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I Finished the Folded Crust of My Smackwater Jack's Pizza

Our Around Town columnist discovers how attention to detail makes downtown Rochester's newest cafe a hit.

"The devil is in the details."

That's the expression. But can it be used in a 150-year-old church?

It should be when the former church houses the new , a restaurant where attention to detail takes it to the next level.

From the pure albacore in the tuna salad to the homemade balsamic vinaigrette, fresh, quality food is the Smackwater goal.

"We demand perfection," owner Mandy Arthur said. "We do it right or we throw it away."

Just how good is it?

Well, I've been there three times in less than a week. Consider me hooked!

Oh, that dough!

Smackwater Jack's has a reputation for outstanding pizza and it does not disappoint. 

Its No. 1 seller is The Smackwater Jack with signature sauce, ham, pepperoni, bacon, onion, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, green peppers, black olives, banana peppers on a sesame seed crust.

I, with a fetish for feta, went for The Greek with olive oil, feta, mushrooms, black olives, raw purple onions and pepperoncini. Although I usually leave my pizza crust ends on the plate, these were devoured. The dough is homemade daily in small batches for optimal freshness and stretched, not tossed, then folded.

Those folds are the genius part, allowing soft little pockets of doughy goodness that are too good to be left behind.

The crust is the invention of Adam Buschbacher, who has worked with Arthur to create Smackwater Jack's unique menu.

"The crust is focaccia and French baguette ingredients married together to make a pizza crust," Buschbacher said. "It's both soft and crusty."

In other words, it's a match made in heaven.

A gluten-free crust is also available.

Other pizzas on the menu include The Deep South with BBQ chicken, The Alaskan with grilled salmon, sour cream and fresh dill, and a Vegetarian with white wine spritz and fresh basil.

I can't wait to try The Tuscan topped with spring mix, gorgonzola and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. 

"We offer unique flavors," Buschbacher said. "Things you can't get anywhere else."

Salads, sandwiches and wraps

The attention to detail continues with the rest of the Smackwater Jack's menu.

My favorite item — so far — is the BBQ Chicken Wrap. It's made with fresh chopped basil and cilantro tossed in ranch dressing, BBQ chicken, white corn, black beans and cheese, and its flour tortilla is covered with Parmesan cheese.

"We control quality by working in small batches," Buschbacher said. "We are prepping all day to make sure ingredients are fresh."

The batches may be small, but the portions are not. 

"That's Adam's idea," Arthur said, "Everything he makes has to be way too big!"

Half of my third meal, a very tasty Smoked Turkey Reuben, went home to serve as a fourth meal, too.

Speaking of sandwiches, they are all made on bread from a local bakery. The coffee and pickles are just two more Michigan products used in the kitchen or sold in the Smackwater shop area.

"It's important to support local businesses," Arthur said. "And a lot of the products we sell in our shop people would have to drive up to Traverse City for."

About those plates

Decorated in black, grey and warm woods with its famous funky fish logo, Smackwater Jack's occupies a wide open space in the Designhaus building.

"The space fits us— upscale but fun," Arthur said. 

It has 15 tables of four and a couple of high-top tables. For little diners there is a kids' menu and highchairs. Food is ordered at the counter then delivered to your table or packaged for carry out. 

About that packaging and those plates: When Arthur opened the restaurant she knew one thing it would not have – Styrofoam.

"We are as green as we can be in every way we can," Arthur said. "It takes so many thousands of years for Styrofoam to break down, I didn't want that."

Arthur researched and found more Earth-friendly options for Smackwater Jack's to use. "It's really just being responsible."

'So glad you're here I wrote a song!'

With a month of business behind it, Smackwater Jack's is happy to call Rochester home.

"I just love it here. People care about quality," Arthur said. "There's always something going on, it's very inviting and very friendly."

Even knowing of Rochester's charm, Arthur was still surprised by one of the first customers.

"A grandmother brought her grandson in on one of our first days and said, 'Oh, I'm so glad you're finally open. My grandson has been so excited that he wrote you a song!' " Arthur said. "And sure enough, this 7-year-old boy belted out an original song all about us and our fish!"

With that kind of greeting, who wouldn't feel welcome?

Smackwater Jack's Cafe is located at 301 Walnut Blvd. It is open Sunday and Monday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. It can be reached at 248-656-9100.

Erin May 16, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Oh, so hungry now. Must take family. Looks great -
Laura Cassar May 16, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Erin, I forgot to mention how great their kid chicken tenders are. Youngest son is soooo picky about his chicken and he loved them. The serving is huge so we had leftovers and they were so good my husband used them to make a sandwich! I don't know the last time, if ever, either one of us ate the kids leftover chicken tenders from anywhere.
Natalie May 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Note to self...do not read Laura's restaurant reviews while starving!! Looks yummy, I can't wait to try it..that Turkey Ruben looked delish and big enough for two!
Laura Cassar May 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM
LOL, Natalie, I got hungry writing it too!
Marilyn Shipman September 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
DO NOT IGNORE THIS HIDDEN GEM IN ROCHESTER, MI. 5 Stars is not enough!! The name of the restaurant is confusing. I have driven by this restaurant several times, saw the insignia: a fish in a top hat holding a mug of coffee and surmised that it was a seafood restaurant. Then one day, my curiousity got the better of me and I stopped to have a look inside. After reading the menu, I was intrigued, so ordered the Smackwater Jack pizza and Greek Market Salad for carry-out. When the pizza came out of the oven, I WAS BLOWN AWAY!!! It was truly a work of art! The pizza crust is artfully twisted and was sprinkled with sesame seeds, it is NOT too thick or doughy. The sauce has a good hearty flavor with just the perfect amount of spice. The toppings were very fresh with a good and equal portion of each and a wonderful cheesy cheese. It was cooked to perfection and not at all greasy. The price for this very large pizza with all those toppings was a GREAT VALUE for $14.95 and would easily feed 4 people. The greek market salad was equally amazing with the freshest of fresh ingredients, nice, cold crispy romaine lettuce, lots chopped juicy Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives (no pits!) and not too hot pepperoncini with a delicious, tangy in-house made dressing. WE WILL DEFINITELY BE BACK and highly recommend it. We cannot wait to try the other items on the menu.

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