Restaurant Spotlight: Pepper Jack’s
Discover Albany has named February “Restaurant Appreciation Month”. With all the turmoil that many small businesses have had to deal with in the last couple of years, we are incredibly lucky and grateful to have so many excellent and unique restaurants around the Capital Region. Today we’d like to highlight one of these great establishments: Pepper Jack’s in Albany.
Located at 192 North Allen Street, Albany, NY, Pepper Jack’s is an absolute staple in the local neighborhood. The restaurant has a very welcoming environment and an incredibly friendly staff that makes anyone feel like they’re right at home. There’s comfortable seating, plenty of sizeable tables, and an outdoor patio area for the warmer months.
Right when you walk in, you are treated to the colorful and awesomely expansive chalk menu that you can read over while waiting to order. Their specialties include a plethora of creative and tasty sandwiches, cheesesteaks, burgers, and wraps. However, to only call them “a sandwich shop” doesn’t do the rest of their menu justice. They also have quesadillas, burritos, salads, bowls, plenty of appetizers and finger foods, and desserts. In addition to all of that, they have a soda fountain, as well as many bottled beverage options to wash it all down.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Pepper Jack’s owner John Donadio about the restaurant’s history, and how they’ve all managed to navigate the last couple of years.
Could you give us a little history of Pepper Jack’s? How long have you been around Albany, and have you always been at this location?
Pepper Jack’s has been around since 2000, we just celebrated our 22nd year. I bought the business with my buddy back in April. The previous owners started down on Quail Street, and we’ve been at this location since 2010. I’ve worked here since 2006, both of the previous owners are friends of mine, and they still work here part-time.
I think all of our years being open is a testament to how great our workers are. Almost all of our workers have been here for a long, long time. Three of our drivers have been here for a total of about 16 years. We try to make it a happy work environment. We like to listen to good music and just have a good time at work.
The pandemic has been rough on small businesses everywhere. What’s the hardest thing you all have had to deal with the last 2 years or so?
I’d say overall a lot of the problems have been supply chain issues. Both with food and packaging. We’re still dealing with it today. We had to think on our feet. We had to add another vendor for when our other vendor was out of something. We sometimes have to supplement items from Restaurant Depot, and even between the three of those sources, we still run out of stuff. Aside from those issues, just getting the public on board with the protocols, in regard to masks and whatnot, has been a headache sometimes. But thankfully most of our customers have been understanding of what’s going on.
Restaurants all over have had to deal with shortages. What kind of adjustments in regards to ingredients have you had to make?
Luckily, we’ve been pretty good for the most part, because as I said, we have three different places we’ve been sourcing from. But there have been times where we’ve had to just take things off of the menu for a month or so because we just couldn’t get them. At the beginning of the pandemic, we couldn’t get our Philly rolls that we get shipped in from Philadelphia because their whole plant was shut down. So we had to find something that worked at the time. We’ve just had to think on the fly a lot, find alternatives, and see what works.
Despite all the obstacles, Pepper Jack’s is still here. What reasons would you attribute to how you all have been able to persevere?
I would say the biggest thing is our really loyal customer base, and our great workers, who are all just good people. That, combined with the fact that our business was thankfully kind of set up for the pandemic. We do a ton of takeout and delivery business. So when everything shut down, we already had those procedures in place, and we were able to just go. I’ve talked to a few other restaurants that weren’t ready and set up for all of that, unfortunately.
Finally, the big question. What are your top three recommendations for anyone stopping into Pepper Jack’s?
Well, definitely a Philly of some sort I would say. My personal favorite is deluxe. Then, the corned beef Reuben. We slow roast the corned beef for four hours in-house, cool it, and slice it up on the slicer. It’s got huge whole pieces of corned beef, and great rye bread. And the last thing, everyone’s favorite seems to be the buffalo chicken wrap. Those are the three I would recommend for sure.
From a completely subjective standpoint, might I just say, I can confirm that the buffalo chicken wrap is indeed ‘money‘. But don’t just take my word for it! Definitely make sure to stop into Pepper Jack’s and try out all of the wonderful items on their menu. They’re open Monday through Friday 10 AM – 9 PM, Saturday 3 – 9 PM, and closed on Sunday. You can call an order in, order online through their website, and follow them on social media using all the links below. Thank you for supporting local restaurants. Bon appétit!
Pepper Jack’s #: (518)426-5505
All photos by Jackson Tollerton.