Location -1655 W. Cortland Street (between Marshfield Ave. & Paulina Street)
In one word – Simple
Food – My Trusty Sidekick’s family was in town for the weekend, so with Mom, Dad, and Brother Sidekick, as well as our friend, we headed to Jane’s, located in Bucktown, for a Saturday night dinner. Trusty’s mom is a very conscious eater, so on top of my pesco-vegetarian restrictions it was important to go to a restaurant whose menu would offer healthy choices. With lots of vegetarian options, fresh seasonal ingredients, and simple, but well-prepared food, it definitely fit the bill.
Trusty’s mom ordered a mixed-greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette and goat cheese “croutons” (Melba toast with goat cheese spread) ($7) and the beans and brown rice dish with vegetables ($16), and she was very happy with her choices. Trusty’s dad ordered the soup of the day, which was potato leek ($7) and had the black Grouper with a sake-ginger sauce and Asian vegetables ($22). After everyone at the table tried a bite of the Grouper we were hooked—it was cooked and seasoned perfectly.
Try the corn chowder ($6), which Trusty ordered to start. It has lots of crunchy chunks of garden vegetables (not just corn), and tasted fresh, not heavy. For his main meal, Trusty went with a spinach salad with grilled vegetables and julienne carrots ($14), which he thought was good, but in a chlorophorillicious way (healthy but unmemorable). None of the appetizers caught my eye while I was ordering, but along with Trusty’s brother I ordered the vegetable risotto with artichoke hearts, broccolini, asparagus, and red peppers ($16) for my main meal and it was far more than enough food (I ended up taking half my meal home). We both thought it was very rich and satisfying, especially for a vegetarian dish. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, the nutty flavor of the artichoke hearts came through, and the risotto was perfectly cooked with a little toothiness.
Everyone agreed that the portions were very generous across the board and the only one to finish his meal was our friend, who ordered the seafood risotto with lots of calamari, mussels, and shrimp ($22), a dish which our waitress revealed had just been added to their menu. In addition to the Grouper, the seafood risotto was the other super-star at the table. We all agreed that when coming back in the future, we would order one of these two choices.
I must point out that you needn’t be a health nut to enjoy Jane’s. If you are a meat and potato eater, there is a black pepper crusted New York Strip, with scallion garlic mashed potatoes and port reduction ($25) on the menu. There are also very tempting dessert choices, which unfortunately we were too full to try, including rotating gelato flavors ($7) as well as a chocolate and caramel turtle brownie. Next time.
Drink – The wine menu was short but had some good selections, like Au Bon Climate, that you would see at trendier restaurants. Most choices were California wines, but there were some international options also. The waitress also recommended three seasonal beers they were offering, including an apricot wheat beer that Trusty’s Dad really enjoyed.
Service – We made reservations (which I would recommend) and were seated immediately, even though half our party hadn’t arrived yet. Extra gold stars for that. Our waitress was very nice and the cooking staff accommodated Trusty’s Mom’s special requests, but I felt like we were a little rushed. At two different points, someone tried to clear our friend’s plate before he had finished. There was an automatic 20% surcharge for our group of six, which is a little steeper than the standard 18% usually applied to a larger group.
Scene – Overall, Jane’s feels like a casual, intimate neighborhood restaurant that would be a perfect “I-discovered-it!”-candidate for the popular local show, “Check Please.” Architecturally, it is a long, narrow room with a barn-like roof. While the peaked-ceiling is unique and a homey feature to a Chicago restaurant, the narrowness of the space makes it difficult to completely escape the feeling of being a little crowded. However, despite our lack of elbow room, we had a very pleasant conversation and I was able to hear everyone even at our large table for six. Jazz music played throughout the evening, but not too loudly. Be forewarned that the restaurant is very dark with candlelight only. As in, if you were going to Jane’s for a date it’s a little past romantic mood lighting–you may be squinting across the table at your sweetheart.
Dress – I was surprised that the crowd at Jane’s was extremely casual, especially for Bucktown. We all dressed in jeans, even the ‘Rents, and this was perfectly fine. A bachelorette or birthday party came into the restaurant during our meal and they were a little dressier, but still fit in with the crowd. So, if you’re going out after dinner and want to be a little more polished or stylish for the evening, as long as you’re leaning towards a stylish Anthropologie-esque look, versus a smokin’ hot look, you won’t be overdressed.
Cost – Without drinks, tax or tip, the total per person was about $25-$30 dollars. The most expensive item on the menu is $24, but with the double-sized portions, it’s a great value for what you’re paying.
If you like, try… Feast, Karen’s Cooked
Written by hungry yuppie