Jack's Bistro has been on our list of restaurants to visit, and last night we finally got to check it out. Our friend, Claudia, was visiting from NYC, so we used this as an opportunity to check out a new place. On our drive to Canton (which we never venture over to), we confirmed that Baltimore seriously has a bar on every corner between the Inner Harbor and 95. Wow. Great dives that I'm dying to check out like Ale Mary's (a classic I've heard), Bad Decisions (the stomping ground of my colleagues), and Jack's neighboring bar, Pickled Parrot. Mmmm, tasty. I should do a dive bar crawl one night. THAT would be a colorful blog entry.
I'd read a bunch of reviews of Jack's Bistro, so I was really looking forward to seeing what all the hype was about. Turns out, not much. The place is small and narrow like lots of Baltimore restaurants. But there was no place for us to stand while we waited for our table, so we huddled in a corner up against the bar, bracing ourselves every time the door blew open and frigid air blasted us. The bar takes up most of the space, and it was packed to the gills. Felt a little too much like a crowded college bar.
We were finally seated in a small booth still in the bar area, so we battled the noise of a dozen other conversations all night. It was hard to talk across the table, and I found myself eavesdropping on other conversations simply because they were unavoidable. Not a good place to go when you want to play catch-up with a visitor.
Drink was The Fritz, champagne with St. Germaine elderberry. Very good, but almost too sweet. Good summer drink. Nursed this the whole meal.
The menu had some interesting items, like crisp sea beans (?), but for the most part, it was fatty comfort food. So when in Rome...I ordered the Mac + Cheese + Chocolate appetizer because how can you not order something that sounds that blissful? Cheese and chocolate?! Joe got the toast + mushrooms + egg, which was served toast on the bottom covered by sauteed oyster and button mushrooms with a poached-looking egg on top. The egg had been cooked at 147-degrees for two hours, so when he stabbed it with his fork it wouldn't crumble. Interesting idea. Not sure if the egg was necessary though since it was just a solid yolk. Mushrooms were great. Mac + cheese + chocolate was good but certainly not the tastebud explosion I'd been hoping for. It was just really cheesy mac and cheese with cocoa powder dusted over top. The server described the taste as the savory experience you get from a chocolate-covered pretzel - a little salty and a little sweet, yet complementary.
Since my appetizer was the farthest thing from healthy, I chose the Lolla Rosa salad, which appeared very simple and clean on the menu. Sike! It was basically a plate of thick white salad dressing drowning beautiful red lettuce leaves. I was able to save a couple sundried tomatoes from submerging in the dressing pool, but the rest was unsalvageable. So long lettuce. Joe got shrimp fettucine. Pretty basic.
Dessert was a diabetic's nightmare - Fried 'Smores. It was served on a tray with three circles, so it presented nicely. In the middle was a scoop of Maggie Moo's Smores ice cream, and on each end was a ball of deep graham cracker crumbs with marshmallow on the inside and melted chocolate on the outside of the graham cracker. Shocker, the deep fried fat was wonderful. We practically licked the serving dish.
However, when the check came, I was left feeling like I'd seriously overpaid for a very loud, pre-atherosclerosis meal that completely lacked atmosphere. When we first arrived, Claudia pointed out a review from The Sun's Elizabeth Large who only gave the place 3 stars. At first I was shocked, but now I can see why.