Open since 1991, Chris’ Jazz Cafe is restaurant/music venue combo that continues to thrive in Center City. Not only is it one of Philadelphia’s top jazz clubs where you can see a live jazz performance six nights a week, but the kitchen is making superbly soulful Southern-style cuisine for lunch and dinner as we discovered upon a recent visit.
We chose to see Philadelphia jazz guitar great Pat Martino and his trio. More about this local legend later, though.
Once we were seated and given time to peruse the menus, our friendly server Stacy took our drink order. I zero’ed in on the cocktails as I do. 😉
They were offering some special seasonal tipples and “Autumn Spice” ($12) stood out to me for its spice-forward ingredients: Captain Morgan rum, house-spiced cider, a pod of star anise, and a whole cinnamon stick. So warm & refreshing! A fantastic fall cocktail.
Another drink that stood out was the “Fancy Schmancy” ($12) containing Bluecoat Gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Aperol & Prosecco. A crisp floral cocktail with a hint of citrus and just a touch of sparkle. Smooth & delightful.
Those cocktails were so on-point, I had to try another! The “Bourbon Lychee” ($14) is made with Elijah Craig bourbon, Disaronna Amaretto, lychee & lemon. Loved the lychee pulp and fresh lychee garnish.
For an appetizer, we thoroughly enjoyed the Crispy Calamari ($11) with fried long hots and roasted garlic aioli. A perfect fry on the calamari combined with plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice, it was utterly delightful. If you’re looking for textbook calamari, you’ll likely enjoy this dish.
Hubby opted for New Orleans Style Jambalaya ($26) as his main course. Made with shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage, and Cajun rice, it had a nice kick to it but it wasn’t too spicy by any means as far as we were concerned. But a guest at a table next to ours sent theirs back for being too spicy. Some people have different tolerances to spice, of course. To us, it’s all about the flavor. YMMV.
We were both eager to try the side of Macaroni and Cheese ($7) and so glad we did. It was the creamiest mac & cheese I’ve had in a while. So decadent and luxurious! Heck, if you only ordered this on the menu, you’d be very happy. A must for mac & cheese lovers.
I’m quackers for duck. All puns aside, I was so tempted to get a Po’boy or another one of their fantastic sounding sandwiches, but I adore a perfectly rendered medium-rare Duck Breast and this one ($28) did not disappoint. The dish was rounded out by the addition of grilled asparagus, braised corn, and rhubarb puree. That sauce was well-matched for the richness of the duck. It offered a nice piquant foil for the fatty duck.
Call me crazy, but I had to order a side of the Cheese Grits ($7) as I felt it would go perfectly with the duck as well. And I was right. I took some of the braised corn and put it into the grits. Because that’s how I roll. The grits were cooked perfectly, though. Nothing worse than gritty or gummy grits. None of that here. Just creamy unctuous grits with good seasoning!
We both enjoyed a glass of wine with our entrees. He chose a fantastic glass of Chateau Jouclary Cabernet ($11, pictured) and I tried a fruity glass of Vina Otano Rosé ($12). Many people were drinking wine and it’s no wonder with such fabulous wine offerings. Ahhh, the wine life.
I could not help myself and had to try dessert. Once Stacy told me that they were offering Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée, I knew that’s what I had to have! It wasn’t too overly pumpkin-y or spicy, but that’s okay. It was great the way it was. Truly a sweet ending to an evening we won’t soon forget!
It truly was such a pleasure to see the great jazz guitarist Pat Martino, who is internationally known, but is from and lives right here in Philadelphia. He’s been recording, teaching, and performing live for over 50 years. He’s one of the premier jazz guitarists of our time currently and has a pedigree that can stand up next to such giants like Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Charlie Byrd. In fact, he’s #29 on the Best Jazz Guitarists of All Time list. He and his trio, comprising of an organist and drummer, were fantastic! I took some video which I posted to Instagram, but for respect to the artists, I will not be posting here. I highly recommend that you check out his music and see him live. If you’re a fan of jazz, you’re going to be a Pat Martino fan!
If you’ve ever wanted to catch a live jazz show complete with an outstanding meal and superb drinks, you need to go here, simply put. Chris’ Jazz Cafe, under Chef/Owner Mark DeNinno, is unquestionably one Philadelphia restaurant and jazz club you must not miss out on. Tell them Philly Grub sent ya!
Special thanks to Peter Breslow Consulting for arranging our visit. Our opinions are our own.
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.