Jacksonville, Out and About, Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review: Mack’s Tenders

My step-dad, Dave, heard about Mack’s Tenders on one of the morning shows local to Jacksonville and suggested we all go there for lunch today. Who gets up early enough to watch the morning show? Not this girl, but I’m glad he did because otherwise I would have never heard of this little gem. Mack’s Tenders is tucked in a small strip mall on San Jose in the Mandarin area. This location, I was told, was opened in January of this year, but Mack’s was founded in 2016 by Florida native and restaurateur Mike Rosenberg, who also founded Dick’s Wings. Mack’s Tenders also has another location in St. John’s.

Their philosophy is pretty straightforward – simplicity. The menu features one item, chicken tenders, either fried or grilled and a small selection of sides – Crinkle Cut Fries, Sweet Potato Tots, Waffle Fries, Cole Slaw, and Sour Pickles. The chicken tenders are offered in a variety of ways either as a meal, sandwich, wrap or on a salad. They even have a chicken tender taco stuffed with tenders and cole slaw. Having a party? Feeding a small army? No problem, because their chicken tenders are available in 20, 40, 60 or 100 piece platters.

Mack’s Tenders is a small restaurant with about 7 or 8 tables and also has limited outside seating. The decor is super cute with whimsical chicken wall art and they even sell t-shirts, hats, and koozies.

We each got the 4 piece Tender Meal ($7.99) which comes with your choice of crinkle fries, sweet potato tots or waffle fries, slaw or sour pickles, Texas toast and a regular size drink. The fried chicken tenders are super flavorful, lightly breaded and evenly coated with panko bread crumbs. The wait time was reasonable considering the tenders aren’t frozen, always prepared fresh and cooked to order. When our tenders arrived they were piping hot. So hot that we had to break them open to allow them a little time to cool down. The best part though? Super juicy chicken! Whoever is frying up the chicken here has it down to a science. The tenders were pretty big and the 4 piece meal is a lot of food.

I got the crinkle fries with mine. If you know me then you know that crinkle cut fries are just about one of my favorite things ever, especially when they’re dusted with season salt like these were. My Mom and Dave got the waffle fries which were also really good. I couldn’t decide between the slaw and sour pickles, so I got them both. I’m a cole slaw snob and super picky about it, but it was delicious. Not sure if it is homemade, but it seems like it could have been. The slaw was creamy and not watered down like some seem to get when it has sat too long and the mayo has broken down.

The pickles were one of my favorite parts of the meal. They were crisp, salty, a little garlicky, but not really sour (at least not to me) as the menu suggests, but I was more than okay with that.

So, here’s the thing….not only are the chicken tenders amazing, but they offer up a bar of 30 different sauces to choose from. Yes, you read that right. THIRTY. It’s a little overwhelming to be honest and I tend to get super indecisive and a little frazzled when given a lot of options (just ask Mr. Miller about how I get when some of the restaurants we’ve gone to have had a menu the size of a coffee table book). My brain can’t handle it.

I’m not sure how many of the sauces are homemade and unique to Mack’s or which ones are bottled, but I chose a sampling of five different sauces – Island Jerk, Medium Cajun Ranch, Sweet Teriyaki, Mack Sauce, and Garlic Chili Sauce. I love spicy food and spicy sauces despite spicy and I having a love hate relationship (hello heartburn, but thank you Prilosec). The Island Jerk had good heat and wasn’t overwhelming, but the Garlic Chili Sauce was packing a little punch. Maybe I’m a spicy poser after all, who knows, but thanks to the advice of a fellow diner, mixing the Sweet Teriyaki with the Garlic Chili Sauce cut the heat a little and was a super tasty combo. Ranch and I go way back, so it was only natural that I’d choose some kind of ranch. The Cajun Ranch was really good and tasted familiar….maybe like Dick’s Wings familiar? I don’t know. My favorite sauce of the ones I tried was the Mack Sauce. It was kind of like a garlic aioli and if they would bottle it up and sell it to me I would literally use it to dip just about anything.

My only peeve about the whole experience was that I felt like maybe the ranch sauces and the Mack Sauce, because it was mayonnaise based, should have been kept at cooler temperatures?  They both felt like they were room temperature and not knowing how long they had been sitting out kind of concerned me. I’m not an expert on proper storage temperatures though, so I can’t be 100% certain in my assessment. Just an honest observation.

Top row, left to right: Island Jerk Sauce, Medium Cajun Ranch, Sweet Teriyaki – Bottom row, left to right: Mack Sauce, Garlic Chili Sauce

I saw a sign that says if you check in on Facebook while you’re there and leave a review you’ll get 10% off your next order. They also give you a card when you order good for a “FREE Hunger Box” after your 5th visit. So be sure to save the card and have it stamped each time you go. I definitely plan on going back with Mr. Miller, so in addition to the great good and service the frequent diner card is a nice incentive.

Mack’s Tenders has a great thing going on and in my opinion they’ve got places like Zaxby’s beat – hands down. Sorry to say (considering they were founded by the same person) I like Mack’s better than Dick’s Wings. Mack’s concept is totally different than Dick’s though. Their focus on simple, quality ingredients is smart and it definitely shows in the food they deliver. If you’re in the area, check them out. Great food, quality ingredients, fast service, and reasonable prices. You won’t be disappointed.

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