Table Talk: Jack’s Bistro
“Don’t judge a book by its cover!” You’ve all heard that one. Jack’s Bistro hardly even has a cover. A lone glass door, set back in an alcove between two stores is all one can see from busy Upper Glen.
A small unobtrusive free-standing sign as well as a door on the side of a blank wall is hardly noticeable. What was Jack Gates thinking about when he chose this location behind Victory Lane and a vacant storefront?
It could be that he thought his 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, his wife Diane’s decorating talents and two of his sons’ interest to carry on his tradition would prevail. Anyone who frequented the DeSantis’ Howard Johnson’s, the Red Coach Grille or the short-term Seven Steers would know Jack Gates. He worked from the bottom up and developed a reputation as one of the area’s top managers.
So, after a stint in food service at Skidmore, he decided to open his own restaurant, Jack’s American Bistro in June of 2004. The location is certainly on a busy corridor, but it took companions and me some coaxing and searching to seek it out on a blustery Wednesday night.
Opening that side door into a beautiful foyer was totally unexpected. Then through a hostess stand, small party area and into a bar and lounge hardly one would expect.
Cozy, warm, lots of oak and soft lighting immediately makes one feel welcome and surprised. Wanting to soak up more of the atmosphere, the High Command, Mr. Mixologist, and I all chose to have a libation at the bar. Another good choice as Terri introduced herself, gave us a platter of wonderful cheese and crackers and poured our chosen wine in a mini-individual carafe.
She recited from memory all the specials, poured Mr. Mixologist his beer, and pointed out three taps of Cooper’s Cave’s choices. Another favorite local business of mine. Terri never skipped a beat handling a full bar, knowing everyone’s names and serving Yours Truly an appetizer of escargots, heaped inside a toasted bread boullé, swimming in a very rich butter, garlic and white wine sauce. Great presentation.
Jack Gates made a personal appearance at this point, greeting everyone, and introduced his son David, the manager. His other son Christian is the chef! A family-owned Bistro!!
Today’s specials were a chicken with rosemary, Hungarian goulash, pork Ricotta and a fish entrée Corvina. A fish from Costa Rica likened to sea bass, which is currently pricey and endangered.
Bistro specialties on the menu include blackened chicken Oscar, seafood marinara, baked salmon en papiote, a steak au poivre and a herbed rack of lamb.
Jack’s personal favorites are listed as baked brasiola, chicken cordon bleu, roast turkey dinner, pork chops with an apple cream sauce and sautéed calves’ liver and onions. My mama would have been here at least once a week for that one! All entrees come with a house salad, extraordinary hot rolls and olive oil for dipping, fresh veggies and a choice of a daily side dish.
We ordered at the bar and were seated by our waitress, another Terri. Tables are set with linen, nicely spaced, candlelit and amid a dining room adorned with potted trees. Very comfortable, casual and totally unexpected behind that green door!
High Command opted for a chicken cordon bleu that was a full boneless breast rolled and stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese, baked and served atop a nice Honey-Dijon sauce to kick it up a notch.
Mr. Mixologist chose pork tenderloin sliced on the bias accompanied by an orange-glace sauce.
I went with one of Jack’s specialties; a honey-lime shrimp. Six large shrimp marinated in honey and lime and finished with a Cilantro lime butter. They were served in a crudite and had just enough sauce to not overpower. The menu said “baked” but they were nicely barbequed and scored a hit with Yours Truly.
All entrees were accompanied by a house salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cukes, onions, peppers, garlic croutons and real chopped bacon. Some great red-smashed garlic potatoes and butternut squash completed our meals.
We had to pass on desserts, although the bistro offers a peach melba, banana’s Foster for two, tiramisu and tonight a bread pudding with vanilla cream sauce.
The menu states simply that a bistro by definition is a small restaurant or tavern specializing in modest, down to earth food. This place does all that and more.
My understanding is that on Fridays their happy hour is one of the best. No wonder, as I would rank Terri’s enthusiasm, proficiency and friendliness right up there in the top five mixologists award. And I had one of them with me!!
Take time to seek out Jack Gates’ bistro. Park on the side and enter through the green door. Take time to enjoy the atmosphere and the food.
This book doesn’t even need a cover!