December 28, 2015
From the outside, the Yellow Jacket Social Club (YJSC) shows as a time capsule; its architecture is southwestern but still true to Texas. The frame and exterior lighting help make for a distinguishable land piece on Austin's east 5th street, while the interior provides an open, unpretentious feel.
Greeting folks at the gate, the doorman was a grizzly fellow with a thick handlebar mustache, sleeveless leather vest and cap, while a line of sparkling choppers were parked near the lot's fence. Considering the timeliness of this instance, one was left to wonder if this gathering was merely a carry over from the previous night's Halloween festivities, or instead a representation of the crowd at hand.
On first greetings with the staff there was an identifiable stiffness in their demeanor, and it was unclear if they were bothered or simply exhausted. Perhaps both. All our ordering was done at the dimmed bar, where drip coffee was self serviceable, and mimosas were made with fresh ingredients.
The outside seating offered a handful of picnic tables, though the one we chose was made home to an unclaimed pup who was tied up to a leg of the table. Other dogs and their owners passed by, hardly engaging our confused party of three. In the time it took for the dog to warm up to us, he was retrieved (he was actually a lab) by his owner and our food had arrived. This would also be the last time we would be attended to by human or animal until check was due.
My idea of a southern helping of shrimp and grits, however, greatly differed from what was brought to me - ($11) Shrimp and Grits. Rather than a piping bowl of rich, creamy grits, I was brought a plate of spinach, shrimp, and grilled onions which had been manicured onto a flat bed of grits. With as much shrimp as lettuce, I felt slighted in having received more of a salad than anything. As I studied the interactions among the crowd around us and worked further into the dish, however, I began to realize that there was more thought put into this dish, the service, and these people (dogs, too), than was lead on. This was an establishment proud of its grit.
Contrary to popular belief, moderation is important. It can be as effective as execution. Grits can quickly act as an abyss, and this modest portion was suggestive to that notion. These were buttery, creamy with still enough resistance. The seasoning was well integrated; no heavy hands in this kitchen. The onions were grilled to keep texture but flavor changed with a good char; the contrasting texture was distinguishable. Despite fear of post-brunch hunger when the plate was finished, the dish proved to be just the right portion for one to live without much regrit (verb: the regret from over-consumption of grits).
If to expect exceptional service or to even have anything refilled, one might be disappointed. However, if you're seeking the sort of place that has the lure of becoming routine to your time, with comfortable food and a low vibe, the Yellow Jacket Social Club should deliver.
Ate: Shrimp and Grits
1704 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702
Rating: 3 & 1/2 Shrimp