Omaha Standard: Jam’s Coconut Chicken Salad

by Brian O'Malley | October 1, 2009 6:38 pm

Fried coconut chicken salad – coconut coated chicken, artichoke hearts, avocado, swiss, tomato, red onions, croutons and almonds with field greens, creamy herb mustard dressing and raspberry sauce – $11.25

Jam’s has given Omaha more gifts than can be aptly appreciated: wonderful food, a cool location, a powerful training ground for area chefs and service staff, a serious wine list, and a fiercely independent and stringently local disposition. When Jam’s opened, each of those gifts was in short supply in our town. Now, while there are many more places providing similar gifts, none does so with the tenacity and complexity of Jam’s. There is another element to the success of Jam’s that is a bit more elusive to explain—their popularity. Perhaps more than any other eatery opened since, Jam’s was crazy busy. They were that “local joint with an hour wait on a Tuesday” kind of busy. It was so jammed, pun intended, that my brother-in-law once said, “nobody goes there anymore, they are just too busy.” Pretty funny. This popularity is important not just because it has made Jam’s itself a viable operation for so many years, but also because it proved without question that a non-corporate entity could handle the crush of sustained popularity.

Many dishes at Jam’s are worthy of praise. I thank god for Jam’s frequently. It was there I ate my first quesadilla, devoured my first crab cake, and sipped my first martini. Jam’s hosted the dinner for my first serious break-up, and one of the best celebration dinners I have ever attended (they were not the same event:) When I worked the line at The Champion’s Club, we “stole” one of the great standards of the Jam’s menu—The Fried Coconut Chicken Salad. Now, I am sure Chef Hoch already knows this, but our chef used to go in once a week, eat the salad and then report back to us what tweaks we were to make. The Fried Coconut Chicken Salad, known as the “Bob’s Coconut Chicken Salad” at Champions, outsold all other lunch items 2:1.

Hopefully, Chef Hoch and his crew are flattered by the continued presence of the salad on the menu at the Club. I assume it is there as I haven’t been in many years. Having a dish from your menu that bleeds into the community is spectacular—especially one that so eloquently blends sweet and savory, soft and crisp, and hot and cold. Only M’s lavosh enjoys a more frequent hijacking in the Omaha community.  (see “Omaha Standard: M’s Lavosh” August 2008 ACF Newsletter, Food and Spirits Magazine) Please Help me cite this Correctly!!!! Whether you are a diehard regular, a loyal, yet casual fan, or among the unthinkably initiated, Jam’s is worth it. Keep going, go more frequently, or for god’s sake make it a point to get there. Jam’s is an icon. Their kitchen is a temple of spirited, like-minded, hard working Culinarians that crank out the Omaha Standards like Stevie Wonder did hits. Bravo.

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