Soho’s Plain Jane
I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve been avoiding Jane, the Houston St. brunch mecca, for months now. Everytime I’ve walked by it, it’s packed to the gills with large-sunglasses wearing female clones sporting dark denim and flat boots. The mere homogeneity of clientele freaked me out enough to steer clear. However, in desperate need of a brunch spot in Soho to fit a group of 6 easily, I finally succombed to Opentable’s 11:00am open slot for Jane. It was just too easy.
Like always, it was swarming with women. Mothers, daughters, girlfriends, frenemies, the whole shebang. The entranceway to the cavernous room was jam-packed with groups waiting for their tables, and Top 40 hits blasted over the loudspeakers. Remarkably, the well-trained hostess managed the crowds graciously and got everyone seated in an efficient fashion. My group of 6 was led downstairs to what was a smaller private dining room with 4 tables for 8. The room itself was plain with little charm or interest; however, our waitress was warm, understanding and attentive, and the food was tasty enough to satisfy all.
The menu is American, through and through, with Southern twinges and characteristically massive portions. Expect cheddar grits, pancakes, french toast, and a plethora of egg dishes on the breakfast part of the brunch menu. Burgers, chicken sandwiches, BLTs and big savory salads dominate the lunch half. And for a bonus? Jane offers a free morning cocktail with Sunday brunch.
The food is hearty and delicious. It is neither inventive nor unexpected; it is exactly what you would expect from a popular Sunday brunch place focused on American cuisine. Definitely keep your ‘eyes’ in check because the massive portions will definitely make your stomach bow in submission. Not a big fan of eggs (and if you’re not either, you’ll definitely struggle with the egg-centric breakfast menu), I opted for the Jane burger. About the size of a small child’s head, I actually had to strategize how to fit it in my mouth. I ultimately went for cutting into smaller pieces, which were still so bulky. The burger itself was juicy and well seasoned; however, the bun was a bit soggy. I couldn’t taste the special sauce at all, so I’m honestly not even sure what it was (perhaps a type of spicy mayo?), and the fries were absolutely divine.
The rest of my party selected the chicken sandwich with mozzarella, fried peppers and arugula-almond pesto, the roasted shrimp ‘ranchero’, the lobster benny, the salmon scramble, and cheddar grits. In general, everyone was satisfied. The chicken in the sandwich was over-cooked and the grits looked too grainy, yet the egg dishes looked fluffy and flavorful.
All in all, Jane is good. My complaint is that it just isn’t distinctive. There was never a moment when I thought, “wow, this is really amazing” or “jeez, this place has got something goin’ on.” It is pretty run-of-the-mill high quality yet standard New York brunch fare. The restaurant itself is surprisingly large with big smooth banquettes and an almost sterile modern feel. The crowd suits the space – a fairly homogenous grab bag of wannabe scenesters- in other words, not my cup of tea.
Jane is a great option for a hearty traditional American brunch or for large groups. But if you’re looking for something with a little charm, with an element of distinction, go for one of the many neighboring brunch haunts (my recommendation? Salt, Hundred Acres, or ‘ino).