One of my favorite places to dine in Omaha is a place on West Dodge by the name of Jams. When I started Road Tips over 10 years ago, I did a short piece on Jams, but never really gave the place its due on the blog. It's undergone some changes in ownership over the past year and when we were out in Omaha for a wedding earlier this summer we stopped in for lunch at Jams.
Mark Hoch was a longtime chef when he decided to strike out on his own nearly 25 years ago and open a restaurant that featured a higher caliber of food, consistency in the kitchen and an honest drink poured at the bar. Jams opened in 1991 and was owned and managed by Hoch for 23 years before he sold it to a group that had purchased Pitch, an eclectic pizza place started by Godfather's Pizza founder Willy Thiesen, in 2013. (Click here to see my entry on Pitch Coal-fire Pizza.)
The group - headed by Aaron McKeever - kept long-time Jams chef Jeff Newman and made him a partial owner of the restaurant. The restaurant underwent an extensive renovation earlier this year to spruce up its contemporary decor. Newman kept much of the American grill classics he had on the menu before the new ownership group took over and the group also gave Newman lee-way on coming up with new items on the menu.
I had a dealer event earlier in the day that I had to attend while Cindy went shopping. When she picked me up around 1:30 she said she was hungry and I knew exactly where I wanted to take her. It was about a 10 minute drive to Jams located on West Dodge in the Indian Hills neighborhood of Omaha. (see map)
The sprucing up was subtle to me, but it had been a couple three years since I was last in Jams. The decor is elegant, but not overly fancy. The padded banquette seating along the wall looked like it had been upgraded and there were two long community-style tables in the middle of the main dining area, similar to the community-style tables they have at Pitch.
We took a seat at a table on the banquette side of the restaurant. Our server Tamara came over to greet us and to drop off a couple of menus. Cindy got an iced tea while I went with an Odell IPA out of Fort Collins, CO that they had on tap.
The one thing about the menu at Jams is that it's always interesting. From fish tacos to interesting sandwiches to steaks and seafood to eclectic appetizers such as the ginger pork pot stickers with a Hoisin barbecue sauce, the menu at Jams will change seasonally to offer the most fresh locally raised foods available.
However, the only caveat to Jams is that their prices have a tendency to be on the higher end of the scale. Burgers and sandwiches are in the $11 to $15 range, entrees can run from $18 to $32 dollars, while salads - and they're big - run from $12 to $20. They have a small number of Mexican food items on the Jams menu and they run $14 to $17 bucks. But more often than not, the prices are worthy of the food being served.
As it always seems to happen when I visit Jams, I couldn't make up my mind as what to get to eat. The Jams burger is excellent - it's a "ground-in-house" blend of brisket, chuck and short rib beef. You throw some sautéed mushrooms, cheese and some bacon on top and it's a killer burger. The tuna melt sandwich with cheddar cheese on a grilled whole grain bread blows your regular tuna melt out of the water. The meatloaf with mashed potatoes and a red pepper gravy rewrites most of the rules when it comes to comfort foods. And their Mexican entrees have always been outstanding. It's no wonder I have problems figuring out what to get when I go to Jams.
Cindy didn't want to eat anything heavy so she went with the crab cake salad. I forgot to tell her that portions were generally pretty big at Jams and when Tamara set the salad down in front of her, Cindy said, "Oh, my!" It featured a bed of fresh greens with croutons, roasted walnuts, and two large crab cakes topped with a red pepper Cajun sauce. The crab cakes on their own would have been more than enough for her. But she liked the freshness of the salad along with the somewhat spicy crab cakes.
After contemplating getting either a burger or the meatloaf, I ended up getting the carnitas enchiladas with a chile verde queso sauce on the top of it. It had a roasted hot pepper on top of the two enchiladas and came with a side of rice and chipotle black beans. A roasted corn salsa topped the enchiladas that had been drizzled with a spicy sour cream. The braised pork they had in the enchiladas was moist and tender and very flavorful. With the spicy sour cream and the green chile verde queso sauce, there was a lot of wonderful taste sensations going on with each bite. This was another great meal at Jams.
The only quibble I had with Jams is that Tamara was a little slow on the switch. The restaurant wasn't busy and we waited quite awhile before she came back to take our orders. We also needed refills on our drinks and it took her quite sometime to get back to us with the iced tea and another beer. But we weren't in a terrible hurry - the wedding was at 4 p.m. and even though we did need to get back to the hotel to change clothes, we didn't have to rush.
Once again, Jams did an excellent job of making me have to make a tough decision as to what I was going to order. But with each visit, the food that I did order was top notch, very interesting, and extremely delicious. I've taken a number of people over the years to Jams and each time they came away with a very positive feeling about their meal. I've eaten at Jams over a dozen times over the years and each visit has been a great meal. The food has always been consistently good and there's always three or four things on the menu that catch my eye that makes it difficult as to what to choose. And even under new ownership, that continues to be the case.