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In Dining Commentary

The Juniper61 patio. On a beautiful day it's a great place to be.

A fresh look at Juniper61


Those of us on the West Side were thrilled at the arrival of Juniper61, 6030 W. North Ave., in the old Jake's and Shiraz space on 61st and North Avenue in late 2008, and thought it – along with some other arrivals like Il Mito and Cranky Al's – heralded the start of an Uptown/East Tosa boom.

It's taken a while, but as East Tosa starts to rev up with the arrival of Rocket Baby and the North Avenue Grill and news of new places like Bel-Air Cantina, it seems a good time to revisit one of the venues that will go down in history as one of the East Tosa pioneers.

Because we've enjoyed the dining room on a number of occasions and because there was finally a break in the heat, we decided on a recent visit to settle out on the patio, where another family was already dining.

Though I was a little skeptical of the alley-side location, I don't think a single car passed during dinner on an early Saturday evening. The fenced-in outdoor space was quiet and peaceful, with umbrellas at each table.

We started with tempura green beans, which were a hit for the al dente fresh haricots verts and for the crispy tempura batter. But I urge you to remember that they are beans and they are fried, so if you overdo it, like I did, you'll be reminded later.

No kids' menus came to the table, so we perused the menu and promised the kids they could get grilled cheese and that we could urge the chef to tinker one of the flat bread pizzas into a traditional cheese pizza, holding our fingers crossed behind our backs.

When the server returned, we were in luck. Both items were available for kids, as were chicken tenders and a few other options, too.

We adults chose the Cuban sandwich, off the specials list, and a truffled mushroom pizza from the menu of four flat breads.

The truffled mushroom pizza was rich and delectable with a thin crispy crust (actually grilled naan) covered in alfredo sauce and Fontina, mushrooms sauteed in rosemary and topped with a drizzle of truffle oil.

The earthy mushrooms and aromatic rosemary were an alluring counterpoint to the sweetness of the cheese and sauce. Sometimes a 10-inch pizza doesn't fill me up, but this rich one did.

The Cuban sandwich, with ham and cheese and the de rigeur pickle, was toasty warm on a long thin bun and came with a side of the crispy Asian slaw that has rightly made Lulu and Juniper61 (locally) famous.

The kids' grilled cheese was adult-sized and must have been good because barely a trace remained at the end of dinner. It came with a side of house-made potato chips (which everyone at table shared), though Asian slaw was another option.

Meanwhile, the kids' pizza checked in a bit smaller than the 10-inch flatbread (maybe 8 or 9 inches), smothered in sauce and shredded mozzarella.

Juniper61 also serves brunch with pancakes, French toast, omelets, steak and eggs, a range of benedicts and other options.

The service was well-paced and cheery enough and we wondered why we don't get to Juniper 61 more often. Part of the downside of setting off a boom is that within a couple years, the pioneers have a lot more competition for diners' dollars.

But as most also know, when it comes to transforming a neighborhood into a dining destination, a rising tide does indeed lift all boats. At least all the sea-worthy boats. And Sarah Jonas' and Cameryne Roberts' Juniper61 has certainly proved its sea legs.


Talkbacks

Tiger | Sept. 24, 2012 at 2:58 p.m. (report)

We love Juniper 61 and go there often. We have gone for lunch and dinner many times -my better-half only eats vegi items and they always have many options for her to choose from. Sometimes we put on our walking shoes, and go there to (over) drink & eat appetizers at the bar. Always great drink and food, and great staff also.

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