Yes, he came up with strawberry hot wings, but Jack Blaustein and his Old Fourth Ward hole in the wall are known for more than quirky chicken sauces. The man behind Jack's Pizza and Wings has been serving up cheesy slices and cold beer on Highland Avenue for eight years (alongside the occasional mud-wrestling match and metal show). Jack's place isn't just beloved for the mac 'n cheese pizza or the ever-flowing PBR, though. It's revered as a true dive, a place where folks of all strides can come together over a slice of pizza named after someone's ex-girlfriend. We caught up with Jack and hounded him about what makes a good dive barand where exactly he came up with some of the wackier wing flavors.
SCOUT: Howdy, Jack. Please introduce yourself, and tell our readers how they might know you.
Jack: My name is Jack Blaustein and I am the owner of Jack's Pizza and Wings in the Fourth Ward on Highland
Ave. I have owned the restaurant for over eight years, as a Johnny's Pizza for the first five years, and as
Jack's since 2008. I grew up in Atlanta, just miles away from my restaurant, graduating from Grady High
School and attending Georgia Tech, before leaving school to purchase the restaurant.
SCOUT: How did you get yourself involved in the restaurant business/pizza trade?
Jack: I have been working in the pizza and bar business since I was 14 years old, starting as a dishwasher at
the Johnny's Pizza on Cheshire Bridge Road, and eventually working my way up to cook and manager
by the time I was 17. At 18, while attending Georgia Tech, I managed the Johnny's Pizza on Elizabeth
Street, until the opportunity arose for me to purchase the establishment. After running the business on
Elizabeth Street for two years, I moved the location to its current home on Highland Avenue.
SCOUT: Do you tend to find that pizza/wings and beer are one of the greatest combinations on this planet?
Jack: Great question. I believe that neighborhood bars and restaurants are, in general, the greatest places
on the planet. They offer comfort food, friendly atmospheres, and a sense of belonging. However, I
am partial to the combination of pizza, wings, and beer, as opposed to fried food, burgers and beer.
Pizza allows for a greater variety and a much more flexible palate to create from, and who doesn't love
chicken wings... I mean, except for vegetarians.
SCOUT: Any reason for setting up shop in the good ol' Old Fourth Ward?
Jack: In the beginning of my restaurant journey I just wanted to get in to the game. As a nineteen year old
looking to purchase a restaurant, I really didn't have very many options or supporters, so I was willing
to take anything. I knew that I wanted to start with pizza, since it was where my foundation lay. Other
than that, I just got lucky to find such a great location in such a great neighborhood.
SCOUT: Jack's Pizza is pretty well-known for their rather untraditional ingredient combos on the pizza (mac 'n
cheese?) and wings (strawberry?). How'd you come up with those? Do you have a personal favorite?
Jack: My personal favorite item on the menu is our supreme pizza. It is the best of everything, all at once.
As far as the specialty pizzas and unusual wing flavors, they have all come from different places. Some
of the specialty pies are the nicknames for my best friends ex-girlfriends, and the toppings all relate to something about the specific "ex". The Macaroni and cheese pizza is named after Jason, the owner
of Wisteria, who gave me the idea for the pizza. The Soul Food pie came from my undying love of
southern food. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collards, and gravy...excuse my French, but, f*#k yeah!
Why wouldn't you want all of those things on a pizza? The Beanie Weenie was designed for my dad,
who loves everything bbq and bacon. The wings flavors...strawberry, pineapple, wasabi, stupid hot,
cinnamon, and bourbon...were all created from countless hours of experimentation while drinking way
too late at night. Believe me, for every flavor that worked, there were plenty that failed. Chocolate
wings are not very good.
SCOUT: Lots of people lovingly refer to Jack's as a good old-fashioned dive. Do you agree? What makes a great
neighborhood dive spot?
Jack: I wear that badge proudly. I never wanted to be anything other than a neighborhood dive bar.
The dive bar is a dying breed. Everyone wants to have the next innovative thing, or the fanciest
atmosphere, or the most expensive wine menu... fooey! I wish more dive bars would open. Good,
inexpensive food, served in a friendly, warm atmosphere is an idea that seems to be escaping current
What makes a great dive spot, hmm. Stable staff, especially bartenders. Good juke box and
employees who create great play lists. Regulars, lots and lots of regulars. Inexpensive, but delicious,
food and drinks. If you have all of that, the rest is "colored bubbles".
SCOUT: Can you tell us a little about Kenny? Needless to say, we're intrigued.
Jack: Kenny is family. Kenny has been a regular of mine for 8 years. I have seen Kenny nearly every single day
over the past 8 years. Kenny comes to my family's Thanksgiving, he comes in on Tuesdays when we're
closed and hangs out, he's there on Christmas, and we always throw his birthday party. I don't think
people would know what to do without Kenny. He's a great guy.
Seriously though, he's a secret agent from space whose mission is to blend in with humans and learn our
habits. There is no way Kenny is human. If you got to know him you would understand what I'm talking
But either way, everyone loves Kenny.
SCOUT: Any reason behind naming some of the slices after best friends' ex-girlfriends? (We approve.)
Jack: It started as a joke, and then took on a life of its own. We used to always make fun of each other's
girlfriends, so I figured what better way to win the war of words than to have his new girlfriends order
food named after his old girlfriends. I know it sounds kinda sick, but, trust me, it was all in good fun.
After awhile there were just too many ex-girlfriends to keep naming pizzas after, but the originals will be
SCOUT: Got any particularly good stories from your time as a dive-owner?
Jack: Tons. Mostly inappropriate, so you can't have those.
We've made the Creative Loafing Blotter a couple of times. We had a girl conduct a seance in the
middle of the dining room. My brother got my mother wasted at his 21st birthday party at the
restaurant. Jell-O Wrestling's are always full of stories.
SCOUT: Finally, tell our readers where they can go to find out more about your fine establishment -- and tell
the first-timers why they should come in and check it out.
Jack: You can always see what's going on with us on the website, and we are constantly on Facebook and Twitter (cheap shout out).
As far as why people should come and check us out...
1. Best alcohol and beer pricing in town. Hands down. No other restaurant is even close.
2. My staff is great. I hate going into restaurants and dealing with servers with attitude, bartenders
who don't want to give you the time of day, and an atmosphere that immediately makes you feel stuffy.
Somewhere during the evolution of the service industry, the service got left behind. Well, we picked
it up and brought it with us. The service is friendly and great...and not in that fake smile, corporate
restaurant kinda way.
3. Jell-O Wrestling.
4. No fried food. All produce is fresh and cut daily. All meat is prepared from raw ingredients and
prepared daily. Macaroni-&-Cheese pizza and Soul Food pizza.
5. It's a fun place to be.