Jackson's Brings Local Aesthetic, Culinary Twist To American Classic
Owner Andrew Karistinos' new LIC eatery combines good food with warm vibes
by Rey Mashayekhi
Jackson’s is tucked on the corner of Jackson Avenue and 50th Avenue in Long Island City -- an ideal location, right above the Vernon Boulevard--Jackson Avenue subway stop served by the 7 train. The restaurant opened in October in a lofty space, featuring exposed bricks and beams and frosted windowpanes, that was previously occupied by eatery Station LIC; it is brainchild of veteran New York restaurateur Andrew Karistinos, who has instilled in the establishment an identity built around locally sourced food and drink, made fresh on the premises and served by a warm, generous, affable staff.
“We try to keep everything as local as possible,” Karistinos told Living LIC last week, over a delicious spread of appetizers that included charred octopus served with squid ink-infused hummus and watercress, a plate of burrata with heirloom tomatoes and a pot of shrimp and cockles.
Those were followed by entrees including a savory plate of housemade gnocchi with short rib, spinach and balsamic glaze, as well as an organic chicken pot pie with mushrooms and vegetables -- “old-time, American favorites with a healthier, local twist,” as the proprietor put it. Last came a sampling from the desert menu: a delectable housemade apple pie, topped with caramel and served with butter pecan ice cream, and vanilla panna cotta.
Karistinos, a lifelong New Yorker who learned the restaurant business through his father, a Greek immigrant, brought in the husband-and-wife duo of Bill and Yolanda Helwig to help run Jackson’s last year. The Helwigs, who also have roots in the Tri-State area, joined forces with Karistinos after more than a decade owning and operating an Italian restaurant and jazz bar in St. Petersburg, Florida. Bill is the executive chef while Yolanda manages the floor; she’s joined most nights by Karistinos, whose distinguished gray mustache doubles as the restaurant’s logo, adorning its menu and facade.
“The whole concept [for the restaurant] was his,” Yolanda Helwig said of Karistinos’ vision for Jackson’s. “At the end of the day, it’s about good food and hospitality. We hope to make this one of the best restaurants in Long Island City.”
In addition to relying heavily on locally sourced ingredients, Jackson’s exclusively serves local beers and domestic wines; Karistinos, a trained sommelier, has handpicked a wine list that proudly supports regional vineyards in Long Island and upstate New York, as well as selections from California and Oregon. Despite the undoubted quality of these offerings -- Karistinos broke out samplings of both red and white for a makeshift tasting -- you won’t have to break the bank for a bottle of wine at Jackson’s: the restaurant doesn’t carry one priced over $50. “We’re not in Midtown East,” Karistinos said. “We’re in Long Island City.”
Besides charred octopus and shrimp with cockles, Jackson’s starter menu features other seafood staples including crab cakes and mussels, as well as tomato basil and artichoke spinach dips and housemade chef’s soup. Additional entrees include American classics like ribs (both braised beef short rib and St. Louis-style pork ribs), macaroni and cheese, buttermilk fried chicken, grass-fed tenderloin steak with fries and, of course, a grass-fed burger.
And what would a New York City neighborhood eatery be without a brunch menu? Jackson’s offers the usual variations on eggs and omelettes, as well as pancakes, french toast, granola and oats. But there are also less conventional items on the menu, such as avocado and burrata toast, shrimp and grits, a fried egg BLT and buttermilk fried chicken on a pumpkin waffle.
While Jackson’s is currently open for dinner and weekend brunch only, Karistinos hopes to start weekday lunch service soon and also offer corporate catering services by the spring. The restaurant should also be on Seamless before the end of January, enabling LIC residents to order delivery or takeout.
“Long Island City, if you ask me, is on the cusp of becoming a real neighborhood,” Karistinos said, adding the view -- shared by many real estate observers -- that “what we’re missing is retail.”
With Jackson’s, Karistinos and his partners have not only brought yet another needed amenity to the neighborhood -- they’ve given LIC a valuable culinary offering to be enjoyed.