Bodacious bar food

Jamie’s Bar & Grill

427 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818

(916) 442-4044

Numerous Land Park denizens, several of them certifiable gastronomes, rave about Jamie’s, whose 25-year longevity at Broadway near Fifth Street justifiably justifies “institution” status. The neighborhood bar, with its whopping-portioned sandwiches, soups, salads and entrees, engenders reverence from its habitués. Do they speak of Jamie’s nuanced, piquant and exotic fare? Heavens no. But the fabled Friday-night barbecue is spoken of, with some veracity, in tones reminiscent of attending a Beatles reunion, emceed by Jesus at which Jimi Hendrix and Mozart open. Think bodacious bar food. Gastropub be damned.

There’s certainly an endearing Cheers-like quality when dropping the names of acquaintances who are regulars to the usual hostess, Jamie’s wife, Vicki. Invariably, doing so prompts her to say, “Oh of course, so-and-so.” The joint has been showcased on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy of the Two-Tone Hair. (What an amazing mix of genes his folks must have!) Clearly, Food Network interest in Jamie’s—and that of Architectural Digest, for that matter—in no way stems from the former auto shop’s wood shake exterior, capped with a pediment of Spanish tile. Nor from its walls, emblazoned with promotional beer-logoed mirrors and the stuffed heads of bison, deer and other seriously dead hoofed fauna.

Servers will hand diners a menu, which contains various stalwarts like the steak and the roasted—hot or cold—turkey sandwiches. The turkey shines best in the behemoth “club” that, were it a carnivore, could well dispel the hunger of an Apatosaurus. But the center of Jamie’s universe, excluding the lengthy bar, whose mirror-backed shelves now boast several shrines to Two-Tone Hair Guy, is the chalkboard.

Be the board. It can’t be seen when entering. Best to give one’s name to Vicki at the end of the chest-high dark wood partition topped with brass rail and St. Patrick’s Day green curtains, then turn smartly and regard the board. Usually, the wait for a table allows ample time to experience it fully.

To say it is difficult to choose amongst the board’s viands is grotesque understatement. A recitation of the board’s variety can be found on Jamie’s website. But it is likely that toward the board’s bottom, clam chowder will almost always be found. Like some of the other offerings, the chowder isn’t cheap. A mug is $4.95, which still probably doesn’t cover the cost of the amount of clam bits contained within. A spoon nearly stands upright in the thick, creamy New England that isn’t padded with a plethora of potato.

The fresh tombo tuna with ginger and soy glaze is $18.95, as is the macadamia-nut-crusted halibut. A mixed seafood grill is more.

Brisket, one of Jamie’s most accomplished creations, is also present. So is a monstrous Reuben that rivals the nose-bleeding height of the pastrami on rye at the fabled Canter’s Deli on Fairfax in Lost Angeles. Even the greens are difficult to fully consume.

The Chinese chicken salad advertised on the board is bountiful but not inspired. No water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, sprouts, red bell peppers need apply. Scallions are an endangered species. An occasional red onion sliver can be ferreted out. Several mandarins are visible amid the heavy dusting of roasted peanuts. But mainly it’s a sea of romaine—romaine?—with long slabs of thinly sliced grilled chicken, whose taste is more picnic than five-spice.

Not surprisingly, there is an annual St. Paddy’s celebration with green napkins, natch. The special menu deals from Jamie’s strengths: corned beef and cabbage, corned beef on rye, lamb stew, smoked prime rib—a bit pricey at $24—and roasted turkey. Sandwiches are accompanied by a potato salad that brooks no sweetening by gherkins or their ilk. The corned beef on rye is portly, although the meat’s a bit dry. It’s also flimsy, falling apart with callous swiftness.

For carnivores with no aversion to calories: Eat, drink, be merry.