On the Menu

Whipped cream, colored sprinkles and rum don't go together
by Anabella Wewer

Java Spots & Coffee Stains

I am not fond of resturants that try overly hard to make you feel as if you are in another part of the world. I'm all for setting the stage, but I can do without 50 piñatas hanging from the ceiling of a Mexican food restaurant, specially knowing that piñatas are something you'd seldom find inside a restaurant in Mexico. So I was pleasantly surprised when I first walked into Jack Creek Steakhouse, in Bethlehem, Pa., and found a good balance of rustic furniture and bright-colored accent pieces -- and no plastic Corona banners everywhere. (There were some by the bar, but that's fair enough.) The legendary hospitality of those south of the (U.S.) border was missing altogether, however, from the moment we stepped in. Rants & Raves

It's been a couple of weeks since I went there, and I still haven't decided whether a less-than-favorable review for the food is really fair. It was made abundantly clear by one in our party that the baby back ribs that came with the fajitas (no, you are not expected to wrap those up in tortillas) were just too dry, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the food. Three of us shared the "family-sized fajitas," an enormous serving of chicken, beef, onions, peppers and (I guess to be different) skewered shrimp, ribs, zucchini, squash and roasted potatoes, accompanied by sour cream, pico de gallo, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese. Authenticity is not abundant at this place, but if you can get past that, the food is okay; not great, maybe not even good, but okay. Someone else in our party had a sirloin steak which looked tender enough, but which also got the "just okay" appraisal.

Drinks were on the house, because the manager was trying to make up for the incredibly rude server who was supposed to have served us in the bar area while we waited for our seats. Those, too, were less than authentic. Margaritas came in beer mugs, not those elegant fountain glasses, and my piña colada had whipped cream and colored sprinkles on top. Drinks got an "average" rating all around, with the added bonus(?) of being strange-looking.

There was one thing that was pretty cool: the tortilla-making machine. Neither rustic nor made of stone and iron, this thing was still pretty cool to look at, as steel machinery goes. Someone has the job of putting small dough balls on one end, and out the other end come fresh tortillas, a good feather in any restaurant's cap. They served the fresh tortillas as an appetizer with honey butter, which was different and unexpected, but good.

Okay, I've decided. If someone I was eating dinner with really, really wanted to go there, I guess I'd go; but if I was making the desicion, I'd rather not. The decor was good, but everything else was either mediocre or just plain weird, and the wait staff has a few lessons to learn.

Jack Creek Steakhouse, 1900 Catasauqua Road, Bethlehem, Pa. * (610) 264-8888.

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