Saturday, September 27, 2008

Snapper Jack's Taco Shack - The Next In-N-Out?

I take an audible bite of my steak taco which I’ve learned to order “crispy,” meaning the flour taco shell is fried a bubbly brown. I unceremoniously dump a cup of pico de gallo mixed with their creamy guacamole-green “Incan salsa” over the top to convince my diet-conscious self that it’s not entirely unhealthy. The salsa drips down to the spicy marinated steak. Delicious.

Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in Ventura successfully brings back the relaxed, but energetic ambience of 1960s surfer culture-- and amazingly, the restaurant has revived the prices of a bygone era as well. My steak taco dinner was $2.95.

Even at 6:30pm on a Friday night, there is no wait to order, though the place is bustling with trim teenage girls, older couples in Hawaiian shirts and families. Middle aged men in plaid mingle with toe-head blond children in the feeding frenzy at the salsa bar, which boasts far more interesting selections than a Baja Fresh, which Snapper Jack’s vaguely resembles.

Unusually conscientious high school students politely take orders at the counter, above which Endless Summer and other surf footage plays, well, endlessly, on the flat screen TV above. Longboards line the walls with cheerful montages of vintage photographs of sandy-haired surfers and bright advertisements for seaside destinations.

The atmosphere is family-friendly, but with the high energy of a Friday date night. The Taco Bell across the street is deserted, and the only sound coming from the Dominos Pizza store front nextdoor is the wavering buzz of the fluorescent lights illuminating its sterile white interior. It’s no wonder that the ubiquitous chains can’t compete with the happy hubbub of Snapper Jack’s.

In an interview for the Camarillo Acorn, the owner, Jack Plasmyer, said he followed the business model set by In-N-Out by offering a limited menu and using only fresh ingredients. So maybe in a few years time, Snapper Jack’s will branch out from its two current locations in Ventura and Camarillo. I hope so!

Snapper Jack's Taco Shack Locations:
5100 Telegraph Rd. Ventura, CA (805) 642-5111
4350 Verdugo Way Camarillo, CA (805) 384-0334

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