Jakers 

3268 E. Pine St., Meridian 208-288-0898. Open every day 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Lately, Food News has been filled with announcements of downtown eateries closing their doors, either for good, or to head west to the suburbs.

Jakers could be accused of starting the westward migration, leaving its longtime home on Parkcenter Pond more than a year ago to take up residence in a new building at the busiest intersection in the state.

Eyebrows raised at the thought of trading a laid-back waterside patio for the insanity of the Eagle and Fairview intersection in Meridian, where chain stores pop up overnight. While it lost some devotees, Jakers seems to be doing fine.

The new location is both open and cozy with rich wood and contemporary metal accents. Its great-room feel centers on a long, curving bar that provides a barrier between diners and the open kitchen.

There's just something about an open kitchen. Maybe it's the fact that with diners watching, the chefs are kept honest, or maybe it's the off chance that one of their big, white hats will catch on fire.

The menu is extensive, filled with a variety of American bistro fare including a selection of pasta, chicken, seafood, steaks and a list of gourmet burgers and sandwiches longer than some restaurants' entire menus. Jakers also features separate menus for lunch, as well as for seniors, offering slightly smaller portions at slightly lower prices.

While the restaurant serves the bistro standard, it does so with nice little twists, pulling in unexpected flavors to liven up what otherwise could be traditional dishes.

One example is the shrimp and cream cheese wontons ($8.99). The deep-fried appetizer comes accompanied by a trio of dipping sauces; spicy plum, sweet chili and wasabi soy. Each sauce is equally good, accenting the creamy filling of the wonton perfectly, but offering some choice to diners with varying preferences.

This idea of personalizing plays out in nearly every part of Jakers' well-thought-out menu. Entrees come with a choice of soup or salad and two side dishes that offer far more sophistication than the ubiquitous house salad and baked potato. Beyond an excellent Caesar salad (with just the right crouton-to-lettuce ratio), Jakers' pear and pecan salad is just short of a religious experience. In this case, crisp green pears top the leafy greens along with sweet red pepper, pecans and crumbled blue cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

But the best thing about the salad course is what comes in the little baskets placed on each table: fresh, warm fry bread and honey butter. These little golden nuggets (which some people mistakenly insist on calling scones) are alone well worth braving the traffic.

Entrees manage to be comforting, filling, familiar and surprising all at the same time. The London broil sirloin ($17.99) is served over garlic mashed potatoes with a black pepper-garlic demi-glace, while the pork chops ($14.99, senior) avoid the ordinary by coming with a spicy plum mustard sauce and fire-roasted Fuji apples.

Fresh grilled salmon ($16.99) is cooked to flaky perfection and served plain, marinated in a miso-citrus sauce or glazed with black pepper garlic sauce. The latter has a wonderful bite which is allowed to soak into the jasmine rice served beneath the fish.

It would be tempting to assume that the fun food and sandwiches portion of the menu is perfect for those with a lighter appetite, but the assumption would be dead wrong. The portions are huge, and even the two Maui mahi surf tacos ($11.99), filled with marinated grilled mahi mahi, cheese, pico de gallo and a bit too much lettuce, are filling.

The staff is both helpful and friendly, and there's an extensive wine list, full bar and more than likely a lovely dessert selection, but unfortunately, few diners have enough room left to sample it.

—Deanna Darr thinks everything should come with scones: oil changes, alterations, home repair, shoe shines ...

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