Neighborhood restaurant cultivates relationships
JT’s SportsGrille has all the standard trappings of an All-American, neighborhood hangout. It has a full bar, billiards, sports on multiple televisions, card games, arcade games, food, live music and a covered deck. Owner Jay T. Vail said JT’s has truly become part of the neighborhood, and the relationships between regular customers and staff prove it.
J.T. and his wife, Julie, recently added another draw for local families: a 2,500-square-foot outdoor seating area with flat-screen televisions, a stage for live music and a full bar.
“As a mother of small children, I know children can sit outside and maybe be a little more rambunctious than they would inside. The deck is situated in such a way that the sun never hits, which makes it nice for people who want to sit outside,” Julie said.
But no matter how welcoming an environment, a restaurant’s reputation is built on the quality of its food, J.T. said, and he and his staff work hard to make the restaurant’s food the star. J.T. said that when people think of his business, he wants them to associate it with good food, not a bar. So, he revamped his menu to have more options. The menu features everything from steak to burgers, and pizza to seafood.
The front cover of every menu states JT’s wants to serve the kind of food customers will tell their friends about. But the menu also notes that good food takes time.
J.T. said chicken wings take 15 minutes to cook as staff cut chicken breasts into strips, soaks them in buttermilk before breading them and then fries them to “crunchy perfection.”
“You can’t serve chicken wings in four minutes unless you want it raw. We’re not going to be the fastest meal in town, but hopefully the quality makes up for it,” J.T. said.
All food and drinks are made fresh and in-house. Customers have about 90 menu items to choose from.
J.T. and his staff said they want customers to think of them as their family, especially if they have no family locally.
“During the holidays, people that don’t have a family come here for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We tell them, ‘You are welcome to come to the Vail household,’” Julie said.
Customers are not the only ones who feel they are with family at JT’s.
“This is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt. I feel extremely appreciated in everything that I do,” bar manager Amber Keithley said.
In addition to providing a social environment, JT’s also helps local organizations and causes by hosting fundraiser events such as a summer festival complete with a petting zoo, vendors, a wing-eating contest, barbecue cookoff and more.
J.T. said he taught himself to make the food now served at JT’s. He has nearly 30 years in the food-service industry and enjoys creating unique dishes.
The pizza burger is served with marinara, melted mozzarella cheese and pepperoni ($9.25 for burger and side of fries).
The avocado Swiss burger ($9.75 for burger and side of fries) is another original creation by J.T.
“I think we have the best burgers in Cedar Park,” J.T. said.
The 12-inch pizzas ($6.25–$8 each) are made on a thin crust. Customers can choose either pepperoni, cheese, mushroom, margherita, veggie or barbecue chicken.
“The pizzas are really popular. We’ve sold out of them before,” Julie said.
J.T. said his 14-ounce beef ribeye is a dinner staple enjoyed by a diverse crowd of customers. The steak is served with the customer’s choice of two sides ($16.50).