Jack's wife's Freda's daughter's son's wife-and-partner's chef is a girl. She's Julia Jaksic, also in charge of the grub at Employees Only, but the two joints in no way seem too much for her to handle. The food at the cumbersomely named Jack's Wife Freda (the owner's grandparents) is comparatively simple, retaining the soul of a Jewish grandmother and international panache of the owners' cosmopolitan roots. The food is here is buxom and satisfying. Creative, but they are not here to test your psyche- they are here to fulfill it.
And filled, too, was the dining room: this restaurant is small, verging on cramped, and as energetic and noisy as it is well-attended. Your server is not aloof or inattentive- she's more likely overwhelmed with navigating the non-existent space between the tiny, clustered tables barely capacious enough to support the plentiful dishes. Nothing is skimpy here- not the vibe nor the portions. The prices are actually the most diminutive things, and I sometimes wondered if they couldn't benefit from slightly smaller portions and cheaper price tags, for an even more convivial and affordable experience. Either that, or plan on sharing pretty much everything, because Jack's Wife Freda is not going to let you go home hungry.
A Greek salad almost seemed bottomless, crisp kale subbing for the typical romaine, with chunked tomato and cucumber topped with a weighty slab of salty feta. Matzo ball soup looked conquerable, but the behemoth dumpling was deceptively filling. The broth was fragrant, imbued with a profound chickenness and dusted with fresh dill. It felt like it could have cured any ailment it confronted (though I couldn't really test that theory, not having any at the time). The matzo ball floating atop was light and fluffy, enormous, and surely would have made Freda proud. And Jack happy. Since it's not that easy to share soup, it is listed sort of in its own category, hovering between Shares and some uncategorized meat options, above Salads.
Sometimes it's difficult to tell off the menu which dish is intended as what. The Shares themselves, however, are unmistakable shareable. Tantalizing roasted cauliflower could provide vegetable fodder for a four top, but it's also buttery and decadent enough barely to qualify for your five-a-day anyways. Fortunately, what appears to be a shower of crumbled cheese atop is actually just a mince of raw florets, which lighten the dish significantly rather than vaulting it into the stoner-food category as cheese would
have. I even liked it spritzed with a bit of lemon juice to cut some of the richness. In fact, hearty as it was, probably half of it remained uneaten by the end of the night, but our plates were whisked away
Unfortunately, we didn't leave time for dessert, because.... malva pudding, a spiced cheesecake or seasonal fruit crisp- any of which I'm sure would be executed marvelously. Solid renditions of simple, classic recipes that feel straight out of Freda's recipe box. Jack's Wife Freda, and Jack, for that matter... I would've liked to have known them.