Jam Chicago Restaurant Review
Cuisine:Breakfast & Brunch
Open:Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch
If I learned anything in my years of nutrition education it’s that breakfast is a pretty important meal. Sure, we were probably talking about nutrient dense options like whole grain oats, fat free yogurt, egg whites and dry toast sans butter, but, sometimes, you just crave something else. Hey, they don’t call me the radical dietitian for nothing, and vacation unquestionably called for a little extra kick of delicious indulgence.
That Friday morning kick for me came from Chef Jeffrey Mauro, Executive chef and owner of Jam Restaurant and previous trainee with Bradley Ogden and Charlie Trotter. At Jam, you wont find your typical greasy spoon staples tumbling off of the plate onto the table because of their ginormous size. Nope- at JAM, bacon and eggs never looked so dainty and sexy.
We arrived on Friday morning, bright and early to a clean white and silver room with clear dining chairs. It was virtually empty inside as all the diners were trying to enjoy the sunshine on the patio from within the open solarium. Like most breakfast joints, the restaurant features an open kitchen window overlooking the dining room where diners can sit and overlook the culinary action. But unlike your usual breakfast joint, you won’t see line cooks mass-flipping eggs. Rather, the chef behind the counter really makes that morning meal count- artfiully plating seasonal, local ingredients in sensible portions on beautiful plates.
Service was super friendly, personable and fun. After about 1 minute of interacting with our server I thought, this guy must be an actor as his other job. He was clever, witty and super upbeat, which I really appreciate at any hour of the day, but particularly before I’ve had my coffee line inserted.
Speaking of coffee, drinks at Jam are predominantly non-alcoholic (with the exception of Bailey’s and Disaronno). It was far before my tolerable drinking hour for me, so I had no problem with that. We both started with a couple delicious cappuccinos, complete with complementary housemade snickerdoodles as well as a glass of hand squeezed orange juice to wake up the palate from last night’s goat-fest.
As we perused the food menu with our caffeine in hand, I wiggled with excitement. Seriously, Mauro managed to take all of the classic breakfast staples we know and love (i.e. pancakes, omelets, benedicts, French toast) and introduce unconventional morning ingredients. Think pink peppercorns, chive spatzle, Indian sugar brulee, and sunchoke slaw. It really isn’t every day that my senses get so crazy stimulated at such an early hour- I had to fight myself not to order one of everything. Thankfully, a number of the dishes are available in “appetizer portions” as well as the regular size meaning we could try more without making ourselves absolutely sick. Figuring we had had eaten eggs and enough pork products to last us a while the day before, we stayed mainly on the sweet side of the menu, and eventually decided on:
Maple Pancakes with Meyer Lemon Custard, Indian Sugar Brulee, Citrus Rind Conserve ($6)
The pancake itself was perfect- it was moist and fluffy on the inside and had nice golden brown exterior. The custard on top was luscious and creamy, lending a satisfying crunch with the bruleed top. I also found the dish well balanced for a dessert like breakfast item- the lemon was neither too tart nor cloyingly sweet. A perfect way to start the day.
Malted Custard French Toast with Macerated Cherries, Lime Leaf Cream, Pink Peppercorns ($6)
Woah. Even better than the pancake was this French toast, supposedly cooked sous vide in the custard and then pan-fried for a griddled golden crust. The cherries had a nice balance of sweet and tart flavours, while the cream was wildly fragrant. Seriously, I could smell the lime before our server even sat the dish down. Finishing off with that little hint of heat from the peppercorn brought the whole dish together. A definitely must-order, even for savoury breakfast folk.
Waffle of the Day: Tarragon Waffle with Fennel Sausage Scotch Egg, Fennel & Strawberry Salad with Fennel Gastrique (Half Portion)
Love, love, loved this. The waffle was fluffy with a gentle fresh flavour of anise, made even more luxurious by the combination of salty luscious egg yolk and sweet fennel gastrique. The scotch egg itself was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the salad brought a crunchy fresh element to balance everything out. Gorgeous!
Apple Pie with Maple Cream ($5)
A generous slice of American goodness, the apples were cooked perfectly, and seasoned with just enough sugar that they were sweet without making you sick. I am ordinarily very picky about pie crust, but this one was surprisingly moist and made even tastier with the addition of maple cream. Yum.
So for 3 cappuccinos, 1 small OJ, 3 half-portion entrees and a dessert, the bill came to $55 including tax and tip. Yes, it’s more than you would spend at a greasy spoon diner, but seriously, this was premium fare. I would highly recommend a breakfast trek out to Jam, even if you have no other business out and about the general area. It is worth every bus, cab, or walk you have to make to get there. And when you go, get the French toast. You will definitely not regret the choice. Thanks Jam for getting our second day in Chicago off to a delicious start!