I remember well the days when Fort Wayne’s downtown dining options were slim pickings. After 5 p.m. on weekdays and throughout the weekends, downtown was a virtual ghost town. Though we haven’t quite reached big-city downtown nightlife, our dining options have improved exponentially over the past several years. One of my favorite additions is JK O’Donnell’s.I’ll admit it; I resisted JK’s for a long time. I am a Henry’s girl after all, and I feel a fierce sense of loyalty to it. Hanging out at JK’s seemed like a betrayal. Thankfully, I got over it and realized there’s enough room in my heart (and my pocketbook) for both. JK’s owners Scott and Melissa Glaze visited Ireland for business and fell in love with the culture, which they describe as energizing. They wanted to bring this same energy back to Fort Wayne, and so talks began, plans were drawn up, menu items were handpicked, the beer list was drafted and Fort Wayne’s first Irish Pub was born.
Anchoring the block of Wayne Street between Harrison and Calhoun streets, JK’s has become another place I consider home. Inside, guests are greeted by a gorgeous three-sided hardwood bar staffed by the friendliest bartenders in town. It’s my favorite place to sit when I visit – and rest assured the bartenders know what they are doing and are more than happy to make drink recommendations. I have never been disappointed. Irish music emanates from the speakers overhead, and live European soccer, international rugby and even cricket grace the televisions. JK’s offers cozy booths, large tables and wonderful outdoor patios both in front and out back. It also has a large, children-friendly family dining room. It’s the perfect spot for date night, girl’s night out, a business lunch or a family gathering.
JK’s menu has changed a bit over the years, and I was devastated when the Salmon Club was removed, but many favorites still remain. Here are a few of mine:
Scotch Eggs ($7.79): An appetizer consisting of hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, deep fried and served on a derby sage potato cake with mustard sauce. I was leery to try these at first, but they’ve made their way onto my must-try list. They are the perfect savory treat to share with a friend.
Cobb Salad ($9): A mix of romaine and leaf lettuces topped with grilled chicken breast, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, cucumber, black olives, diced tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, chopped avocado and Applewood smoked bacon. They certainly don’t skimp on the fixings. This salad is huge and a welcome healthful option for lunch or dinner.
J-Kabob ($9): A relatively new addition to the menu, this dish features char grilled skewered chicken and garden vegetables served over flashed greens with teriyaki curry glaze. This dish is incredibly fresh, and the flavor combinations are delightful. The sweet curry glaze complements the bitter greens. My only complaint with this dish is its size. I do not have a big appetite, but this dish left me feeling hungry. It would make a better appetizer than a full meal.
Fish and Chips ($17 full/$11 half): No Irish pub would be complete without Fish and Chips, and JK’s delivers fillets of cod coated with house-made batter and deep-fried, served with pub chips and JK slaw. The batter is not too heavy and not too light. I like to drown mine in malt vinegar. And be sure to ask for all the dipping sauces for the fries. I love the smokey wing sauce. Also, the portions are huge. The half is plenty for anyone with a healthy appetite.
Corned Beef and Cabbage ($17 full/$9 half): Another must-have in any Irish pub, the Corned Beef and Cabbage is fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of this dish. In fact, when I was a kid, I requested it for every birthday and major holiday, much to my mother’s dismay. JK’s dish features tender corned beef brisket, brined in-house, served in its own broth with a braised cabbage wedge, fingerling potatoes and carrots. The flavors are subtle and the meat is always tender. Order the half; it’s plenty big.
Banoffee ($5): This ranks highly on my all-time favorite desserts list. It’s a traditional Irish dessert made with a shortbread curst, covered in sticky toffee pudding and fresh bananas, topped with whipped topping. It’s incredibly rich and smooth and perfect for sharing. Try it. Trust me.
If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, JK’s has a duos option – soup and sandwich, soup and a salad or a salad and a sandwich – for $8. It’s a great deal and an appropriate option for lunch. I also highly recommend its daily specials. They rotate constantly, but I have never been disappointed. Perhaps my favorite special, and one I hope they have again, was Roasted Lamp Chop atop mixed greens and strawberries, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.
Though I am not a beer connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, I do appreciate a nice pint every now and then. My favorite is the Snakebite – half Strongbow Cider, half Harp’s. I also enjoy the Fruit Beer and Lambic choices. The tap at JK’s rotates, so part of the fun is trying something new, especially if it’s a limited release. Most recently, they had Founders Rübæus and ACE Perry on tap, and I couldn’t get enough of either.
Whether for a date night, an after work drink or a lunch meeting, JK’s and its friendly staff will exceed your expectations. If you haven’t already, give it a try. JK’s is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m to 12 midnight Friday and Saturday and closed on Sunday.