Just weeks after debuting as an Italian restaurant last fall, Jack’s Ranch suddenly went dark in January to rethink what Tysons Corner really wanted out of the 11,000-square-foot newcomer. Turns out, mouthwatering beef brisket beat out bolognese.
Owner Steve Roberts, who also runs Arlington’s popular barbecue joint Texas Jack’s, will restart Jack’s Ranch on Friday, May 20, as a smokehouse devoted to Central Texas-styled barbecue (1755 Tysons Central Street).
“What I analyzed is what customers want is what we are very good at — they said give us the smoked meats,” says Roberts, who steps in as pitmaster to lead the barbecue-focused reboot.
Jack’s Ranch also reopens its dining room next week without its original celebrity chef Declan Horgan. The Dublin-born finalist on Season 19 of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and former executive chef at Kirwan’s on the Wharf recently moved on elsewhere in Virginia, now at the helm of Rebellion Bourbon Bar + Kitchen in Fredericksburg. Alejandro Guerra, a Tysons hospitality vet who opened Eddie V’s and Agora, steps up from his executive sous chef role to lead the kitchen at Jack’s Ranch.
After a five-month hiatus, the revised restaurant returns with what Roberts calls the “Cadillac” of barbecue equipment: two SP-700 Southern Pride smokers that took time to approve. The big-ticketed stainless steel machines will be charged with sending out slow-cooked Texas prime brisket, Black Angus short ribs, St. Louis pork ribs, pulled pork, beef sausage, and smoked chicken. Hefty helpings of that pulled pork and prime brisket also build a section of sandwiches and burgers.
“We want to offer the best of the best barbecue, as if you just walked off the plane in Austin,” Roberts says.
He literally just did that in April, traveling to the heart of Texas to get new tips and smoker tricks from two of his pitmaster powerhouse friends in Austin: Leroy Lewis of Leroy and Lewis and Ricky Rodriquez of Stiles Switch BBQ.
“They’ve been doing things so long so right and keep modifying their own techniques. We’re taking state of-the-art Austin barbecue and applying it to what we already know to come up with something amazing,” he says.
The menu also shows love for other iconic Austin attractions. Smoked meat-topped “Cyber Truck” nachos in “2-Motor” or “4-Motor” sizes pay homage to Elon Musk’s anticipated electric truck being built at his new Tesla auto plant in Austin. A “SXSW” smoked meat pizza comes with homemade barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese.
Sampler meat platters let diners choose a barbecue-friendly side like mac and cheese, cornbread, and grilled broccolini. To play up its regional barbecue style’s Tex-Mex ties, there’s cotija cheese-topped tacos, grilled corn with esquites sauce, and a “Texas Twinkie” comprised of a bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with brisket and cream cheese. Roberts credits other legendary Texan pitmasters in Lockart and Elgin for barbecue inspiration.
Despite a name that brings Southwestern cuisine to mind, Jack’s Ranch was originally devoted to regional Italian cooking. Roberts, who honors American cowboy John B. Omohundro at Texas Jack’s, opened Jack’s Ranch as an ode to Omohundro’s Italian wife, Josephine Morlacchi, a ballerina and actress from Milan.
Jack’s Ranch 2.0 deletes dishes like foie gras gnocchi bomba and Calabrian sausage-flecked clams, but a small sliver of its original identity lives on with just three pastas, four brick-oven pizzas, charcuterie, and cheeses.
A section carved out for an Italian deli that never got off the ground will likely turn into a meat market, he says.