Let's get the name thing out of the way right up front. Jammy Buggars might have the least appetizing moniker of any place to ever earn a Silver Spoon Award. But once you get past your inner 7-year-old and the full menu of playground put-downs the name conjures, the Lakewood gastropub, located in the former Niko's space, feels quite familiar.
In fact, this is the second year in a row that a Lakewood gastropub on Detroit Avenue has earned the readers' vote for the year's Best New Restaurant. (See our comparison with last year's winner, Deagan's Kitchen & Bar, on page 97.)
And that comfortable feeling is just how owner Jim Sprenger wants it. The name actually means something akin to "lucky person" and is a nod to his British heritage. So when Sprenger describes the place as "just like being at your mother's house but with better beer," you can understand why diners come back for seconds and thirds.
Sprenger grew up in his father's restaurant and he attempts to recapture that homey approach with some fun, spunky twists. Take the Arrogant Fried Pickles, for example, which the menu boastfully claims are "soon-to-be-famous." Crusted with the house-made chips, the deep-fried spears have reason to be cocky, impressing both our 10-year-old connoiseur and the 14-year-old who "doesn't even really like pickles."
We found similarly good results with The Beast, a half-pound burger special that somehow combines Green Vista Farm beef with a split-down-the-middle smoked sausage and baked beans on a bun; the Grilled Cheese Without the Wait, a mix of proscuitto, capacolla, bacon, and taleggio and goat cheese that seems to poke another Lakewood staple; and the Not Your Grandma's Pot Pie with its light, square pastry sitting atop chicken and veggies. As for that beer? Try the Victory Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel, which is like a shot of whiskey and a beer all in one.
Yeah, Jammy Buggars knows what it is and confidently embraces it. It's not unlike our larger dining scene, where chef Paul Minnillo returned with Flour, Steve Schimoler's reimagined Crop in a new-old space and two food truck vets opened sit-down spots. For a town that so frequently suffers from an identity crisis, that's comforting. And I guess it means we're pretty lucky too.