LOWVILLE — It took a few minutes to find Jeb's Restaurant.
It's just off the main drag here on Shady Avenue. The building façade is not very impressive, but once inside, a comfortable, homey feeling hits you.
There are two fairly large dining areas tastefully decorated for the season, followed by a separate bar room. There's a big, rectangular antique bar that led us to believe this restaurant has been around for a long time.
Actually, the space has been utilized as a bar and restaurant since the '60s. In 2002, Jeremy Kelly and his wife, Becky, took over ownership and have developed it into the popular establishment it is today.
We were guided to one of the large, upholstered corner booths by our soon-to-be waitress, Shauna — perfect for our party of five.
The menu is quite extensive: “super” starters, “scrumptious” soups and salads, “bodacious” burgers, “wow” wraps and “sassy” sandwiches and more dinner-like things that included “perfection” pastas, “beautiful” beef, “sumptuous” seafood and “chicken dance” chicken.
I made up the “chicken dance” part up. It's really “bistro” chicken.
Shauna had no problem letting us order starters first.
Chicken quesadilla ($7.50) and primavera pizza ($8.25) proved great for sharing.
The crisp quesadilla, cut into six pieces, had a flavorful filling of chopped grilled chicken with gooey cheddar and Jack cheeses, no better or worse than any other quesa we've ever had.
The pizza, however, was a standout. A very thin, crispy shell (menu indicated it was a grilled tortilla — hard to believe) supported a nice blend of spinach and artichokes along with sautéed mushrooms, chopped tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
We suspected the spinach and artichokes were the same as the dip offered on the menu. It was very tasty. And the pizza was quite large — at least 12 inches, and could easily stand alone as an entrée.
Battered Portobello mushrooms ($6.75) were another pleasant surprise. This wasn't a standard freezer-to-fryer appetizer. Thick-cut Portobello mushrooms were hand-battered in cornmeal, we believe, and deep-fried. The hearty, almost “nutty” texture of the coating complemented the Portobellos perfectly.
They came with Jeb's “secret” dipping sauce, which we're pretty sure we figured out was mayonnaise mixed with horseradish and a shake of Cajun spice.
We had a French onion soup ($3.99) aficionado at the table who is constantly in search of the perfect onion soup. The crock at Jeb's contained hearty beef broth with properly caramelized onions and the required broiled cheese top.
He found it a very tasty product, but wished that a little vermouth, wine or ale could be used to deglaze the onions and impart that additional dimension to the dish. Picky, picky ...
We really liked the soup of the day: loaded potato soup ($3.25). It really did taste like a stuffed baked potato, creamy potato goodness topped with real bacon crumbles, cheddar cheese and chopped green onions.
There was no shortage of entrees from which to choose.
Broiled haddock ($13.95) is available with either lemon-pepper or Cajun preparation. We went with lemon-pepper. The portion of fish was right-sized and correctly cooked. So nice to have haddock that's un-breaded or un-battered every once in a while.
Fresh broccoli came as one of our side choices, along with a very nice rice pilaf.
Chicken Portobello ($14.75) was great. A nicely grilled chicken breast was served on a bed of roasted red peppers and grilled Portobello mushrooms, topped with Feta and blue cheeses and served on a sizzle platter.
The juices from the chicken and the cheeses made their way down to the peppers and mushrooms, resulting in a wonderful blend of flavors that made this dish very special.
Shrimp sauté ($15.25) consisted of seasoned shrimp and diced tomatoes tossed with penne pasta in a noticeably garlicky butter-wine sauce, topped with fresh broccoli. We would have liked to see a bit larger shrimp, but other than that, it was just fine.
Their steak selection consists to two different size sirloins, 8 or 12 ounces and a 16-ounce rib eye. You first pick your steak, then your topping or glaze: Cajun/blue cheese, citrus/Parmesan, bourbon, Portobello/red pepper/blue cheese, or Adirondack (barbecue sauce/ham/bacon/cheddar).
The person next to me ordered the 8-ounce sirloin. I started kicking her under the table and whispered, “Get the big steak, get the big steak...” I was afraid the sirloin would be a skinny little thing, and no way would it come out the rare-to- medium-rare she requested.
I was wrong. The steak was nearly an inch thick and cooked perfectly with a juicy, barely warm red center. The Jack Daniels bourbon glaze on top was nice, but this steak didn't need any help.
Chicken penne vodka ($14.50) was good, but I should have read the menu more carefully: “Penne pasta tossed with a creamy vodka sauce, jalapenos, peppers, onion, Kalamata olives and grilled chicken.” For what was essentially an Italian entrée, how did jalapenos sneak in there? I'm not a fan of hot peppers, so I managed to pawn them off on another person sitting next to me.
For a vodka sauce, we all thought it was a little too pasty. Not our favorite entree, but not bad, by any means. Just watch out for those jalapenos.
A side salad was an additional $2.75 — iceberg lettuce with a little Romaine, diced tomatoes, shredded carrot, bacon bits and some Mexican cheese. Blue cheese crumbles were an additional dollar. There are no homemade dressings, but commercial balsamic vinaigrette was perfectly acceptable.
Their wine list is pretty limited. It's either house wine by the glass for $5 or a definite step above, Kendall Jackson for $6.50. Those of us at the table alcoholically inclined took advantage of the KJ Cabernet and weren't disappointed.
Time for dessert, and we knew we were going to have difficulty fulfilling our assignment.
Shauna rattled off all the desserts from memory. We boldly asked her which were made right there, and without hesitation, she told us. There's something to be said for an honest server who has worked there since the day Jeb's opened nine years ago.
We got the homemade ones: red velvet cake, carrot cake and walnut sap pie, priced at $4.25 each.
The cakes were both excellent. We marveled at how the baker could achieve such an extremely thin, delicate sheet of icing between each layer. These were both sure winners.
But then came the walnut sap pie, a combination of walnuts and real maple syrup in a custard filling—combination of flavors and textures that even eclipsed the red velvet and carrot cakes. Paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ... mmmm.
Dinner for five, before the wine and before the tip, came to $133.94.
Shauna was personable and attentive; a very knowledgeable and competent server. She's definitely an asset to the restaurant — a real gem.
Jeb's has a very large menu with many food items in each category. We were amazed at how they successfully executed such a huge menu. It's evident the folks here know what they're doing.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.