Food News

One Year Out: An Interview with Jack MacDonald of Jack Mac's Swill and Grill

Jack Mac's Swill and Grill opened on Preston Road in North Dallas last year, right on the heels of the explosion in the local craft beer movement. Jack and Amy MacDonald's restaurant has a strong local focus that supports not only Texas breweries, but wineries and distilleries as well. The drinks are backed by upscale bar food that includes some pretty tasty dishes, like Moroccan meatballs that Reitz is pretty fond of. I recently asked Jack MacDonald how his new restaurant is going one year out.

See also: One Year Out with DaLat in East Dallas

What has been your greatest lesson after one year at Jack Mac's? Fortunately, I've been in this business for 30 years and have previously owned restaurants (most recently, the original Press Box Grill in downtown Dallas). I sold the Press Box in 2007 and since then the role of social media in marketing a restaurant plays a much greater role. We're a neighborhood pub, but our neighborhood is much bigger than our physical location -- it's virtual.

What's the hardest part of running a restaurant and bar? Front of house management, the kitchen, the economy, etc.? Getting the word out. Although we have a solid social media presence our growth has been primarily word of mouth.

What's important about your specific social media message? What are you trying to get across? That we focus on local and we're a scratch kitchen. We serve only Texas local beer on tap and only American craft beer in bottles and cans. We exclusively serve Texas wines and our top two bar shelves are strictly Texas spirits. We offer unique house-made infusions. We're not afraid to experiment with exotics. Our monthly burger features have included cabrito, kangaroo and Texas longhorn.

Are you surprised how Dallas has embraced the craft beer scene? Not at all. The primary reason we decided to focus on local beer was our experiences traveling overseas. No matter where you go in the world, restaurants and bars typically have local offerings available. In Taipei we drank Taiwan Beer, in Japan we drank Sapporo, in Italy we drank Peroni. I could go on and on. Everybody likes local, whether you're traveling and want to eat/drink like the locals or if you want to support your local community. It was a natural fit for us to dedicate our entire tap selection to Texas-based craft breweries. Fortunately, the timing of the craft beer scene here made it easy.

When was the last time you took a vacation? Since we opened in July I took a couple of days off at Christmas and we closed Easter Sunday. Otherwise I've been here every day. Fortunately Amy is as invested in Jack Mac's as I am and if she's not working her day job she's usually here with me.

What are a few pieces of advice you'd like to give someone considering opening their own place? Know your concept. Everyone you know will share their ideas and opinions about who you are and what you should do. You might use some of those suggestions. But, you need to thoroughly define your vision and remain committed to it.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.