As I headed east on 69th Street, the wind-chill factor caused me to hasten my stride and yearn for spring. By the time I reached 1st Avenue, my desire for spring and its freshness had become an obsession. Winter was not giving up easy. At 1st Avenue and 69th street, I made a sharp right, for here on this corner was my destination, Jewel Restaurant.
A quick glimpse of the cozy room was a welcomed sight, and I whipped through the door with all deliberate speed. I already was aware that the restaurant took its name from one of the owners, Jewel Willis, but I wasn’t expecting it to be a “gem” in its own way, nor was I expecting that freshness I had been craving.
The restaurant has an atmosphere that cannot be created with lighting, music or interior decorations — in a word, it’s “friendly.” After being greeted and seated, I watched the patrons as they entered, and one couple, apparently long-time residents of this posh neighborhood, held my attention for a while. It was undoubtedly their first visit to Jewel. But before their drinks arrived, they had absorbed and become absorbed in the ambience of the place. It was clear no one remains a stranger here. This is true from the management’s point of view as well as the diners.
The man at the table to my right finished some light paperwork while waiting for his dinner, and we struck up a light conversation. A short time later two men sat at the table to my left and began an animated conversation. Most o f the diners I observed were mature, professional and business people.
Still talking to my neighbor and enjoying a glass of wine, I reached for a cigarette, which brought an almost instantaneous light from one of the men on my left. Even women patrons did not hold cordiality in reserve. These certainly were not the “cold” New Yorkers everyone talks about. The ability to get a roomful of strangers to interact in a positive fashion has escaped some of the best people manipulators around, but the creators of Jewel have found a way to make it work.
Owners John Chandler and Jewel Willis said, aside from providing good food, establishing a warm home-like atmosphere is exactly what they intended when they opened the doors in December. They, along with their partners, William Buford and Denise Commodore, strive to provide service and involvement with patrons. It is an involvement that seems to come naturally to them and their staff, and it is no wonder that diners relate warmly to each other.
And the food is prepared well. Jewel’s Veal Piccatta with spaghetti was my choice. The veal scallops were sautéed and seasoned by the experienced hands of Sonny Bostic. The lemon-to-butter ratio was well-balanced and combined quite well with the other seasonings to bring out the best in the veal. All entrées [$4.50-$9.25] are served with a green salad [I recommend the house dressing] and a vegetable. Their salad greens and vegetables are fresh, and they don’t ruin the vegetables by overcooking. A good selection of appetizers [$1.00-$4.00], soup [$1.25-$1.50] and a limited selection of desserts [$1.25-$1.50] round out the menu. I particularly enjoyed their cream cheese-type cheesecake.
Jewel is a full-service restaurant. It operates seven days a week, serving lunch between noon and 4 pm, cocktails, 5-7 pm and dinner 6-midnight. Jewel also serves brunch on Sunday, noon to 5 pm and on one Sunday a month, brunch will include a fashion show (737-3735).
Get acquainted with Jewel Restaurant. Involve yourself in its milieu at the bar while enjoying the pianist or guitarist Wednesday through Saturday. If privacy is your style, Jewel is still the place. You can use their private room down-stairs for special affairs. Whichever route you take in getting to know Jewel, this rare gem of a restaurant is sure to become a favorite.