Jam Reinvents Brunch (Again)

This is The Feast 14, in which we highlight the most anticipated projects of the new season. Here now, chef Jeffrey Mauro and business partner Anthony Fiore take questions about their forthcoming food truck and Logan Square brunch spot.

While Chicago was riding the brunch wave hard two years ago, Ukranian Village restaurant Jam burst onto the scene as one of the handful of places locals could find a really, really nice slice of French toast on any given morning. It was actually named Food & Wine's top dish of 2010 over the onslaught of small plates and charcuterie to hit the scene that year. This fall, chef Jeffrey Mauro and business partner Anthony Fiore are taking brunch a step further with a new location in Logan Square, and a food truck concept called Traffic Jam to launch shortly thereafter. The Feast sat down with Mauro and Fiore to get a preview.

So, what’s happening with the new Jam space in Logan Square?
Jeffrey Mauro: The new Jam is a more extensive version of what we’re [already] doing. We’re going to be open seven days, doing dinner items and a hit list of all of our brunch items. The dinner menu is still a little up in the air right now. We want to do a specials list where Mondays would be venison stroganoff and classic dishes of that nature. There are a lot of cooks out there—including myself—who really can’t go out for breakfast and don’t want to wait on a Saturday or Sunday for brunch items and now they can get their Spanish omelet or egg sandwich at 8 o’clock if they want.

Is there anyone doing anything like this?
JM: Not sure. I can only focus on what I’m doing. I don’t really follow the trends.

But you’re doing a food truck right now, which is pretty trendy.
JM: That started off as a joke, then Anthony was really into it and had all these ideas.
Anthony Fiore: It’s been in the making ever since I found out people were doing it and making money. Obviously, as a business man that’s what crosses my mind! We’re just going to concentrate on doing Jam right now, and if it’s successful down the road we might do another concept for Chickpea. But that’s way down the line. Also, a portion of our proceeds will go to Meals on Wheels. That’s actually how I have this truck—it used to be used to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels.

Brunch food seems kind of challenging to serve considering the current regulations against cooking on-board.
JM: It’s not going to change my food—it just has to adapt a little bit. As far as lunch items, I don’t think that will be a problem—[we'll serve] our turkey club, corned beef sandwiches. Breakfast can get tricky because eggs don’t hold and so on. I’m not sure if French toast will hold—it will take a little trial and error. We’d like to stay true to our menu, but having the food truck will give us some creative juices for the new restaurant.
AF: We had purchased molds and bamboo popsicle sticks for Lollapalooza, and the truck has a freezer element, so I’m going to bring him the molds and let him play around.
JM: They will not be watermelon and jalapeno, I can tell you that.

It seems like chefs always lament working brunch, but that’s your mainstay. Is that something you get sick of or find new ways to be creative with?
JM: I didn’t come out of the gate saying ‘I want to just do breakfast.’ It was, ‘Can we do breakfast?’ The hours don’t bother me—you can work from 6 a.m. to midnight in any other restaurant, what difference does it make if you’re doing it in reverse. Can you be as creative at brunch? Oh yeah. [The Feast]

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