Here’s what Texas Roadhouse’s fast-casual brand Jaggers is like

Customers can up the heat on Jaggers' spicy chicken sandwich with jalapenos. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Customers can bump up the heat on Jaggers’ spicy chicken sandwich with jalapeno. | Photo by Alex Shearer

Texas Roadhouse is a sit-down restaurant known for its steaks, so its newest concept — a fast casual restaurant — is quite the departure.

Called Jaggers, the quick-service restaurant’s menu highlights include burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, milkshakes and French fries. It has a drive-thru window, and its competitors include Chick-fil-A and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

Jaggers only has two locations, one in Indianapolis and another in Noblesville, Ind., and Texas Roadhouse isn’t looking to expand anytime soon. The Louisville-based company is focused on its other concept, Bubba’s 33, a sit-down American cuisine restaurant, the first of which just opened locally this year.

“Things are going well. We are still figuring some things out,” said Travis Doster, senior director of public relations for Texas Roadhouse. “We don’t have any plans right now for expansion, but you never know.”

So, when I had the opportunity to give Jaggers a go while in Noblesville one weekend, I took it.

Walking in, there were no peanuts on the floor, and no loud country or rock music playing over the restaurant’s loud-speaker. The design is traditional fast casual, with bathrooms along a hallway near the entrance, a counter with employees ready to take your order, a soda machine to the left and behind, a counter with condiments, napkins and utensils.

However, as shown in the promotional video below, Jaggers has stage lighting and its logo hanging over the dining room and televisions all around. That’s where it departs from traditional fast casual. Guests can eat while watching sports, news or cartoons.

The menu is straightforward, with five or six options in each category, and with a couple of exceptions, such as Green Chile Cheeseburger, all the menu items are standard fare for a fast-casual American restaurant. Many of the items come with Jaggers sauce, a mayo-based condiment with a little kick.

I went for a single-patty burger, with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and Jaggers sauce, hold the onion, and French fries. My boyfriend, Alex, was immediately drawn to the spicy chicken sandwich sans pickle, his regular order whenever he heads to Chick-fil-A. We both added a drink and fries to make a meal, which cost about $8 a person.

The employee taking our order asked if he wanted to add some more spice to his chicken sandwich and offered to put jalapeno on the side before giving us a number to set on table. “They don’t have jalapeno at Chick-fil-A,” Alex said after we sat down at a window booth.

Rather than lining up near the counter waiting for food, Jaggers delivers food right to the table, a more popular feature in fast-casual restaurants nowadays. The food came out fairly quickly, and the French fries were nice and hot.

After several bites, Alex said the quality of chicken was high considering Jaggers was a fast-casual restaurant, and while the burger patties are made thin — I’d probably splurge on the double patty in the future — the burger had a lot of flavor.

At Jaggers, the lettuce and tomato are layered on the bottom half of the bun, so that the first things you taste is their freshness, followed by the Jaggers sauce on the back-end. All of that is sandwiched inside a fluffy bun that’s been set on the grill for a minute or two.

While the lettuce and tomato can trick your taste buds into thinking that the burger or breaded chicken sandwich are healthy, the fries definitely don’t. But who wants healthy-tasting French fries?

Jaggers' single-patty cheeseburger and shoestring fries | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Jaggers’ single-patty cheeseburger and shoestring fries | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

The shoestring fries are beautifully crispy, and the grease they are fried in isn’t overwhelming, neither is the season salt, which some restaurants sprinkle on too liberally.

At the end, we both concurred that we’d definitely give Jaggers another try. Given the enjoyable experience Alex and I had, however, it was interesting to see the restaurant less than half full at 12:45 p.m. on a Saturday.

Doster said the restaurant still isn’t exactly where Texas Roadhouse would like to see it.

“It just takes a while. I think it is one of those undiscovered things,” he said, noting that the Noblesville location is hidden from view by those driving up State Road 37, one of the town’s main thoroughfare. “It takes a while to sort of get your name known.”

Other fast-casual brands are constantly advertising on television and radio and offering regular promotions and coupons, which is not Texas Roadhouse-style. Texas Roadhouse doesn’t do nationwide marketing; it leaves the advertising to individual markets to do what they think is best.

However, Doster said, it’s simply a matter of getting customers in the door for the first time. Internal research has shown that “once people taste it, they do come back,” he said.

Similar to its other brands, food quality is the top priority at Jaggers, Doster said. “I think we can outspend them on food quality.”

And while food costs can be a drag on the bottom line at times, he said that Texas Roadhouse can afford to buy higher quality meats for use at Jaggers, because the building is smaller and requires fewer employees than Texas Roadhouse or Bubba’s 33. Jaggers also turns tables more quickly.

Texas Roadhouse is still trying to work out how to best run Jaggers before exploring expanding the brand elsewhere and is testing new operations methods and new menu items. Jaggers recently added beer to the menu, for example.

The company is “not afraid to try new things,” Doster said.