Vonn Jazz & Blues
I am not qualified to review the music, but I can report I enjoyed it during my visits to Vonn Jazz & Blues in the Crosswoods area on the north side. I especially liked guitarist Jimmy McGee and his understated and tasteful playing.
As for the food, it’s uneven, almost as if different folks cooked on different nights. Was it an accident that most of the good dishes were in the same visit?
Some of Vonn’s food was very nice. I particularly enjoyed the sweet-sour flavor of chili cranberry meatballs, served with a couple of slices of toasted sub bun. The meatballs were rich and tender. Who knew that chili, cranberry and sauerkraut could combine to make a super sauce? As the menu said, “They are amazing!”
Other offerings did not amaze. But some were competent. The shrimp cocktail featured six chilled and not overcooked shrimp, with a mildly spicy traditional cocktail sauce. Jumbo lump crab cakes were plump and creamy, with OK crab flavor. They were topped with what the menu called roasted vegetable salad that tasted like pickled onion fragments. Bruschetta was made from what seemed a dense hoagie bun, with balsamic, tomato cubes and rather nice balls of mozzarella. (What makes for good toast is only so-so as bruschetta.)
Soups varied dramatically. Crawfish and lobster bisque was excellent, with a rich flavor and creamy consistency. But one night’s special, mushroom soup, was just inedible—strong and unpleasantly brackish. Maybe the top fell off the dried thyme jar? To the restaurant’s credit, we were offered a replacement. Caesar salad was competent, while the house salad was pale and pretty on a four-pointed plate.
One of my eating companions liked the chicken and waffles so much he ordered it on consecutive visits. It was a lovely heap of good waffles and crisp chicken tenders with syrup on the side. The second time was not as good as the first—the chicken tougher and the waffles a bit soggy. The good Cajun dry rubbed rib-eye was not overpowered by the rub and came with sweet potato mash and onion rings.
I tried the po’ boy sandwich, the shrimp version (although I ordered catfish). Built on the same dense sub bun as the bruschetta, there were only a few small shrimp, really not enough for a sandwich, and lettuce, jícama slaw and a tangy reddish sauce that apparently is Vonn’s idea of rémoulade. Disappointing. Honey jalapeño chicken provided four toughish breast slices on spinach and risotto (with real jalapeño slices, so watch out!). Broiled salmon was acceptably fresh, with a vivid buttery sauce, on a very dry risotto with corn kernels mixed in. Diver sea scallops were way overcooked, served with vegetable hash and nearly raw “bruleed” (whatever that means) red onions.
One evening, a drink special was a $4 martini! It was cold with a good balance between gin and vermouth, but quite watery, with small, pleasingly crisp olives. I made a point of double-checking another night when martinis were full-price and could detect no difference. The wine list was short, but with some interesting items. An A-Mano moscato was crisp and tasty, with clear but not overbearing fruit. The waiter appropriately warned me that it was dry, since some moscatos are sweet. I also sampled Birdland pinot grigio, if only for the name (referencing the famous jazz club). It was slight, almost watery, but clean and balanced.
Vonn Jazz & Blues
245 E. Campus View Blvd.
Atmosphere: Like a jazz club, d’oh!
Recommended dishes: Chili cranberry meatballs, jumbo shrimp cocktail, crawfish and lobster bisque, chicken and waffles, Cajun dry rubbed rib-eye.
Price range: Appetizers $6.50-$19; soups and salads $4-$16; sandwiches $12-$14; entrees $16-$39. Note: Almost always a $5 or more cover charge for the music.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 4:30 pm to midnight, Friday and Saturday till 2:30 am.
Service: Really quite good. And sometimes the musicians come by to chat.