits in a corner space and there is a small line outside from people trying to get in for lunch. When we get in, we can see that the restaurant is busy. Real busy, filled with business men and women every seat is taken. The décor is nice and lets you know that you aren’t in some hole in the wall, but a fine dining establishment. What they have done here at JTR is conveniently made it comfortable fine dining. The best way I can explain it, the environment is nice, but not stuffy. I would feel comfortable wearing slacks or shorts. Really cool!
We sat down and it’s really neat, we could actually see in the kitchen with everybody hard at work. It was like an episode of Top Chef! I noticed one of the guys on the grill had curly hair and glasses. I recognized him from the website. Pretty cool, it looks like Jonathan is back there heading the kitchen himself!
JTR is unique as it is BYOB. Really nice that it is conveniently stacked up near a convenience store. So we grabbed some Top Texas Craft Beer; Saint Arnold’s and Karbach to be exact. A friend of ours joined us at the table and was our guide through this wonderful journey. She had been here many times and was able to maneuver us through the menu with ease.
She explained that the menu did have some staple entrees, but depending on what was fresh or Jonathan’s mood, the menu could change as late as 30 minutes before opening. This really keeps the chefs on their toes. You must be a great chef to work at JTR, his standards are high, but he is not above them. That is why we see him in the kitchen right beside his team.
We ordered an appetizer while we talked and enjoyed our craft beers. The Grilled Kofta was wonderful. Lamb and beef kebabs seasoned with spicy Indian masala spices, served with cucumber yogurt sauce. The yogurt sauce was refreshing and went just perfectly with the lamb and beef.
We then set sail on a voyage fit for a king. We ordered 5 entrees that ran the gamut of the menu. It was recommended that if we wanted to truly get the full experience and all the dynamics in which made JTR so exciting; this was the way to do it.
First up was Ham & Cheese St. Jacques a thick slice of brioche French toast, Dijon, grilled smoked ham and gruyere cheese sauce. What an incredible start. The ham was rich and savory with just enough cheese to drip off the edges. Take a look at the photography to see for yourself. This dish came together so beautifully and I recommend you give it a shot! We all took bites of it and shared it family style. This really made the experience enjoyable as we had a chance to talk about the flavors as we each experienced them.
We had the next 4 entrees come all at once and passed them around as we sampled each one. I have to admit my favorite dish of the afternoon took an extended vacation in front of me. I guess I blame it all on my roots, but Jonathan’s Fried Chicken & Grits brought me to place that is beautiful. There are those moments when you take a bite of something wonderful and you get a rush. This was one of those moments. This buttermilk fried chicken breast had bacon and white gravy on top of buttery, hand over your heart style grits. Not only is this one of my favorite meals, but I haven’t ever had it prepared so well. And I have enjoyed this entrée many times at many different establishments. Damn good job Jonathan. I highly recommend you give this a try… you will not be disappointed.
I really want to emphasize the fact, that I admitted this is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. This way you don’t think I am exaggerating or embellishing my feelings for this meal. I am not a huge fish guy although I am extremely fond of shell fish. The Chilean Sea Bass was the best fish entrée I have ever had. Not top 5, but the best. The Chilean Sea Bass was broiled and served with asparagus. To be honest with you it could have been served with sea weed. My buddy loves fish, so by the time it swam in front of me, there was only a few bites left. When I tasted it, I could see why. Every bite just melted in your mouth and it had a rich buttery taste that reminded me of vacation. I like vacation and I loved the Chilean Sea Bass!
The lamb we had tried as an appetizer was really good, so we also got the Osso Bucco Lamb Shank. The New Zealand fore shanks were topped with rosemary, garlic, carrots, Kalamata olives, capers, with tomato chardonnay broth. Such a nice grouping of flavors. Lamb is not something I order all the time, but when it is prepared correctly it is so delicious.
And finally, we enjoyed the Brooklyn Burger. Come to find out Jonathan is from New York, but we won’t hold that against him (only joking, RELAX). This gourmet burger had a spicy Italian sausage patty, beef patty, sautéed onions & peppers, ricotta & mozzarella cheese, bacon and fried egg. I have had a lot of burgers with a fried egg on top and many times I find that it is a little over board. Not here. This burger was one of a kind. The bacon on top of the Italian sausage along with the beef was a meaty combination that felt right at home as the creamy yolk broke open and drizzled down the side. Tasty, very tasty indeed.
So I broke the first rule of JTR and I hope I am not punished by those who might not be able to find a seat at their favorite restaurant the next time they visit. I am not ashamed to let the whole world know about this little hidden gem off the Katy freeway. For those of you traveling to our great city, you must mark Jonathan’s The Rub on the must see list. And again I apologize for spoiling this secret, but for those of you who didn’t know, now ya know!
PHOTOGRAPHY: MIKE PUCKETT
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