The good, bad and ugly of a chain restaurant is that while there may be a fair amount of consistency to the food, service and ambience, unfortunately, the result always is the same: some poor shmuck ends up paying too much for a fancy burger or an enormous salad with an alluring overabundance of toppings. But my biggest pet peeve about chain restaurants is the mandatory over-inflated prices of their drink menus.
I have a severely bad reaction to being charged exorbitant prices for a glass of wine. Show me a person willing to pay $11.99 for a glass of La Crema Chardonnay (Jakers' price) and I'll show you the effect of supply and demand. Go to the market and buy a bottle for nearly the same price they're charging you for a glass.
It's easy to see that Jakers and I didn't exactly get off on the right foot, but I sucked it up and tried to put my other foot forward. I found that their house chardonnay was reasonably priced ($4.99), and that more importantly, it was pretty easy to drink down. I reasoned, Jakers isn't a mega-conglomerate chain. It's a baby chain, with only four other locations around Idaho and Montana. It's not as evil as those TV commercial-crazy family friendly restaurants of the world.
Aside from their wine prices, another thing that put me in a grumpy mood right away was that while Jakers certainly looks roomy and super comfortable, the booths and tables are crammed in tight, making large parties difficult to accommodate. The place is loud and boisterous, and I felt like I was sealed into a chatter vacuum. However, the staff was incredibly friendly, and somewhere around my second glass of wine, I began to relax and the noise reduced to a normal level instead of drowning me.
The menu at Jakers is impossibly huge. I consider myself more or less a food purist and prefer simple, straightforward dishes. I did see several interesting things that piqued my curiosity and was content in my choice to share the Evil Jungle Thai steak salad ($12.99) and the London Broil steak sandwich ($10.99) with my husband. Both dishes read beautifully on the menu and translated to much anticipation and mouth watering for us.
We were sad to find the sandwich sounded much better than it actually was. The best part of the sandwich plate happened to be the shoestring fries, which we gobbled up greedily. We both raved over the flavor and freshness of the ingredients on the Thai steak salad, which was abundant in fresh mango, mint, cilantro and avocado, with grilled marinated sirloin over mixed Asian greens and linguini. Peanuts added a nice crunch, and the marinade on the sirloin was not overpowering but nicely highlighted the flavor of the beef. I also felt the cuts of meat were generously proportioned.
But the highlight of our meal was Jakers' rolls, slathered in honey butter. Our waitress very sweetly indulged our bread fetish and loaded us up with a few extras to take home.
While the loud, busy atmosphere may not have been for me, I appreciate that Jakers' staff works hard to put good food and great service out there. I might not be clamoring for another visit in the near future, but I also can't rule out the possibility that their rolls and Evil Jungle salad might summon to me to pull up a chair and dig in. I only hope that when I return, I'll find more reasonable wine prices. However, knowing the chances of that happening are far beyond slim to none, I think I'll just remember to bring a bottle from home and gladly pay their corking fee ($7).
—Rachel Abrahamson's senses all work better after a glass or two of wine.