Jakers Bar and Grill put down roots on Eagle Road in Meridian many moons before a profusion of corporate eateries clogged the thoroughfares of Idaho’s fastest-growing city.
It’s as if the local chain restaurant saw what was coming, then confidently positioned itself slightly off the bustling boulevard and watched the suburban landscape fill in around it. The looming and luxurious new Scentsy headquarters casts a shadow from across Eagle Road, surely bringing in a steady stream of customers.
Some folks might remember, back in the day, when Jakers had a spot next to ParkCenter Pond in Boise. Of course, that location is long gone — it became Barbacoa — but diners around here still connect with Jakers in an affectionate way. This possibly could have to do with the fact that the chain is rooted in Southern Idaho — with locations in Meridian, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls, as well as Montana locations in Missoula and Great Falls.
Or it could be the juicy prime rib and big baked potatoes that lure people in. After all, Idahoans love their meat and spuds.
Jakers is a steakhouse concept at heart, with a big lounge area meant for sipping martinis and pints of microbrews. There’s even an old-school salad bar.
At first glance, the menu seems outdated: coconut prawns, seared ahi tuna and potato skins. But in the world of food, what’s antiquated often becomes trendy again. I’m not saying that’s the case here — not yet anyway — but there’s something timeless about crab-stuffed mushrooms and London broil steaks. Plus, the restaurant has a separate gluten-free menu and plenty of vegetarian options, bringing it into the 21st century.
Jakers offers appetizer deals during happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close daily; all day Sunday).
One evening, I went classic with an order of oven-blistered button mushrooms ($12/happy hour) brimming with creamy and sweet crab meat beneath a crust of golden-brown parmesan, simply garnished with chopped parsley.
Restaurants that serve prime rib daily typically find other uses for the meat. This is the case at Jakers, where prime rib also gets purposed for appetizers such as prime-rib sliders ($8/happy hour). I was expecting little slider buns, yet we received what appeared to be a French dip sandwich. In other words, a crusty roll (cut into three pieces) encased around shaved, pink ribbons of prime rib and gooey Swiss cheese, served with au jus and creamy horseradish.
I didn’t go for the salad bar, but it appeared to be well-maintained and packed with all kinds of fresh-looking options. Instead, I chose the strawberry-chicken salad ($14), a shallow bowl of chopped romaine — pocked with sticky candied pecans, bell pepper, red onion and puffs of feta — garnished with a relatively tender blackened chicken breast and cut strawberries. It’s an excellent entrée salad, yet the side of poppy seed dressing was too sweet for my liking.
As for beef entrées, the choice was hard, especially for a ravenous carnivore like myself. I settled on the braised beef short ribs ($22), toothsome and tender, served on a mound of creamy mashed potatoes next to a stack of woody asparagus spears. A dark horseradish demi-glace bolstered the pot roast-like flavors. The entrée, in my case, came with a small green salad.
Jakers puts out excellent hand-dipped fish and chips ($17). Big pieces of fresh-as-possible cod — coated in crispy and light tempura batter spiked with Widmer ale — are served with hand-cut fries, slaw, lemon wedges, dill pickle-studded tartar sauce and Thousand Island dressing.
At lunch, the restaurant offers a scaled-down version of the dinner menu and a larger burger and sandwich selection.
I went into the way-back machine with some classic potato skins ($9), a plate of crunchy spud shells topped with large chunks of smoky bacon, melted jack and cheddar cheeses, and chopped scallion, served with sides of ranch dressing and sour cream.
The steakhouse-style club sandwich ($12.95) really stands out, with its triple-decker stratum of pinkish prime rib, crispy bacon, turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato on toasted sourdough with a skiff of mayonnaise. The cut sandwich encircled a pile of golden-brown fries.
I wasn’t nearly as happy with a grilled salmon entrée ($16.95), mostly because the fillet got overcooked and had an off-putting fishy taste. A sheen of black pepper-garlic sauce on top did its best to mask the stench. Plus, the side of jasmine rice underneath the salmon, also served with perfectly steamed broccoli flowerettes, was incredibly greasy.
Like at all restaurants, Jakers does some things better than others. But, for the most part, beef and seafood is the name of the game here.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jakers Bar and Grill
Address: 3268 Pine St., Meridian
Phone: (208) 288-0898
Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday; and Sunday brunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Menu price range: appetizers, soups and salads $5-$17; entrées $17-$39
Libation situation: Full-service bar with an emphasis on martinis and other old-school cocktails, draft beers (five rotating tap handles of local brews and some standard domestic beers) and a well-rounded wine list.
Kid friendly? Yes. There’s a menu for the wee ones.
Wheelchair accessible? Yes