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Review Sun Jul 26 2009

Jam Breakfast & Lunch

DSCN0319.JPGJam, a 30-seat breakfast & lunch joint at 935 N Damen, is only in its second weekend, but there's already a steady wait for a table during brunch prime time. Perhaps this is because it fills a void left by the dearly-departed, maybe-going-to-open-again-on-Fulton-someday dodo; also, in this population-dense stretch of the East Village, the brunch options are sparse if you're not on Chicago or Division. While these are good reasons for the place to be packed right now, I have bad news for anyone hoping to roll in and be seated promptly at 10 a.m. on a Sunday: the food is great as well.

After a pleasant wait in the courtyard Jam shares with Sweet Cakes Bakery, we were led into the restaurant. The space may be better decorated than it is designed. The color palette is a mix of ice blue, lime green, and dark brown, with clear acrylic chairs and delightfully funky wall lights, but the kitchen seems to be split in two, with much of the cooking going on in the dining area. This is fun to watch, but it meant the air conditioning was pretty useless, as the doors were all open to prevent the dining area from being too smoky. I'm interested to see how that will be dealt with come winter.

The open kitchen allowed me to confirm that there were some new-restaurant jitters going on, especially when I dined by myself a second time. Both of my visits to Jam featured somewhat long wait times. The second time, I was one of six people there, and I watched the cook and front-of-house manager prepare what must've been the first oatmeal of the day. During the prep, there were mild queries about where the brown sugar, honey, butter, and appropriate serving piece to hold these accompaniments were. Once Jam has been open a bit longer, I'm guessing they'll know where there brown sugar is.

But as I said before... the food. Chef Jeffrey Mauro has spent time at Charlie Trotter's and North Pond, and Mike Noll, the sous chef, is from Schwa, so I was already expecting brunch greatness from them. From the beginning, they pleased me: I am a fan of amuse bouches, so the detail of serving a breakfast amuse bouche (this week, a dollop of orange-scented chocolate cream cheese on a sliver of carrot cake) delights me.

When I went with my roommates, Polly ordered the breakfast terrine with egg whites, beet trio, watercress, goat cheese and macadamia nuts, which is currently being prepared as an egg-white omelet, and Kara got the Eggs Benedict with spinach hollandaise and crisped pork belly. Everything was tasty, though both of them said the portions were slightly small, and pastry chef-student Kara said the spinach hollandaise was a bit more mayonnaise-y than hollandaise-y. Each ended up ordering a side of the delicious, garlicky fingerling potatoes to fill up after their main courses, which meant each spent a total of $12 on brunch, less their beverages.

After snacking on the breakfast pastry of the week, a coffee cake made unusual because of some anise flavor on the topping, I got the "Threedom of Choice", which is (surprise) a choice of three items from a list of breakfast items for $8 (plus $3 for each additional item beyond that). I think I won at brunch with this selection--I chose two scrambled eggs, the fingerling potatoes, and ridiculously tender braised pork cheeks. This is $2 more than Clarke's Micro Mini, less the toast, and with immeasurably better ingredients. I will be getting this again, though when I came back the next morning, I chose the malted custard French toast with lime leaf whipped cream and macerated cherries.

Jam is cash-only, so bring money or be forced to pay the surcharges at the gas station ATM nearby. It's open Wednesday to Monday, 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., so if you want to skip the wait, forget brunch go out for breakfast instead.

Jam
935 N Damen
773-489-0302

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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