Saturday, October 20, 2012

James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy

Last Saturday night, we went out with my friend Stevie Numbers and his wife for dinner.  After running through a whole host of ideas, we selected the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy over on the North Side.  For those of you that remember, this was the site of the James Street Tavern that closed around 2001.  After that, there were some other non-descript restaurants that occupied the space until the Gastropub opened up late last year.

The space itself is decent.  They've kept the stained glass windows on the front side of the restaurant (whether they or real stained glass or not, I'm not sure).  The James Street G&S has a huge (almost too big) beer selection.  It's page after page of choices, from all over the world.

The food was also good, not great.  I had the buttermilk chicken (a fried chicken coated in buttermilk) with some greens and grits.  The grits were creamy and smooth and were probably my favorite part of the meal.  DB~ had a salad of tortilla salad of some sort and liked it.  Numbers went with the chicken fried steak, covered in a white gravy with bacon on top.  It was basically a heart attack on a plate, but it was worth cutting 10 minutes off his life, according to Steve.  Steve's wife had a hamburger of some sort and also liked it.

The way we were sitting, I had a great view of everybody walking in and then going downstairs to the "speakeasy" part of the place where there was live jazz music starting at 8 pm.  I couldn't help but notice the wide array of people going downstairs -- everything from nattily dressed African-Americans to hipster doofuses to girls that shopped at thrift stores to girls wearing cocktail napkins as dresses that looked like they were going clubbin' later that night.  I had to check that scene out just for the people-watching potential, so after dinner we all headed downstairs to take in some music and have a hand-made cocktail.

The bouillabaisse of people downstairs did not disappoint.  My personal favorite was a 60'ish year old woman that looked like vintage Rob Halford from Judas Priest.  She had the leather hat, leather vest, plunging neckline shirt that revealed the tattoo on her left breast -- very classy, especially on a 60'ish year old lady.

There was one hipster doofus that was "so ironic he's no longer ironic" in the words of Steve.  Hard to tell what tipped it over.  Was it the woman's eyeglasses?   The red skinny pants?  The ironic mustache?  Probably this is a case of the sum being greater than the parts, I guess.

The age range was all over the place -- early 20's up to 60 year olds enjoying cocktails and jazz.  The group was pretty good (the Horn Guys) and consisted of a keyboard player, trumpeter, sax guy, drums, and bass guitar.  As Steve noted, a jazz band has a different sound with a keyboard and it's not always an improvement.  The sax player was far more diverse than the trumpeter, who also doubled as the bandleader.  Each musician, except the bass player, got a solo at some point and all acquitted themselves well.

With Legends of the North Shore, Max's Allegheny Tavern, and James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, there are viable restaurants choices on the North Side.  I probably wouldn't rush back to James Street, but it's definitely a place I would recommend, especially if you like jazz and other live music.

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