's Sites We Love Saveur Magazine has listed The Skinny Gourmet among its "Sites We Love"

I've been having a great time checking out Nashville's high end dining on the cheap thanks to Groupon. Have you tried it yet? Its awesome. I don't know why I ever hesitated.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jane's Restaurant: Adorable Decor, Mediocre Food

Jane's Restaurant
1655 W Cortland St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 862-5263
Jane's Restaurant offers an intriguing decor that is both urban and cozy, making it a great place to take a date. This is a particularly good brunch spot if you like sweet brunches, with the banana bread French toast the star of the brunch menu. They make an effort to offer healthier brunch options and they keep the Intelligensia coffee flowing. However, if you are looking for truly memorable or innovative brunch fare, the food at this plucky neighborhood favorite disappoints. It has a reputation for food that vacillates between fabulous and fair. I would definitely go back again if it were convenient, and if you are a Chicago foodie dedicated to hitting all the town's noteworthy brunch spots, this one still deserves a place on your list.

Photo from

From the minute we walked into this local Bucktown favorite, I was in love with the decor. You enter into the newly expanded restaurant into the former dining space, still full of patrons, which is a remodeled bungalow style home. Exposed brick and wood beam ceiling give the space a sort of rustic yet urban edge that reminded me immediately of some of my favorite dining spots in San Francisco. The bar in this room sidles up directly to the exposed cooking area, where you can watch the chefs at work preparing your food.

Photo from

Our party of four was escorted into the newly expanded and remodeled second dining area. This room was decorated with a white and silver motif with splashes of black that was again whimsical and urban, only this time the whimsy evoked for me a sort of toned down French splendor with rustic edges. Small clusters of white daisies graced the tables in both room, which was the perfect touch to bring both rooms together. When the weather is nice, they also offer al fresco seating.

They are open for dinner from 5PM until 10PM all week long, and they close an hour later (11PM) on weekends to accommodate the larger dining crowd. They serve breakfast and lunch during the weekdays from 6:30 AM straight on through to 3 PM. I was disappointed to learn, however, that they do not open for brunch on weekends until 10 AM. Chicago is a town passionate about its brunch, and often people like to get an early start on weekend brunch to beat the crowds. However, our party arrived at 10:30 and we were seated immediately. At that time on a Saturday morning Jane's was only about 70 percent full, so wait time did not appear to be a problem since their expansion which has more than doubled their seating capacity.

I found the service pleasant and efficient. Our water glasses were kept full, and the waitress regularly returned to freshen up our coffee. The coffee itself was excellent. After we placed our order we were treated to a small loaf of rustic bread with butter. I say "treated" because the bread and butter experience is not something I usually notice or remember, but they serve a special honey nut butter that was nothing short of addicting. Our party was gleefully scraping the bottom of the plate to be sure we got every last bit of that tasty treat.

We had been forewarned that the sweet side of the brunch menu was better than the savory. Sweet options on offer included banana bread French toast and crepes served with peaches, strawberries and blueberries. My husband ordered the former and our friend ordered the crepes, so I felt a sampling of the sweet options was well in hand. I happen to generally prefer a savory breakfast, so I ordered the eggs Benedict (served with turkey Canadian bacon that was an absolutely convincing substitute for the fattier "real thing") and my friend Natasha ordered the frittata of the day.

Jane's describes its food ideology as "Jane’s goes to great measures to ensure that its food tastes 'homemade,' prepared healthy, fresh and clean, with many vegetarian-friendly options, and no deep-fryer in sight." This was mostly borne out by the food that arrived, amazingly quickly, on our table. The potatoes that come on the side are a very reasonably molded sphere of rosemary breakfast potatoes, a far cry from the huge pile of oozing greasy potatoes you can find at many other brunch spots. The rosemary was just enough to make them flavorful and a great accompaniment to the egg dishes. Moreover, they were glad to sub fresh fruit for the potatoes and chicken sausage that were the standard sides. The turkey Canadian bacon, as I have said, was some of the best I've ever had. If she hadn't told me it was turkey, I would never have guessed. For health reasons, I asked for the hollandaise sauce on the side and was glad I did, because I found it hopelessly bland.

My husband was pleased beyond words with the banana bread French toast, which is--just as it sounds--pieces of walnut studded banana bread dipped in egg and cooked French toast style. I'm certain that dish wasn't winning any awards for health, but it was tasty. It was a bit overwhelmingly sweet for me, and I was glad to only have a few bites rather than an entire breakfast of it. However, if you really enjoy a sweet breakfast, this is one not to miss.

I love crepes and can't get enough of them. However I found this presentation unimaginative. It was nothing but two crepes with fresh fruit. No sauce. No maceration to the fruit. Crepes and fruit. This is a fine breakfast, but not the kind of innovative or interesting fare that makes me want to come out on a weekend and pay $9. I was also disappointed in the quality of the strawberries which were not fresh and juicy but limp, overly soft, and slightly greying.

The frittata was actually the biggest surprise. By the looks of it, it should have been chock full of flavor. The egg base was bursting with added goodies, but when I tried it I was surprised to find it lacking flavor. Perhaps it was just not well seasoned. Natasha found it drier than she likes, although I thought the consistency was reasonable. She only finished half of the frittata and then decided it wasn't worth it.

Based on this one dining experience I would say that the decor was among my favorite of all brunch spots in Chicago, which is probably why Jane's is earning a reputation as the place to hold gatherings like bridal showers. The food had good intentions but failed to deliver. This is not a spot I will remember for the quality of the food, the innovativeness, or the overall taste. I believe my direct quote was, "I love the decor, but the food here can't hold a candle to M. Henry's [in Andersonville]."

Looking through reviews online, this place seems to have a split personality. Diners either loved it or hated it. Among those who hated it, many describe bad experiences with the hostess and co-owner Julie, who was apparently not very accommodating to several diners. Others complain about cramped dining space and long wait times, neither of which I experienced. As for the complaint on cramped space, even if all of the seating had been taken, I wouldn't have found this any more cramped than your average restaurant. Other regular diners note that the food is inconsistent, sometimes fabulous, other times mediocre. In the same vein, some enthusiastically praise a dish that others pan. Several diners praised dishes on the lunch or dinner menu, which I can't speak to (yet at least).

On the whole I would be glad to go back and give this place another try if I happened to be in Bucktown, but I would not likely drive over just to visit Jane's. I would be interested in seeing what they have to offer for lunch or dinner. Particularly if you are a fan of sweet brunches and an adorable atmosphere makes you happy, this one is worth trying out to see for yourself how you like it.

No comments:

LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs