Jam Bistro in Rehoboth Beach: A Dining Review

Jam On: This cozy beach bistro keeps it simple.



At a Glance

Jam Bistro
21 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach
226-5266, jambistro.com

Recommended dishes
Duck confit, homemade pasta, slow-cooked pork chop

Prices
Snacks $5-$13, entrées $18-$25

 

 

Jam Bistro began its life as a more affordable, less dressy sidecar to Eden, one of Rehoboth’s most classically posh restaurants. For Eden—as steadfast a fine dining presence at the beach as there is—providing an alternative makes sense. Eden’s semi-private booths, soothing lights and intimidating wine racks can make for a fantastic experience. Just not someplace you need to experience three times a week.

What owners Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken needed was another Eden, only one with its tie loosened a bit.

They first opened Jam in 2010 inside the basement of the old Epworth Church on Rehoboth’s lively Baltimore Avenue. But the breezy, casual bistro vibe didn’t mesh well with the basement’s dark, supper-clubby environs, so the owners moved operations across the street into the brighter, decidedly above-ground building that was once home to the legendary Camel’s Hump restaurant. (In homage, Jam’s menu always makes room for baba ghanoush, lamb kabobs, tabbouleh and tzatziki.)

Executive chef Gary Johnson (right) plates a fish taco as head line cook Adam Bradford works in the background. Photograph by Thom Thompson

And who better to sustain Eden-level excellence in the kitchen than chef Gary Johnson, a former Eden sous chef, who worked his way up the restaurant ladder from a busboy job. His career suggests—and his menu proves—that great things often take time.

Like, say, a duck leg.

The tender, shred-apart meat spent hours bubbling in a pot of fatty elixir. The intoxicating crispy skin, the salt and fat baked into every shattering crackle. It was all there at Jam. And every extra drop of it seeped down a sautéed hash of fingerling potatoes, slivered green beans and black trumpet mushrooms. There were also hunks of pork belly. I may have heard music.

Know this about chef Johnson: The man knows his way around duck fat. His duck confit could’ve been lifted from the pages of Le Guide Culinaire, and an extra drizzle of citrusy tarragon oil pushed it to even another level.

Jam subscribes to the type of true French bistro cuisine that feels like a warm knit blanket of the culinary world—soothing, substantive. Theirs is food that has slow-cooked all afternoon until it’s practically falling apart before it ever touches a tine.

General manager Chris Capriotti pours a lemon drop martini. Jam Bistro is known for homemade infusions like (from left) strawberry vodka, the strawberry lemonade cocktail, the beach grass cocktail and citron vodka. Photograph by Thom ThompsonSimplicity is a friend to this particular style. And some of Jam’s more memorable dishes succeeded because they espoused simple, concise flavors and strong cooking techniques.

Like the subtle sweetness of carrot that was infused to housemade pappardelle pasta. The broad noodles’ orange color gave away the secret, but the gentle carrot flavor bounced nicely off a rich, tangy lamb ragoût. My one misgiving: ground lamb. It’s fine in meatballs, but I’d much prefer the richness and depth of some shredded shanks.

Perhaps the lamb budget that week was spent instead on gargantuan snails. The golf ball-sized mollusks (which, if they were baseball players, would be suspected of steroid abuse) arrived crispy and ensconced in a thin layer of Japanese breadcrumbs, which provided ample textural contrast for the cushiony chew of the snail. A simple red gravy provided the fragrance of garlic and Parmesan.

Snacks and small plates, like the escargot, are easy to fall in love with at Jam. Who can resist creamy edamame guacamole, when its vehicle is perfectly fat, puffy, fried-to-perfection tortilla strips? Or a generous ladle of risotto du jour when the du jour indicates house-smoked bacon chunks and handfuls of tangy Parmesan? They’re also reasonably priced (average: $9), so ordering a few to share can make a meal and lower a tab. Thursdays bring about Pasta Night, a $19 menu made up of housemade pastas dishes like pork belly carbonara, shrimp-and-andouille pappardelle, and wild mushroom farfalle.

Server Jason Bernier tends to patrons in the dining room. Photograph by Thom ThompsonAnd even $20 felt like a steal when a boulder of a pork chop landed at my table, its peak frizzled brown and deeply cauterized in crispy bliss. It hulked overtop sweet potato-marshmallow risotto and tart sautéed greens.

It’s still possible to overspend at Jam, particularly if you’re enticed by the bar’s exquisite cocktail menu, infused with its artillery of housemade liqueurs. Especially tasty were a sippable raspberry-lemonade drink derived from raspberry-infused Prosecco (which the bartenders brew like sun tea); and a sinful chocolaty martini blended with espresso, Godiva liqueur, homemade Kahlúa and vanilla vodka.

Danielle Panarello’s home-style desserts usually accompanied said cocktails, and rarely disappointed. Be they her dense and fudgy brownie flanked by toffee-flavored Rice Crispies clusters, or the rich and gooey peanut butter and jam sandwich (the only other “jam” I found on the menu, besides the complimentary chips and tomato jam salsa).

Simple is good inside Jam, with its hardwood floors, aqua walls and modular wine racks, though the space can feel a little cramped on a Saturday night. Still, the throngs of diners are what make eating out in Rehoboth so exciting. The unique and competitive nature of the beach dining scene demands the best of these chefs and restaurateurs. Jam Bistro is another solid entry in Rehoboth canon, alongside its ritzier mothership.

With a patient kitchen and an amicable staff, Jam not only loosens Eden’s tie, it undoes the top two buttons and kicks off its shoes.

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February 2016

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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

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View map »


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More information

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300 S. Broad St.
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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

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801 Middleford Rd.
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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
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3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

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View map »


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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
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Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


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Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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47 W Main St.
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View map »


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, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

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Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
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More information

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Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


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What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
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Penn Museum opens the world premiere exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas—featuring ancient treasures on loan from the Republic of Turkey—with a spectacular daylong public...

Cost: $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and CAMP Rehoboth will co-present "Tab Hunter Confidential" and "Portrait of a Serial Monogamist" as part of its annual Another Take...

Cost: $8

Where:
Metropolitan Community Church
19369 Plantation Rd.
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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"La Sylphide" shares the beautiful and romantic story of our hero, James—a young Scottish farmer who, on the eve of hid wedding, abandons his betrothed, Effie, after being...

Cost: $25

Where:
Salesanium School
1801 North Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Academy of International Ballet
Telephone: 1-866-908-5666
Contact Name: Denis Gronostayskiy
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Venture back with us for an evening where we re-imagine the Victorian Industrial Age as seen through our steam-powered, futuristic goggles.  Our biggest fundraiser of the year and all proceeds...

Cost: $100-$110

Where:
Smyrna Opera House
7 West South Street
Smyrna, DE  19977
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A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
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Location: St. Mark’s High School, 2501 Pike Creek Road, Wilmington Time: Registration: 11:30 a.m. Race: 12:30 p.m. Fee: $25 (until Thursday, Feb. 11), $35 after and day of event...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Beebe Healthcare’s Medical Center, 424 Savannah Road, Lewes Date: Saturday, Feb. 13 (and the second Saturday of each month) Time: 9 a.m. Fee: Free For more...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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