Chef Johnny Morgan spent several years studying culinary arts and working in Dallas before coming home to Hopkins County. Morgan is the executive chef at Jacky’s Pub in Land’s End at Lake Fork.
“While I was in school at the Art Institute, I worked every job I could,” Morgan said during a break in service Friday night. “I worked for Stephen Pyles and other chefs and I put my name in for every catering event I could.”
Morgan wanted to be exposed to all aspects of the food business, from kitchen to catering. He worked with Chef Michael Scott at the Northwood Country Club, along with a private catering chef who had helped Dean Fearing open The Mansion, one of Dallas’ finest restaurants. His hard work has paid off. For the past two years, he’s been working a Jacky’s Pub. For a year, he’s been in charge of the kitchen and wait staff.
Morgan became interested in cooking after spending a lot of time in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother. And, he watched television’s first celebrity chef, Justin Wilson.
Jacky’s Pub is named in honor of Jacky D. Cupit, who was born and raised in Longview.
According to Wikipedia, Cupit attended the University of Houston and was a member of the golf team, earning All-American honors and turning pro in 1960.
Cupit played on the PGA Tour from 1961 to 1973 and had four victories during that phase of his career. His first win came at the 1961 Canadian Open. He won the PGA's Rookie of the Year award in 1961.
After reaching the age of 50 in 1988, Cupit played part-time on the Senior PGA Tour.
Cupit is the Golf Professional Emeritus at the Links.
Because of the pub’s remote location, Morgan knows it’s important to cultivate regulars – guests who are willing to make the trek through the woods and over several narrow county roads to enjoy a meal.
“Our return rate is really high,” Morgan, who attended public school at North Hopkins and Sulphur Springs, said. “Once they come, they continue to come.”
Morgan relies on fresh ingredients, attentive service and reasonable prices to bring guests back to his tables.
“Our most popular items are the prime rib and hand cut filet and rib eye steaks,” he noted. “But, coming in a strong second is our new Saturday night fish fry.”
We began our dining experience with chips and salsa ($7) which features fresh salsa with roasted peppers and jalapenos, fresh guacamole made with fresh jalapenos and a queso that features deep layers of flavor.
The queso is made daily and Chef says it can vary in taste, depending on the cheese.
“It’s not always the same,” he said. “It depends on the cheese, but we try to keep the flavors consistent.”
We liked the queso enough to place a “take home” order to go. It’s just as good – maybe even better – the second day.
For entrees, we selected prime rib (the Friday night special at $25) and the sizzling pepper jack chicken ($12).
Side options included a choice of potatoes and fresh vegetables. We chose the grilled veggies, which were seasoned and cooked to al dente perfection. Next time, I might order just a plate of the asparagus, zucchini and squash.
Entrees come with a less-than-spectacular salad. The spicy balsamic vinaigrette, however, more than made up for the bagged Romaine lettuce and anemic winter tomato wedges.
The chicken was cooked perfectly and the seasoning added the right amount of spice and heat.
The king-sized prime rib comes in at 14 oz. and is enough for two meals. It was cooked exactly to order – medium rare, with a cool center. It wasn’t the most tender prime rib I’ve had, but it was certainly worth $25.
Chef Morgan is pleased with the success of the Saturday night fish fry.
“It’s becoming very popular,”?he explained. “It’s not a buffet. It’s cooked to order seafood.”
Included are fish baskets, priced from $9.99 for three pieces, $12.99 for five shrimp and three pieces of fish and $14.99 for all-you-can eat.
Dessert choices include cheesecake, cobbler and ice cream. We tried the fresh made apple cobbler ($5) with a scoop of ice cream (3). Although the crust was from scratch, Chef acknowledged the filling was pre-made and the ice cream was Blue Bell.
The crust was flaky and light, but I would have preferred a prepared-on-premises filling with brighter cinnamon and nutmeg flavor; and homemade ice cream is always better than store bought, even if the store bought is Blue Bell.
The service at Jacky’s is impeccable. Our glasses were never less than half full and all the staff made sure we lacked nothing.
Chef leaves the kitchen from time to time to visit with guests and seems genuinely happy to be there.
“This is what I dreamed of doing,” he said as he headed to check on an order.
Jacky’s Pub is not easy to find. Google Maps says it’s 23.5 miles from Sulphur Springs, but it feels further, as you have to travel down four County Roads to get there.
The official address is 285 Private Road 5980, Yantis.
It’s easy to get turned around. We came in from Highway 154, and found it OK. On the return trip, however, we headed out the same way, but ended up on FM 17 near Alba.
Maybe it’s best to make your first trip to Jacky’s for lunch, which includes burgers ($8), specialty sandwiches like the ultimate fried cheese melt ($7), country club ($9), Reuben ($9) and Caesar, chef’s and Cobb salads ($10), hot wings ($7 for six and $13 for a dozen) and create-your-own pizza ($12).
They feature a daily blackboard special, including homemade soup and a sandwich.
Jacky’s Pub is open seven days a week, with continuous service from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays during the winter; and from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekends.
Summer hours are 11 a.m. until 7 p.m during the week and 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekends.
Chef Morgan and his staff offer on-site catering at the pavilion near the entrance of the development. They also offer “pick up” catering for special events.
Call 903-383-3290 for more information or visit www.golflakefork.com.
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