201008JEFFSANDWICH

Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, regularly orders the J-Ville Slugger when visiting Jeff’s Coffee Bar in Janesville. The panini features roast beef, melted provolone cheese and sauteed green peppers.

JANESVILLE

The first location for Jeff’s Coffee Bar was on the corner of North Washington and West Memorial streets. It had the sort of down-home decor that made you feel as if you were stopping into a neighbor’s kitchen for a cup of coffee, a little something sweet and a chat.

Jeff’s now resides downtown in the Prospect 101 building. Although now a quarter of the size of the last place, the new Jeff’s has large, sunny windows and a pleasant, casual atmosphere. There are three tables and a rustic wood counter with four stools. Coffee memorabilia adorns the walls.

You might have enjoyed Jeff’s coffee and homemade desserts at the Janesville Farmers Market. That is where I first encountered his delicious food. I know he has had this Main Street location for a few years now, and I’m sorry I never stopped in to investigate it sooner.

Jeff is a character. I don’t always get his humor, and he can seem gruff, but he’s straightforward and a wonderful cook and baker.

I know he has catered delicious family-style dinners for my daughter, pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce and a praised pasta salad. I’ve also seen him help out at the farmers market. When I asked him about vegetarian choices not on the menu, he was completely comfortable talking about how to change things around. I found him to be quite accommodating and food savvy.

I have to recommend his salsa burrito ($3.75), which is so huge it served as two breakfasts for me. The crunchy, bacon-like chorizo took center stage, but the balance was nice with eggs, cheese and a not-too-spicy salsa. It’s a great bargain.

I also tried the zesty stacker breakfast sandwich ($2.75). I left off the ham, so Jeff gave me an additional scrambled egg. The gooey cheese just oozed off the English muffin, but the homemade pesto mayo is what made it great.

My lunch combo ($6.50) takeout was cleverly packaged with a cup of soup fitted into the box for easy carrying. I had a tasty pulled pork panini with onions and barbecue sauce (thanks for including pickles for extra crunch).

My favorite though was the homemade potato leek soup. I’m a soup person, and it was perfect on our first cool, rainy day. The soup was creamy but not too thick with that light onion/leek offset. I will be back for more.

By the way, Jeff told me the soup featured a vegetarian base—which is the same as all of his other soups unless he puts the name of a main meat base into the title.

Helene loves Jeff’s J-ville Slugger ($7.50), which is a roast beef panini with melted provolone cheese and sauteed green peppers. The beef is tasty, and the cheese is mild and creamy. The added horseradish sauce gives such a nice kick that it is addictive and complements the whole sandwich. She orders it every time.

Jennifer ordered the turkey bruschetta wrap ($6.50). Served in a flour tortilla, it consisted of finely shaved turkey, crisp red onions, a ton of ripe, chopped tomato drizzled with balsamic vinegar and provolone cheese. Sometimes wraps can be a bit dry, but not this one. The juicy tomatoes and balsamic provided the perfect amount of moisture. Jennifer’s wrap also came with rippled potato chips and a crunchy pickle.

After lunch, Jennifer spotted a mouthwatering cake in the dessert case. Asking what type it was, Jeff explained it was a homemade pound cake with chocolate ganache ($1.50). She had to try it.

A luscious, not too sweet, golden yellow slice was topped with a rich, creamy ganache. It provided just the right amount of sweetness she was looking for after finishing her amazing lunch.

When it comes to desserts, whatever is in the bakery case gets a look and usually a taste. Helene can attest the apple strudel and pies are worth a bite.Neither is overly sweet but is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Jeff will often have seasonal cookies, which are worth checking out.

I couldn’t resist the homemade brownie. It was chewy, and I might be dreaming, but it seemed there was a hint of caramel. The cookie I tried had an almost souffle-like texture.

Be sure to get some of Jeff’s hand-ground coffee to balance the sweetness of the desserts. The coffee is dark but not bitter.

While Jeff’s menu isn’t large, there is sufficient variety that should please everyone. And I have often found that a small menu lends itself to fresher ingredients.

It’s worth checking out the Jeff’s Coffee Bar page on Facebook. A nice video shot by two high school students will introduce you to the restaurant and menu. And because this is a one-man shop and not a fast-food restaurant, you might want to order in advance to reduce your wait time.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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