Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. When Jack Thompson, owner of the popular Jax 5th Avenue Deli & Ale House, cashed in and got out of Dodge, the College Park mainstay changed hands and became Ollie's Public House. We hadn't been to Jax in a while, but it doesn't appear as though much has changed. The interior looks the same, save for the jukebox; the menu still features sandwiches; patrons still watch college football; and the bathrooms are just as unkempt as before. The parking, or lack thereof, continues to be troublesome – we, like many others, parked in the high school lot across the street, its proximity to the bar a cause for conversation in and of itself.
On the front patio, blue-shirted Gators fans celebrated their team's win, and a decent crowd was assembled to watch the Georgia Bulldogs tilt against Mizzou, so we headed inside. No one greeted us, so we promptly seated ourselves at a table. A server happened by a few minutes later and presented us with menus (smartly designed by local studio Lure Design, for those of you to whom all things visual matter). "We kept a lot of the popular sandwiches," she declared in reference to the Jax days. While that may be true – and there are almost 20 sandwiches to choose from – they certainly didn't keep all the beers. Jax was known for its extensive selection of more than 200 ales, porters, lagers and stouts, but Ollie's has a mere fraction by comparison.
I happened to notice a jar of pickles (a Jax signature) on an adjacent table and inquired as to the possibility of having one delivered to ours. "I was just about to ask if you wanted some," our waitress countered, to which I offered an incredulous smile. Duly noted: pickles only upon request. No sooner had we commenced crunching away at the gherkins than a plate of fish dip ($8.50) arrived. Rendered properly smoky, the whitefish starter was scarfed down along with accompanying crackers, sliced jalapeños and lemon wedges for squeezing.
We took a liking to the veggie pita pizza ($8) as well – the crackling crust withstood the weight of umami-bursting 'shrooms, spinach, garlic, cukes, green peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. While they certainly didn't skimp on the toppings, the pizza could've done with a bit more cheese, though I suppose it was all the healthier without a cheesy mess.
Sprouts replaced lettuce in the shrimp salad pita ($8.50); according to one Jax regular who dined with us, the pita pocket, with an even-handed souse of mayo, was even better than before. With a robust filling of turkey, roast beef, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing on rye, the "Big Guy" sandwich ($8.50) was as hearty as it was back in the day. Sandwiches and pitas come with your choice of chips, coleslaw or potato salad, though the latter was a bit too creamy for our liking, possibly due to the addition of Thousand Island dressing.
The lone dessert offering – s'mores ($6-$10) – is a do-it-yourself affair achieved by way of a portable hibachi, and is the likely cause of the random sticky spots that prevented us from resting our elbows on the table. Handing sharp sticks and fire to beer-filled patrons can only lead to some interesting times. Note to self: Be sure to watch the Florida-Georgia game at Ollie's.
Ollie's Public House
3400 Edgewater Drive