**Updated March 9th, 2015**
Jake's Bistro is now closed...unsurprisingly...good riddance.
Last night, the owner personally kicked me out of Jake’s Bistro in downtown Alachua because fellow guests at my table sent their food back. But I’ll begin by saying what I wanted to say, and then I’ll provide a full narrative of my experience.
Jake’s Bistro opened at the beginning of 2014 and immediately got off to a rocky start. Some of you may recall, my sources and I actually found they were using photos of other restaurants’ food taken off Yelp and other websites and posting them as their own. Shortly after opening, the head chef, James Belle, was dismissed. Through it all, I still maintained that I wanted to try their food and actually give Jake’s a review on the food. Some even accused me of doing everything I can to “destroy” them, but I promise that is not the case.
Jake’s is really the only remotely upscale restaurant in the Alachua area, and definitely set themselves apart with a nicely renovated interior, diverse menu, and very friendly servers in the site of the former Ristorante Deneno. They’re also the only cocktail bar available in the area as well, serving martinis and wine. Located at the northern most end of downtown Alachua, their bright red and blue building is a nice welcome for most visitors to a lovely area.
Last night, I decided to finally pay an unannounced visit to Jake’s in hopes of finally trying their food. Three friends joined me as we were quickly greeted by a friendly hostess and sat at a table near their wood fire grill station. It was Friday, and I was told it was prime rib night. Our waitress was very friendly as I asked her what were the most popular dishes and if she had any recommendations. She raved about the bruschetta, so we took an order. We also ordered the Duck a l’ Orange ($22 – seared duck breast with sweet orange glaze, and a choice of vegetables), a Prime Rib ($?? – 12 oz of prime rib and a choice of vegetables), a Caesar Salad w/ Chicken ($8), and the Tempeh Napolean ($14 – Grilled tempeh with sautéed spinach, squash, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted red pepper).
The bruschetta was served on two thick slices of bread covered in a thick layer of melted mozzarella, cherry tomato halves, and a GENEROUS amount of olive oil and balsamic glaze. The bread was not crunchy nor toasted like proper bruschetta and extremely oily. I likened it to tomato slices on Texas Toast. For $9, it was not off to a good start. But we were hungry so most of it was consumed. Our waitress asked how it was, and I politely said it was good but soggy. Apparently this upset the owner, who was also pulling chef duties that night.
Shortly thereafter, our entrees came to the table. All were plated wonderfully and looked delicious. Before I could even dig in, the owner comes out, grabs a chair from an adjacent table, flips it around and sits down next to me, arms rested on the back of the chair as if he was about to lecture a bad student. “You're Ken right? I’d like to talk to you before you leave, and find out where you got all your expertise,” he says. Before I could get a word in, he moves the chair back and walks away.
My friend’s Prime Rib was cold and closer to raw than the requested medium rare, while the chicken on the Caesar Salad was dry and the lettuce was wilted. The tempeh was also undercooked, unseasoned, and came apart like soft tofu with my fork. Both the tempeh and the salad were sent back by my guests. That said, I was actually really enjoying the dish that I ordered; the Duck a l’ Orange. Even though my side of asparagus was basically boiled with no seasoning, I thought the duck was cooked perfectly, and the sauce was delicious.
But just as I was complimenting my duck to my table, the owner comes up to the table, leans down and says, “if you’re only here to complain, you should leave. Conestogas is down the street, and you should just leave.”
I was flabbergasted. It took a minute to gather myself as my guests politely explained to a very defensive owner the reasons why they sent their dishes back, and voiced their displeasure over what is transpiring. I explained I wanted to try his food, and actually give them a fair review instead of just writing about the stolen photos incident, but his attitude and decision to give us the boot was appalling. He also made it a point to tell me some friends of mine were in earlier that day, and that some not very nice things were said about me. This was completely unprofessional and childish behavior from the owner of a restaurant.
I explained to Mr. Kirk that I was actually enjoying my duck, to which he seemed surprised and then quickly changed his tone. He apologized for being rude, but we were so disgusted that we decided to leave. The owner hastily ordered our waitress to “just comp them” and retreated to the kitchen. I gave our very sweet waitress some cash for herself, apologized and left. We took his advice, went to Conestogas, and had a wonderful meal.
I wish I had a complete review to give everyone, but I guess Jake’s Bistro doesn’t want my business. Even if they believed I was out to get them, and I genuinely was trying to give an objective opinion tonight, it’s not great to yell at customers to leave in front of all your other patrons. We did nothing wrong. It’s a shame really, the restaurant is really nice and they are doing food that isn’t like anything else in the area. But instead of carving out that niche and becoming a good upscale spot for Alachua residents, they’ve become Alachua County’s own version of Amy’s Baking Company. Tonight’s experience was unfortunate, and in my 28 years of life, this is my first time ever being kicked out of a restaurant.
Main Street Pie Company just across the street are super awesome folks that serve wonderful homemade pizzas and Conestogas next door has been serving some tasty burgers and steaks for over 25 years (and home to the 3 lbs. Main Street Monster Burger). Both are wonderful options if you’re in the area.