‘J’ is smokin’

Jessie Augustyn

Appleton, Wisconsin isn’t exactly the type of place you would expect to find a restaurant that would call itself by a single letter, but one establishment has been so bold. “J”…a restaurant opened in January down near the Lawrence Arts Academy at 501 W. Water St. The building is a renovated hydropower plant that closed in the 1970s and they’ve done a nice job of fixing it up. One half of the building is a bar and the other a dining hall. There are plenty of windows that look out over the river and make for an interesting view.

I went early Saturday night with three friends. We didn’t have reservations, but were seated almost immediately. We didn’t sit next to the windows, but every table in the dining room has a good view depending on which way you are facing.

The menu was pricey for a college student (entrees range from approximately $16- $30) and only had one entree option for vegetarians, the blood orange risotto. I chose the vegetarian option. The entrees come with a salad and for $2 extra you can choose a specialty salad. The portion of risotto was very large, more than enough for two meals. It had good flavor, but one of my dining companions, who is vegetarian and also chose the risotto, kept biting into whole peppercorns. Needless to say, this wasn’t the most pleasant flavoring.

The service was prompt and friendly. Our waiter bought a dessert for my friend because it was her birthday. She had the chocolate souffle, which she shared with the table. It was fluffy and light…a very good ending to the meal.

The atmosphere is trendy, but not overbearingly so. The only problem was a cold vent that was situated directly next to our table and intermittently made us a bit uncomfortable. On the whole, J is very much like Peggy’s, but with a friendlier staff. It’s more formal and expensive, so you may wish to go when your parents or in town. I would plan on spending $25 per person for dinner and a non-alcoholic drink. If you want an appetizer and alcoholic drink with dinner, you could need as much as $50 depending on the entree you chose.

For a nice atmosphere that’s upscale but not stuffy, J is a safe bet.