Jim Sprenger grew up in a family restaurant, but he left the business to pursue other endeavors. Of course, he ended up opening a restaurant of his own.
"It's in the blood," admits the longtime Lakewood resident.
On May 31, Sprenger opened Jammy Buggars (15625 Detroit Ave., 216-767-5922), an odd name for what is essentially an upscale pub. Housed in the former Niko's and Route 6 spot, "JB's," as folks are starting to call it, is aiming for the niche between bars and gastropubs.
"I didn’t want to go as highbrow as a gastropub," Sprenger explains. "I wanted really good bar food, chef prepared with great ingredients, served in a comfortable, approachable environment."
Sprenger says the space was as close to "turnkey" as one could get, with an attractive interior and good layout. The only thing missing, he notes, was a draft beer system. Now, diners can select from about 20 craft drafts. For those who like to "keep it real," JB's serves 40-ounce Mickey's "Big Mouth" beers in a paper sack.
Chef Rob Geul (Fahrenheit, Market in Rocky River) administers a menu that includes starters like ricotta-stuffed bell peppers, mushroom bruschetta, and six varieties of hand-cut fries, topped with everything from pepperoni, cheese and marinara to bacon, cheddar and sour cream. Burgers are made from Ohio grass-fed beef and pulled pork is served on a pretzel bun. Entrees include comfort classics like pierogies, chicken paprikash with homemade spaetzle, and pretzel-crusted cod fish and chips.
Prices range from $6 to $8 for starters and salads, $10 to $12 for sandwiches and burgers, and $12 to $14 for entrees.
As for the name: "It is derived from British slang," says Sprenger. "My mother would say, 'I'm going to get you little jammy buggar.'"
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