Finding the French Toast of My Dreams at Jam in Chicago

"With each bite, tender threads of custard unravel on your tongue and melt away down into your gullet."

Until now, there has been no Ferran Adria or Thomas Keller of breakfast here in Chicago. There are great places that serve straightforward classics, including my favorite Benedict at Meli Café and even slightly innovative sweet-skewing spots (Butterfinger pancakes, anyone?) like Bongo Room, but real innovation and elegance has been missing from morning fare.

Jam, owned by Jerry Suqi (Chickpea) and helmed by Jeff Mauro (Charlie Trotter's and North Pond) aims to fill that void. The dish that encapsulates my experience at Jam and is the building block for what could likely be a breakfast renaissance is the malted custard French toast.

With most places focused on serving heavy brioche or Challah-style vanilla-flavored gut bombs as the standard, Jam's airy cotton candy-like interior is a revelation. With each bite, tender threads of custard unravel on your tongue and melt away down into your gullet. The lime-infused mascarpone and the spicy, fruity pop of pink peppercorns and brightness of house-made peach preserves tempered the creamy richness of the custard. It's a balanced playful breakfast presentation that displays a refinement that's a whole lot more Charlie Trotters than Denny's.

By starting meals off with amuses like tender mini biscuits topped with chive cheddar butter, and making fried egg sandwiches with beautiful braised beef cheeks and eggs, Jam is definitely on its way to reinventing the first meal of the day.

Jam

937 N Damen Avenue, Chicago IL 60622 (map) 773-489-0302; jamrestaurant.com