J’s Tasty Kitchen Serves Up a Truly Home-Style FeelSep 20, 2016 02:24PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
By Kerry Pipes
You can never underestimate the power of keeping it simple and doing it well. Nowhere is this more on display than J’s Tasty Kitchen in Mansfield.
Jennifer Terrell is the driving force behind this new restaurant on Country Club Drive just off Highway 287. She opened the doors here last January and business has been growing. She’s kept her plan simple and executed with precision.
Her goal was to open a dine-in restaurant with traditional, Southern-style soul food dishes. She says she wanted to help bring back restaurants where people could come and eat while spending time together as a family. “I love that this helps families to reconnect with one another, which is often something that is lacking in today’s society,” she says. “There was a time when families sat down at the table together to talk with one another as they ate, and this was a tremendous factor when it came to building and maintaining relationships among family members.”
Although this is her first dine-in restaurant, she loves to cook and has assembled a great team around her who are just as passionate about making J’s Tasty Kitchen as successful as she is. That’s important because as a full-time teacher in Arlington ISD, she can’t always be in the restaurant.
“I have always looked for opportunities to be involved and help others,” she says. Teaching was one way and opening a youth organization, Today’s Other Choices, Inc., to further help young people was another way. Establishing a restaurant where families can come and enjoy great food while being together is simply the latest extension of what Terrell does. “I tell people this is my second life after teaching.”
Terrell says she used her own money to set up the restaurant and chose not to borrow anything, instead relying on her faith in God to make it all happen. So far, so good. J’s Tasty Kitchen is small and simply decorated with brightly painted white walls trimmed out with tiny blue tiles. A small picture frame on one wall reads, “Live, Laugh, Love” and is a perfect mantra for Terrell, who is joyful and quick to point to her faith in God as a driving force in her life. “God always opens doors, and I can’t complain.”
There are only about 8 to 10 tables inside the restaurant, but they can be pulled together to accompany any size family. Terrell says they have even been known to stay open late for families looking for a place to eat following a ballgame.
“We love to serve our customers. Even though our menu is pretty extensive, if you want something special, we can make just about anything,” she says. In fact, the restaurant has just introduced barbecue to its menu - everything from pork and chicken, to brisket, ribs and beyond. They smoke it all themselves.
The menu here covers many Southern, soul food staples. Catfish, chicken-fried steak, pork chops, fried chicken, and much more. It even comes right along with traditional sides like collard greens, mashed potatoes, corn, okra and green beans. For real Southern-style cooking aficionados, yes, there’s even hot water cornbread.
Then there are vegetarian offerings – like roasted vegetables with garlic bread – and salads. You can also get sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, cheesesteak and tacos. There’s breakfast fare like chicken and waffles, eggs, pancakes, and sausage biscuits with gravy. There’s even a kids menu. Anything on the menu is available for order at any time of day.
Terrell says she has been surprised by the demand for catering that the business has experienced. “I’d say we are doing about 50-50 for customers coming to the restaurant versus catering for our customers.” As you might expect, churches and other community groups are big catering customers for J’s Tasty Kitchen.
On our visit, it was a no-brainer to go with the fried catfish. The traditional cornmeal-crusted fillet was crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside. It came served with a bowl of signature sweet honey-buttered corn and “Southern-style” green beans – slow cooked, flavored with bacon and a touch of salt and garlic. It was all freshly prepared and simply executed. Some freshly brewed iced tea seemed like the natural way to wash it all down. It’s hard to get any more Southern than that.
With a menu as broad as this one, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Never underestimate the power of keeping it simple and doing it well.
J’s Tasty Kitchen is located at 1071 Country Club Drive, Suite 106. It is open 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and Sundays 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Call 817-225-4451 for more information or visit them on Facebook.
Q & A with J’s Tasty Kitchen Owner Jennifer Terrell
Jennifer Terrell has always been a business-minded woman. The longtime school teacher still gets up excited every morning to teach math to 6th graders in Arlington ISD, but her work does not stop there. She also operates a youth outreach service, a lawn care business, and until a few months ago was selling home-style cooking from a Texaco station near her school in Arlington. But in early 2016, she opened J’s Tasty Kitchen in Mansfield. It’s a small dine-in restaurant that offers an intimate space for enjoying fresh home-style cooking.
We got to chat with Terrell one morning last summer. She has a passion for serving people and a passion for her Christian faith. The married mother of one son lives in nearby Grand Prairie. She’s originally from Louisiana and graduated from Grambling State University before moving to Texas to continue her teaching career.
Here’s more of what we found out about Terrell and her first sit-down restaurant.
Q: What makes your food/menu unique?
A: We serve Southern-style soul food in a fresh way, and we offer a vast amount of choices for our customers.
Q: Any new menu items on the way?
A: I have a full barbecue pit on wheels, and we have just started offering barbecue. Everything from pork to brisket to chicken to sausage, we’ve got what you want. It expands our already deep menu. Right now we’re offering a barbecue sandwich, drink and chips for $6.
Q: What is the most popular thing on the menu?
A: Our most popular item is most likely our catfish. Even so, the chicken fried steak, pork chops and all of our freshly cooked vegetables are big sellers, as well. People come in and just buy vegetables to take home with them.
Q: How do you want customers to remember their experience?
A: When customers leave J’s Tasty Kitchen, I want them to feel that they’ve had quality food and great customer service. Beyond that, I want customers to remember their experience here as being a comfortable place to sit down with the family, eat great food and enjoy one another.
Q: What is your favorite type of food to eat?
A: I love grilled fish!
Q: If you go out to eat, where do you go?
A: I’ve been so busy with this restaurant that I haven’t had time to go out to eat much lately. However, when I do, I just like going to regular places like Chili’s and Applebee’s. My husband loves to go to steakhouses like Texas Roadhouse.
Q: What are your other hobbies?
A: I love to play tennis. I love working out in the gym when I have time, or simply going for a walk. Most of all, I love to have quiet time with the Lord.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or advice you’ve received or given?
A: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:13
Q: What’s the last book you read?
A: Well, the Bible is the most important book to me. It’s our walk of life, and it gives me inspiration for living life.
Q: If you had to choose another profession what would it be?
A: I’m already immersed in my two favorites. Being a businesswoman and being a teacher are great passions of mine. I really love teaching and helping young people, and that’s always been important to me.