Jackson Deli is located at 3607 Legion St. (Michael Cooper / American Press)
The breads at Jackson Deli are baked up fresh by Collin Fontenot. (Michael Cooper / American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 08, 2012 3:57 PM
Not every Lake Charles dining spot comes with its rightful fanfare.
Count Jackson Deli among those denied their due.
Located on the east end of a gas station and convenience store at 3607 Legion St., Jackson’s Deli’s neighbors are Sowela Technical and Community College, Chennault International Airport and a trailer park. Don’t let the surroundings fool you. Expect a big-time meal in your Styrofoam box.
Jackson’s lure starts with its chef, Chad Jackson, educated at the California Culinary Academy in San Franciso, who has cooked his way across the Golden State and in Europe before landing in Louisiana. He has served as a chef in New Orleans and cooked in Lake Charles before opening Jackson’s in September 2010.
Despite his meager surroundings — he has 12 seats in his deli — he initiated his restaurant with lofty goals. Among them, he said, was an intention to cook meals from scratch, “as close to the ground as possible,” with a commitment to buy Southwest Louisiana produce.
“I’ve got a blue-collar clientle,” he said, but his commitment is to serve his customers fresh, healthy meals. Almost every lunch offering comes for $7 or less.
“You have to know your customers,” he said. “Fine dining doesn’t fit here. They want it hot, they want it now and they want it good. We’ve moved people away from fried foods into healthy meals.”
He said that’s why Jackson’s patrons range from regulars from Grumman, Aeroframe and the two-year college to a “Shell Beach Drive” crowd that enjoys his salads and dressings, which are made in house.
“It’s a ‘worlds collide’ type of thing,” he said of his diverse clientle.
I chose the Monday daily special, meatloaf, while my colleague Michael Cooper opted for the chicken mole burrito. My meatloaf was perched atop mashed potatoes with greenbeans, and was complemented by a homemade marina sauce. It was as advertised: hot, good and delivered quickly.
Cooper opted to add grilled onions, jalapenos, sour cream and American cheese to his burrito. Jackson’s also has a house salsa and vegetables to build your burrito and there was no charge for these extras.
For Cooper, the mole has become a favorite. He said it is never exactly the same — the color and spiciness of the sauce does change — but he said he has never had a bad burrito experience.
He passed on an effort to decipher the sauce, but offered this overall assessment: “It is good and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Both Cooper and I tried the breads, baked by baker Collin Fontenot and priced at $2. Cooper’s house bread was brushed with garlic butter. “If you are carb enthusiast I suggested you take a trip down and try their wares,” he said.
I went for the focaccia bread, which was served large enough that my slice had to be cut again to fit inside its own box.
I revisited Tuesday — that’s Taco Tuesday at Jackson’s — and tried the Three Tacos, rice and beans. The chef promised that my aversion to salt would not be offended by my choice, and he was right. My three chicken tacos were served in soft shells, were presented well in the box and were easy to handle. Nice meal; 7 bucks.
Jackson said he serves about 75 to 100 lunches a day; burgers, meatloaf and tacos, he said, are the biggest sellers. His tacos, he said, are a labor of love.
Don’t look for formalities at Jackson Deli. Service is brisk, but fun and friendly.
Small price for a big-time meal. It’s worth the drive.
• Location: 3607 Legion St.
• Hours: 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
• Phone: 337-513-9987.
• Online: www.facebook.com/jacksondeli