"We just went into this blind," said John "Mack" McElmore, of Mack's Grill, which just opened two months ago on South Lewis. Mack, who graduated from St. Gregory's University majoring in Natural Science, teamed up with his sister, Lee Anne Kenneda Mack, an OSU graduate, to open this cozy little Grill. Mack's grandfather and great grandfather, who both owned bars, were his inspiration to open his own place, and he knew this is what he was going to do when he returned from serving two tours in Iraq, serving as a machine gunner and a 1st Marine.
"My sister is the business manager and we both work on the operations of the restaurant," he said. Mack's Grill features a good assortment of appetizers, burgers, salads and desserts.
"We have the best hamburgers and salsa in town," claims Mack. The burger menu consists of Mack Burger, Mushroom Swiss Burger, Angus Burger, Bacon Cheeseburger, Theta Chicken Burger and Buffalo Chicken Burger. All are priced under $7.99.
I did sample the Mack Burger when I dined here. This burger begins with fresh ground beef mixed with cheddar cheese, onions and Mack's secret spices. This is served on a corn-dusted Kaiser roll. This was a very good burger--glad they could prepare the meat medium rare as I like it. Some places (mainly chains) cannot prepare a burger with any pink in sight. The meat was very fresh and rich with flavor; the bun was soft and with full texture to accommodate the meat, veggies and condiments.
Burgers come with home-style fries, which were quite exceptional. Mack said they cut their potatoes throughout the day and keep them in ice water so they will be the freshest they can be when served to each customer. Per order, the fries are lighted coated with a flour-and-spice mixture. Mack adds that the coated potatoes are then fried in special oil and at a particular temperature. Very hot and crispy, the potatoes almost taste as if they were baked, rather than fried. I thoroughly enjoyed this change.
Speaking of fries, Mack admits he sells lots of the Loaded Home Style Fries ($5.99). This appetizer consists of freshly cut homestyle fries topped with cheddar cheese, bacon pieces, scallions, pico de gallo and sour cream, then served with ranch dressing.
"We have lots of homemade ingredients on these fries," Mack said, particularly the pico de gallo.
To begin our lunch, my friend and I ordered Mack's Stacked Quesadillas ($6.99) which is grilled chicken, pico de gallo, bell peppers and cheddar cheese layered between flour tortillas and then served with salsa and sour cream. Mack says also there "is a slice of pita bread in the middle to add more volume."
Tall it is. This stack was packed with fresh and lively ingredients; the green peppers were a little crisp--just like I enjoy them, so the fresh pepper taste still comes through. If you like cheese, these quesadillas are loaded with quality cheddar.
We also ordered the Famous Fried Meatballs. Something that's called "Famous" I had to sample. Mack recalls how these were created. "Lee Anne and I were up around 3am one morning still coming up with menu ideas, and I said I wanted something with meat, onion, cheddar cheese and Ranch powder dressing. Lee Anne said it sounds like 'fried meat balls' is what we'll do."
It was added to the menu, except these meatballs required one more step: dipping in buttermilk and egg, then coating lightly with flour and spices (same as the French Fries.) These were tasty little bites, especially when dipped in the Ranch dressing.
Other appetizers include Traditional Buffalo Wings, Boneless Wings, Chicken Tenders, Fried Portabella Mushroom, Spicy Sausage Queso and Alota Nachos.
While I enjoyed the Mack Burger with Fries, my friend ordered the Strawberry Pecan Salad ($7.99), which Mack says is a favorite among his customers. This salad is built with fresh field greens tossed with pecans and sliced strawberries in a raspberry vinaigrette. My friend enjoyed this salad, but commented the greens could have been a little crisper. She thinks possibly the tossing of the salad and the vinaigrette before being brought to the table weakened the firm greens. Still, it is a good choice for a light meal, and the rich nutty pecan taste and classic strawberry taste blended well with the earthy taste of the greens.
Another salad favorite that has surfaced in the two short months of opening is the Cobb Salad--fresh lettuce is topped with hard-boiled egg, bacon, corn relish (made from scratch), cheddar cheese, avocado and tomato. It is then topped with grilled chicken.
Oddly enough, we did have just a little room for sampling a dessert. A star next to the Fried Peaches & Cream ($3.99) drew our attention, so we wanted to investigate this one over the Turtle Cheesecake, Milk Shakes (of various flavors) and the Apple Pie. Peaches with a light flour coating were fried then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. These were served hot on top of vanilla ice cream with cinnamon sauce. These decadent peaches held a light firmness even in the bowl of ice cream and sauce. A nice choice to finish the meal.
Mack is very proud of Mack's Grill, putting in 15 to 20-hour days at times, which is not unusual in the restaurant business. Mack says a lot of thought went into this place, "even into deciding about the diameter of the draws, the ice, the bar glasses, even the bar stools."
He said he sat on many stools in order to select the most comfortable for customers, counting on the fact that they will spend a significant amount of time on these stools.
8102 S. Lewis Ave, Ste. E
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