Flavor: More than just java

A few days after having dinner at Jack’s, I returned mid-afternoon to grab some menus. Glancing around, I was immediately struck by how seamlessly the space integrates the function of a bar with the vibe of a coffee shop.

Two women, presumably old chums, sat at a table chatting and laughing, a half-consumed bottle of wine between them. Next to them, a college-aged gal looked to be studying a textbook of some sort with a neglected cup of coffee and earbuds for company. At the bar stretching along the building’s length, a man enjoyed a mid-afternoon pint and novel in a scene reminiscent of how I’ve spent many evenings at Common Roots while living near 25th & Lyndale. Being a sucker for spots where one can peacefully read and enjoy a drink, I’d definitely end up a Jack’s regular if I lived near 46th & Bryant.

When night closes in, Jack’s coffee bar metamorphizes into, well, a regular bar. The lunch menu is replaced with dinner offerings featuring entrees instead of sandwiches. Though one could presumably still order coffee, for all intents and purposes the neighborhood coffee shop that used to be Java Jack’s becomes an American-style affordable fine-dining restaurant and bar. Owner Jerry Nelson said the recent remodel and reinvention has gone “pretty smooth,” adding that Jack’s will “absolutely” continue to host community events (including poetry readings, police meetings and others) in the restaurant’s basement.

The dinner menu offers a wide variety of options — everything from pizzas to steaks to burgers to pastas. Though I had been told Jack’s burgers are excellent, the server said patrons had been enjoying the panko-crusted tilapia ($14) and marinated flank steak ($17). After a brief conversation, my friend and I concluded tilapia and steak would make for more interesting choices than burgers — after all, I was there on business — and hence decided to heed the server’s recommendation.

For dessert, we went with the orange panna cotta ($6.50). Perhaps the wine rendered me insufficiently critical, but while I thought the dessert was delicious, my friend wasn’t impressed.

If you’re like me and enjoy a pint of beer to wash down the latest “New Yorker,” then Jack’s reinvention may be the best thing since sliced bread — or, at least, since Common Roots opened.


818 W. 46th St.