Tavern on Jane sits on a nondescript corner of Eighth Ave. and Jane Street. It’s easy to miss and that’s a pity, because if you do, you’re missing one of the warmest, coziest, most unpretentious spot in Greenwich Village. Yes, the service is excellent, the food good and the prices extremely reasonable. But you don’t need to sample any of these to get a sense of what makes this place special. You’ll know that as soon as you walk inside. It’s got atmosphere.
Maybe it’s the film posters on the wall, the large wooden wine cabinet at the bottom of the bar, or the oscillating ceiling fans. Then again, it might be the music, a constant stream of blues the night we were there, which is loud enough for effect but subdued enough for conversation.
We sipped a lovely Merlot and chatted as we waited for out appetizers, half- listening to the music, half-watching the dancing, flickering shadows of the ceiling fans.
Sautéed Crabcakes with Mesclun (an $8 special) was the first dish to appear. Crisp and meaty, more crab than cake, it came on a bed of fresh, mixed greens. Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($4.95) were deep-fried and crunchy, filled with carrots and cabbage. They made me want to reach for my wine.
Mussels in White Wine & Fresh Herbs ($6.95) were recommended to us by the waitress. What we got was a heaping plateful of mollusks in a mild garlic broth with big chunky lumps of tomato. We weren’t disappointed.
Hot to trot
With three hot appetizers on our palates, we were ready for something cold and zesty. Roasted Beets with Beet Greens & Arugula ($5.95) fit the bill quite nicely. Sweet and refreshing, in an oil and vinegar dressing, this dish brought our toasted taste buds back to life. We were ready for the entrees.
But not so fast. First, we had to eat our greens. ( Most entrees at Tavern on Jane come with a salad and a choice of vegetable.) Be sure to ask for the Green Goddess dressing on your salad. It’s a home specialty, a creamy, herby avocado concoction that’s reminiscent of ranch but much milder.
Half-Grilled Chicken with Natural Pan Juices ($8.95) looked like a bargain on the menu. When it appeared, with a side of crispy French fries and arugula, I though I’d gotten the best deal in town. That chicken was tender, juicy and delicious. But it was the fries that got all the attention. Someone said these fries reminded her of the kind she used to get in Coney Island 30 years ago. After that, I had to fight off my companions from picking at them. It was a losing battle.
You’d think they would have been happy with their own dishes. Like Oven roasted Herb Salmon with Lemon Beurre Blanc ($12.95). Just a little crispy on the surface, but soft and moist on the inside. And then there was the Grilled 12-ounce New York Shell Steak ($13.95). Cooked to rare perfection, it was crisp and fortifying. Everyone wanted a piece of it, which was fine with me, as it gave my French fries some respite.
A nippy touch
The only disappointment of the evening was the Ginger Marinated Mako Shark with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Wilted Arugula (a $15 special). It was a little dry and dull. The Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, however, were fantastic, the nippy horseradish adding a welcome spark to an otherwise uninspired platter. (Mashed, fried, or baked -they sure know how to treat their spuds in this place.)
The music was still going strong as we gathered our coats together to leave. Who is that, Steve Ray Vaughn? Asked one of my companions, as we walked out onto Jane St. I wanted to stay, hear more, maybe have another drink and answer her question. But it was getting late. I guess I’ll just have to come back.
Copyright 2000 Daily News