For 20 years Jams American Grill has delivered quality cuisine
Jams American Grill
7814 Dodge St
Ask anyone in Omaha what Jams American Grill is known for, and the answer will most likely be its coconut chicken salad. It’s been a favorite for the past 25 years, and it’s just as delicious today. With a newly remodeled interior at its 78th & Dodge Street location, and a second restaurant in the Old Market, Jams continues to offer the same quality dishes mixed with contemporary flare.
The man behind Jams’ delicious dishes is Senior Executive Chef and Partner Jeff Newman. He started at Jams 20 years ago, has been the head chef for the past 10, and said it’s not common for someone to be with the same restaurant that long. But as both he and General Manager Ross Olsbo agreed, once you get into the industry you find out you have a passion for it. “It’s not easy work or easy hours, but I love the restaurant business,” Olsbo said, who has been in the industry for 27 years and recently joined the Jams team.
Olsbo attributes Jams’ longevity to the fact that most of the kitchen staff has been at Jams for many years, ensuring the quality of the food remains the same. “It’s the consistency that people look for,” he said. In addition to the famous coconut chicken salad, which is large strips of fried coconut chicken atop a bed of field greens with artichoke hearts, avocado, tomato, red onions, almonds, croutons, and topped with a creamy herb mustard dressing that’s drizzled in raspberry sauce, other favorites have stood the test of time. These include the meatloaf and Dave’s salad, which is grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, croutons, and walnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette served with apple pear mayonnaise.
The menu’s diversity is what makes Jams so popular. “We have something on the menu for everyone,” Olsbo said. Newman tries to stay on top of culinary trends, creating seasonal specials every three months that uses locally sourced produce whenever available. “We’ll incorporate fresh sprouts, tomatoes, and corn when it’s ready,” Newman said. “We always have a salmon, steak, and pasta entrée that’s built around those available ingredients.” He added that when creating new dishes, he’s not trying to change the culinary landscape, he’s just trying to make dishes that are great quality.
Some of the newer items that have been included on the menu include shrimp and grits, steak frites, and ramen. “We spent a lot of time working on the ramen because we wanted to get it right,” Newman said. Jams serves healthy portions, which Olsbo said are intended to be full meals so people leave feeling satisfied. “We have a consistent crowd and love everyone who comes here—regular customers and new people trying us for the first time,” he said. The restaurant recently underwent a remodel, and the new look reflects the upscale but laid back nature of Jams.
With a proven concept, Cutchall Management Group, which owns Jams, opened a second location last fall in the Old Market. General Manager Mike Vaske said they have a slightly different crowd downtown that caters to the bar side of the business with more beer and spirit drinkers. “Wine is always a focus with Jams, but we’ve partnered with many of the local breweries to introduce different options,” he said. The menus are similar at both restaurants, with Newman teaching Old Market Chefs Martin Minor and Shawn Phifer how to replicate the dishes. “It’s become a collaborative effort between all three chefs,” Minor said. Due to its larger kitchen at the new location, Jams in the Old Market also offers a weekly pizza special, nachos, and specials such as firecracker shrimp.
Vaske said the response to the new location has been great. “We’re excited to be part of downtown where there are lots of great restaurants, and we feel we fit in well,” he said. “Jams has a wonderful tradition in the community, and now that we have two locations, there are even more opportunities for people to try us out.”