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An Omaha Gem: Jam's grill and bar

April 2010: metroCUISINE

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It's human nature to focus on what we don’t have. Here in eastern Nebraska, we don’t have the mountains for a day of summer hiking or winter skiing. We can’t escape July’s heat or February’s chill splashing in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe it’s because we don’t have these natural playgrounds at our immediate disposal that we focus our entertainment around dining and the arts; we have both in great numbers and quality. Established as one of the best in Omaha is Jams Grill and Bar.



May marks Jams’ 19th year of serving Omaha fresh, innovative dishes in a casual though sophisticated environment. Owner and manager Mark Hoch says the secret to his restaurant’s success and longevity is consistency: low staff turnover, caliber of food, an “honest drink at the bar,” and daily focus.

Customers have said Jams serves the “most consistent food in town,” says Hoch, “A lot of our employees have been here a long time which contributes to the stability of our business.” He also attributes Jams’ success to his business formula, which centers on repeatedly striving for excellence.

“Everyday is important in this business, not just busy days,” Hoch asserts.

Hoch jokes that he’d rather just be the owner at a distance in warm Arizona.

You can’t blame him after this winter, but his daily presence at the restaurant helps it run more smoothly. That hard work and diligence has paid off. Jams is recognized as an Omaha eating icon, yet Hoch shrugs that status off, saying that it only makes him feel old.

Jams chef is Jeff Newman and is assisted by Brian Gould. Hoch was chef for a number of years and is well versed with what makes a meal stand out among the competition. “Local products are used as much as possible in the growing months,” he explains. Where many chains reconstitute pre-made soup concentrates, all soups at Jams are made from scratch on the premises.

The menu changes throughout the year, reflecting what is in season, what is fresh.
Portion sizes are generous.

 Friends have advised Hoch to expand into a larger space, but he has resisted. “I think customers like a place that has an active feel to it,” he believes. Hoch describes the atmosphere at Jams as casual, fast-paced, and buzzing with conversation. Customers “keep company” with fellow cosmopolitan diners depicted in a wall-to-ceiling hand painted mural. A bar runs nearly the entire length of the west side of the restaurant. Customers can enjoy a pre-dinner drink or eat their meal there. One of Jams’ bartenders developed a variation of a Cosmopolitan, the P.G. (Pussy Galore of James Bond fame), that is a popular request at the bar. The wine list offers great quality and value, and wines by the glass are very popular. It includes such varietals as Fume Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, and Red Zinfandel, with most glasses running between $7 to $9 per glass.

Lunches run around $14, and dinners average at $28. Hoch says their salads are extremely popular. “The coconut chicken salad has developed into sort of a cult thing,” he states. It features coconut encrusted chicken on a bed of greens with artichoke hearts, avocado, Swiss cheese, tomato, red onion, croutons, and almonds with a creamy herb mustard and raspberry sauce.

Meat lovers will love the steak and gorgonzola salad while seafood enthusiasts
can try the crab cake salad.

Whether it’s a business lunch, holiday party, dinner before a play, or late night dessert and coffee, Jams Grill and Bar fits the bill with superior food and drink served in a lively environment. It’s an example of what a good restaurant should be and is exactly for which Hoch strives. “Good independent restaurants are the soul of great cities. It’s up to the locals to support those independents so their cities maintain their identity. We have been blessed in a lot of ways with good local support which makes it easy to come to work every day.” Jams’ hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.

For more information, call 399-8300 or visit Jams’ website at www.jamseats.com.

-end- metroMAGAZINE

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