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Reviews of brunch dishes.

The Brunch Dish: High Fashion Fare at Jam

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[Photographs: Chelsea Ross]

Eggs are eggs, French toast is French toast, and pancakes are pancakes. You can gild the lily all you want, but it's tough to elevate brunch fare beyond its humble roots. Unless of course you're Jam, the Logan Square staple renowned for its contemporary, re-imagined, and re-fashioned brunch provisions. Here, familiar morning favorites go well beyond the standard. Jam is the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show of brunch, featuring some of the most stunning, imaginative preparations and presentations of dishes born from humble origins.

Take, for example, Jam's eggs Benedict ($12). We've all had eggs Benedict and know what to expect. Or do we? Likely the sexiest plate of eggs Benedict ever, Jam's version rotates accompaniments throughout the seasons, but rest assured each iteration is an aesthetic marvel. The current preparation finds petite English muffins with the silkiest poached eggs ever, brown sugar bacon sausage, and butternut squash hollandaise. If breakfast went to finishing school, this would be the class valedictorian. The muffins are pillowy and rich, almost like a bready poundcake, perfect for sopping up the velvet-smooth yolk and that slightly sweet hollandaise. I've had bacon sausage in a few dishes before, and I always appreciate it. Combining the two most prominent breakfast meats into one is just genius, lending a pleasant fattiness and smokiness to the toothsome links. Now if only someone would invent peanut butter-flavored jelly, I'll be all set.

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From the familiar to the atypical, octopus is not something you might expect to find on a brunch menu, unless your idea of brunch nostalgia involves some sort of nautical Denny's. Leave it to Jam to seamlessly infuse grilled octopus into their brunch menu, served atop an exceptional salad Niçoise ($12). The name might be a bit of a misnomer for folks expecting the standard medley of tuna, tomatoes, green beans, and the like, considering Jam's version tastes more like a salad that took a dip in the Aegean. An ample mound of well-dressed spinach lays the foundation, strewn with tender potatoes, grapes, a poached egg, and caramelized shallot vinaigrette. The crown jewel is the octopus, charred ever so slightly so as to cook the plump meat without rendering it as tough as a bicycle tire. Flecked with bits of olives, it's thick and meaty and a welcome replacement for tuna. Sorry, tuna.

Eggs Benedict and salad Niçoise are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jam's bold, beautiful interpretations of brunch. Each plate serves to broaden perspectives on what brunch can be. Dining at Jam is equal parts excitement and enlightenment, with just a splash of sexy.

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