Cafe Jamm

FORT LAUDERDALE: Cafe Jamm owners Melissa Maslak and Mari Crabtree with a cheeseburger and a roasted crispy half duck.
FORT LAUDERDALE: Cafe Jamm owners Melissa Maslak and Mari Crabtree with a cheeseburger and a roasted crispy half duck. Miami Herald Staff

Mari Crabtree and Melissa Maslak were teens when they began working in the family restaurant, Sushi Blues. Crabtree wound up managing the downtown Hollywood restaurant, and her sister played bass guitar with her dad’s band. It’s no wonder the sisters were heartbroken when the restaurant closed in February after 21 years, victim of a tough economy. But here’s the happy part of their story: In April, Crabtree and Maslak opened their own restaurant, Cafe Jamm, in Fort Lauderdale.

Sushi Blues fans will find some similarities. Yoshi Katsu Zaki, a chef from the Hollywood restaurant, is in the kitchen. Dad (stage name Kenny Millions) doesn’t perform, but he picks out the “chill” music that helps create the relaxed atmosphere. Mom Junko Maslak is greeting customers, “making sure we don’t mess up,” Crabtree says. She also contributed recipes for dishes like homey meatloaf and marvelous mocha chocolate chip torte. The eclectic American menu (no sushi here) focuses on updated comfort food.

Ambience: The neon sign isn’t up yet, so it’s easy to miss the hip, 50-seat restaurant (formerly home to Asahi City 23) in a strip mall on U.S. 1. Decorated in black and white, the place is sleek yet cozy, with a wine bar and soft lighting. Maslak and Crabtree are charming, and the pace is as smooth as dad Kenny Maslak’s saxophone riffs.There’s nothing pretentious here, including the moderately priced but thoughtful wine list.

What Worked

  • Incredibly rich (and incredibly good) mac and cheese, made with Gruyere, panko and bacon
  • House-made potato chips served with Junko Maslak’s flavorful feta dill dip
  • Grilled salmon paired with hollandaise-miso sauce. 
  • A plate of crostini spread with goat cheese and pepper jam
  • Sensational, tender calamari rings – flash-fried, then sautéed and swimming in a sweet-spicy chile sauce
  • A generous chopped salad – refreshing avocado, juicy tomatoes, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, bacon, jack cheese, Kalamata olives and romaine tossed with a light, house-made, ranch-style dressing
  • Perfectly cooked, silky and supple grouper topped with a buttery, herb-spiked sauce
  • Delicate, juicy and delicious roasted crispy half duck with a red wine reduction glaze
  • A side of jasmine rice and nicely cooked sliced carrots and broccoli florets.
  • A garlic-scented skirt steak topped with a bold chimichurri sauce
  • A flavorful, plump, eight-ounce filet mignon
  • Classic meatloaf – a meld of beef and pork laced with sauce made with pan drippings
  • Creamy smashed potatoes
  • Moist & bouncy red velvet cake topped with a light cream cheese icing
  • Light & irresistible mocha chocolate chip torte with a layer of Junko’s chocolate chip cookies soaking up Kahlua

What Didn’t Work

  • Fine, but too heavily breaded & not vibrant enough, panko-crusted soft-shell crabs