The most important meal of the day has yet to be reviewed by me. I’m not sure why, I love breakfast, the almighty knows I love me some crispy bacon. I think it’s because I rarely go out to breakfast so mostly I’m eating a banana and drinking tea and that’s hardly interesting to anyone, me in particular. But that ends today. I have had sincere satisfaction dining at a few very special breakfast, lunch and/or brunch restaurants here in Chicago. And Jam is one of them. I live in Lakeview, near Wrigley Field, and as much as I love dining with cops and drunks, I much prefer to venture out of my boisterous neighborhood and wander elsewhere, somewhere more adult, sober even. And by sober I mean lightly buzzed on some flamboyant drink like a bellini or a mimosa. I’m a big beer drinker, but not for breakfast. I find the beginning of the day to be the classiest and then it gets progressively trashier. At the end I’m in a corner, alone, drinking canned Milwaukee’s Best, banging my head against a wall without a clue where I am.*
And so I made the lofty pilgrimage (via an air-conditioned car with friends) to the Ukranian Village, a neighborhood as understated as it is hard to find. Drive south on Damen toward Wicker Park, where there are tons of restaurants, bars, shops, and people, and then just keep going, and going, until it seems as if there’s nothing. Then stop, get out, walk, and see what happens. I actually love this quiet, peaceful neighborhood, despite my facetiousness.
Jam has no sign on the street. It’s literally daring you to find it. As if there’s a V.I.P. list of loyal locals and only through very special words of mouth can you even hear of this place’s very existence and then somehow find the time and energy to hunt it down. For me, a dear friend met the owner’s brother somehow, that may not even be right, at any rate, we found it, sandwiched between a gas station and some scaffolding. The neighborhood is filled with early 20th century northern homes and tons of trees, but the approach to the restaurant is not as impressive as the inside; the opposite of most people, places and things.
Once you question whether you’re in the right place 14 times, you reluctantly enter and are pleasantly surprised by the clean, white, pristine surroundings that is Jam. Probably capable of housing at max 60 people, Jam gives each seat in the house a great view into the kitchen, which is open and bustling, producing aromas and flavors only the most creative and passionate minds could conjure up. The staff all seem to be handsome, thoughtful, kind men, who have no desire to speed up your experience. You can eat like a European here, relax and enjoy.
As with every grubbery worth its salt in this city, the food is of the highest quality and full-fledged imagination. They take comfort foods you know and love and then challenge your palette with intriguing ingredients and methods of execution. The menu changes seasonally, which I fricken LOVE, and so my first experience involved sharing various items with friends, including their savory and sweet scones of the day, some form of an omelet, benedict and french toast. All were positively delightful, surprising, satisfying. My follow-up trip topped the initial as we had more people and therefore more to share. A Quiche with white cuttlefish and truffle, an egg and pork shoulder sandwich with rhubarb and a side of fingerling potatoes, buckwheat pancakes with an unexpected fruit and herb combination. All left me bewildered and enthralled.
Jump start your day the right way, with a spot of tea, and a unique breakfast from a secretive little gem known as Jam. Enjoy.
* That never happened...to me