|Restaurant:||Zada Jane’s Corner Café|
|Location:||1601 Central Avenue
|Cuisine:||Hormone-free meats, vegetarian friendly, organic and local where possible. Breakfast is a specialty.|
|Rating:||3.5 out of 5 spoons|
Cute, colorful Zada Jane’s is doing a rockin’ business at their corner café serving the best in hippie-friendly fare. We’re talking meats free of drugs and hormones, plenty of vegetarian happiness, gluten-free foods available, organic and local produce where possible, and a wide range of coffees and teas. A horde of hungry breakfast-seekers crowd the doors of the funky little building any given morning. Mike and I stopped in one Saturday to see why.
I ordered the Pinckney Street Pancakes, described on the menu as, “three big and fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with honey butter and served with maple syrup.” The pancakes were, indeed, big and fluffy — plenty generous portions and a yummy texture. I would’ve liked more honey butter, since that hint of mellow sweetness is what makes this dish unique. I’m sure I could’ve asked my server but it was kind of hard to flag her down . . . more on this later!
Zada Jane’s Pinckney Street Pancakes
Mike ordered the Michael T.’s Amaretto French Toast, described as “two thick and hearty fresh challah slices dipped in vanilla and amaretto batter, with orange butter and toasted almonds.” Challah is a traditional braided Jewish bread, in case you were wondering. The french toast was golden and delicious and generous, though I might’ve expected a bit stronger of a flavor — a little more uniqueness, if you will — after all that vanilla and amaretto business. At any rate, the almonds added crunch to the crisp outside of the bread and the inside melted in your mouth just as a good piece of french toast should. Unfortunately the orange butter was a mismatch, in my opinion. Orange and vanilla sound fine, but when you go adding maple syrup into the mix, things get bizarre. I recommend you try the orange butter on a corner of the toast before going the whole hog and spreading it like a maniac. Next time we’ll ask for regular butter on the side.
Zada Jane’s Michael T.’s Amaretto French Toast
Never content to eat a reasonable amount of food like reasonable people do, Mike and I also ordered some extras. My favorite by far was the Big Ol’ Fluffy TLC Biscuit with Herb Gravy. It looks beige and blah in my photograph, but it’s anything but! The biscuit lives up to its big ol’ fluffy name and has a down-home Southern flavor, though somehow it’s not as heavy. The GRAVY, though, is where this dish really shines. I had my doubts, because I’m a biscuits and gravy purist; could anything but a good, heavy sausage gravy really satisfy me? The herby gravy was perfect, though — it had the saltiness and creaminess of my sausage gravy with a delightful colorful flavor (the mingling of those herbs!) and a light feel. Instead of sitting in my stomach like a Southern comfort-food rock, this twist on biscuits and gravy felt springy and light.
Zada Jane’s Big Ol’ Fluffy TLC Biscuit with Herb Gravy
Finally, Mike and I enjoyed the Herb’s Roasted Spuds, savory, herby baby red potatoes and caramelized onions. My only complaint about these little jewels was that there weren’t many of them, but you know, maybe my portion judgment is off after eating too much for so long!
Zada Jane’s Herb’s Roasted Spuds
With all this breakfast talk, you might wonder how dinner fares at Zada Jane’s. You know that weirdo switch in the middle of Hancock, the new Will Smith superhero movie? Yeah, Zada Jane’s is kind of like that! They’re happenin’ and light and chatty during the day with breakfast, soups, salads, and wraps, but at night they pull out a sleeker (and much less affordable) menu. While their website says they serve breakfast all day, that’s unfortunately not the case. I’ve only visited ZJ’s for dinner once and sadly neglected to take photos, but the summary is this: though I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it enough for the cost and I much prefer the mood and food of breakfast. I had Zada Jane’s Shrimp & Grits: good, but not $15 good. I wish I remembered more about the dish itself. My sister had Roasted Wild Mushroom Ravioli and it had a great light sauce, but like many ravioli dishes I’ve tried, just didn’t have enough food to warrant the $13 price. All in all, based on just my one dinner attempt, I’d say skip the nights at Zada Jane’s and go for breakfast or lunch.
So far I’ve been focusing on the food, which was by far the most enjoyable part of our trip, but unfortunately I have to touch on the service and restaurant organization as well. Our servers were sweet, helpful, and trying the best they could all three times I’ve visited, but there simply aren’t enough of them for the breakfast rush and tables necessarily go without attention at times. In addition, the crowd waiting for tables isn’t well-managed: the two times I’ve been for breakfast, no one was taking names at the door and there was no way to establish which party arrived first, so tables were doled out willy-nilly. Without some organizational system, it’s necessary to wait inside or risk being forgotten or passed over, which makes the entry way unbearably crowded. On my first visit, one group of people gave up and left to seek out a different restaurant. I’m glad I stuck it out, but I do wish the issue were better managed.
While I love me some Zada Jane’s breakfast, the high price of dinner and crowd management issues knock it down to 3 out of 5 spoons for now (maybe 3.5 spoons — I like the place, really!). One of The Spoon’s recent commenters, Emily, works at Zada Jane’s and has particularly recommended the Beauregard Omelet and the Chantilly Chicken Salad Wrap, which sound like 2 great reasons to go back and give ZJ’s a chance to earn those extra spoons!
Have you been to the Zada Jane’s Corner Café? Think $15 is a totally fair price for a dinner entrée? Want to recommend a dish for me to try on my next trip? Share your thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.