While it may not be easy being green, it can certainly prove rewarding. Such is the philosophy of William "Jack" Degel, owner of the new Jack's Shack in Glen Head.
Degel, who also owns Uncle Jack's Steakhouse in Queens and Manhattan, helped hand-build this innovative fast-food place, using reclaimed wood and corrugated metal from old barns. Wood baskets filled with fresh produce add notes of color.
Order at the counter and grab a beverage from a bathtub-like antique refrigerator. And be sure to ask the counter person to dust up your fries with a custom blend of spices; two favorites are the truffled salt and ragin' Cajun.
How I wish, though, that the good, but not remarkable, potato and sweet potato fries, both previously frozen, had been hand-cut, like the plantain fries. Both the hamburger (requested rare but done medium) and "Big Jack" burger -- $7.50 for two patties, pancetta and two cheeses) are upstaged by the juicier turkey burger. Free toppings, though, are so fresh and inventive, that the burger becomes a mere vehicle for slathering on guacamole and/or bacon jam, pico di gallo and sauteed onions. House sauces such as roasted poblano, Buffalo, chipotle mayo and barbecue add even more oomph. So do house-made organic ketchups in smoky, spicy and sweet-sour flavors. You also get a choice of whole- grain, whole-wheat or white bun.
My top pick among sandwiches is steak with sauteed onions on a club roll. A hot dog billed as uncured and minimally processed is crowned with bright relish and is very good; a pork sausage with caramelized onions, even better. But overcooked poultry undermines a grilled-chicken sandwich as well as the Santa Fe taco, a filled tortilla that includes vegetables and salsa. The Key West taco, on the other hand, is pure pleasure: moist grilled mahi mahi with avocado, tomatoes and chili-mango dressing.
Wash it all down with a "Jack me up" fresh fruit smoothie. Or lemonade you sweeten yourself with cane sugar and honey.
All in all, a pretty sweet deal.