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With a few minor adjustments, Jamie's Uptown-en-Main may join the ranks of really good Fan eateries. 

Uptown Meal

There are restaurants that have absolutely no atmosphere but the food is fabulous and diners can overlook the fact that the interior of the place simulates a school cafeteria. Then there are those eateries that are drowning in ambiance but the food is overpriced and underwonderful. And then there are places like Jamie's Uptown-en -Main, that almost get it all together, and still might with a simple change or two.

Jamie's is a small bistro-esque place just west of Harrison on Main, on the periphery of VCU. Like many Fan District restaurants, Jamie's has had other lives and one leftover from some past inhabitant is a small raised stage. Musical instruments were lying here and there as if a small combo had just gone on break. The waitress who appeared soon after I sat down told me about their gospel and blues brunch on weekends. I could envision a cheery, energetic crowd swaying to great tunes over coffee and French toast.

Jamie's describes itself as New Orleansy, and it looks that way - for the most part. The stucco walls are painted a terra-cotta rust shade and hand-painted murals depict streetscapes and gardens. A small bar in the back seats four or five, and the rest of the seating is on benches (they might be church pews) and chairs that are, inexplicably, covered with a black and white cowhide pattern.

"Play with Your Food 101, An Epicurean Course Study" reads the front of the menu, which consists of a few photocopied pages stuck in a plastic folder like the ones I used to use for book reports. The folder contained menus for all occasions - brunch, lunch and dinner, plus wine and beer lists. The brunch page featured tortillas, frittatas, French toast, biscuits, etc., all under $5. On the lunch list were sandwiches and scaled-down versions of dinners, plus four vegetarian specials.

The menu indicated that there was a soup of the day so I asked about it and was told it was French onion, which, according to the menu, was a regular offering. To further puzzle me, a dry-erase specials board showed the soup of the day to be some sort of tasso ham concoction.

Now, the good news. The French onion soup ($3.95) was really delicious. Topped with plenty of cheese and a thick slice of fresh bread, the soup's broth had a delightful sweet flavor owing to the plentiful, and possibly Vidalia, onions.

From a dinner selection that included crawfish and shrimp etouffˆe, smoked salmon filet and rib eye steak, my friend chose a smoked pork loin and I chose the Cajun pasta ($13.95). Our entrees were equally as flavorful as the soup. My Cajun pasta consisted of egg and spinach rotini in a three-cheese sauce (Romano, mozzarella, provolone) with sundried tomatoes, chorizo sausage and crawfish. I can't remember the last time I ate crawfish, and they were a nice switch from shrimp. My friend's pork loin ($13.95) was hickory smoked, glazed in a hoisin and mango sauce and sliced into three generous half-inch portions. It was served with brown Cajun rice dotted with chorizo sausage and a cup of marinated German red cabbage. She declared the pork to be perfectly, not too heavily, smoked.

For dessert we shared a made-on-the-premises Heath Bar cheesecake. Note that I did not say a slice of cheesecake. It was served in a tea cup - points for creativity there - but it did not seem to be more than a slightly dry cheesecake with some chocolate on top. No discernible crunch as far as I could taste.

Service at Jamie's was quite good. Our waitress was punctual, checking on us regularly to refill our water glasses, bring us fresh bread (served in a chic wire basket with pats of real butter), and whisk away done dishes. The chef came out to say hello to guests and to ask us if we enjoyed our meals.

The only shortfalls when it comes to the aforementioned atmosphere issue were the following: The interior is too brightly lit - I say turn down the lights and light the votives that were on tables; remove the white paper table coverings at night - they were covering up much more elegant black tablecloths - and print the menus on card-stock paper - not a big expenditure and worth doing.

Jamie's has got such a nice dinner menu that I hope they can join the ranks of really good Fan eateries. I love breakfast and will make plans soon to check out the gospel and blues brunch. This is a place with potential, and that brunch may be just the gimmick that gets folks to try
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