As you might expect for any business that's been around for almost two decades, the west Bucktown restaurant Jane's has undergone some changes. However, there are two items that have been consistent: comfort and good food.
The reason for that first facet of the restaurant is another mainstay: owner Julie Greenwalt.
"In 1994, a couple started the restaurant," Greenwalt said. "Two years into it, she left; three and a half years later, he left. There were silent partners who had bought them out. At the time, [ chef ] Tony [ Recillas ] and I had been running it. Slowly, we started buying shares. We've been running [ the restaurant ] for about 15 or 16 years; it's the longest relationship of my life."
Regarding the food, Greenwalt revels in its consistency. "The food's consistently good, and I've had famous chefs come in here and tell me that," she said. Greenwalt credits said consistency to Recillas and the "family atmosphere" the staff has.
One of the changes that has occurred is the expansion of the restaurantwhich involves a gorgeous reception room that seats 55, according to Greenwalt. The mostly white room, which has been around for about seven years, "looks like a French bistro, a little bit," she said. My dining partner said it reminded him of a ice-cream parlor from another time, and I was inclined to agree. [ Note: The out Greenwalt added that is the perfect place for a civil-union reception, fundraiser or even a baby shower. I could see all of those taking place therealthough, obviously, not simultaneously. ]
Another change involves the contemporary American menu, Greenwalt said: "When we started off, it was mostly vegetarian, chicken and fish. We added steaks and burgerswe now have one of the better burgers in the city."
She said the neighborhood has also changed. "We have a real nice mixed crowd [ of all ages ] ," she said. "There are now more single-family homes in the neighborhood, which is good and bad for us. There used to be more rental properties and people with more disposable income."
Purchases made at Jane's would be income well spent. We tried several dishes, including the aforementioned sirloin burger with hickory-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and grilled onions ( a fantastic sandwich ) ; however, this carnivore's favorite dish is the vegetarian burrito, complete with goat cheese, vegetable and tofu. The grouper is another can't-miss item, and be sure to order the mashed potatoes.
Other items include everything from a hummus-plate appetizer to entrees such as grilled bone-in pork chop and salmon salad.
Greenwalt said that a cookbook with recipes of some of the restaurant's items is in the works, and it should be out in six months.
Asked to describe Jane's in three words, Greenwalt said "healthful," "charming" and "romantic." I couldn't agree more. ( By the way, a fourth word would be "affordable." )
Jane's is at 1653-55 W. Cortland St. See www.janesrestaurant.com or call 773-862-5263.
Note: The Trapdoor Theatre is in the back of the restaurant, allowing patrons to grab a quick drink before a show.