July 30, 2009 at 1:00 am

Molly Abraham

Popular restaurant Jumps expands, stays informal

A club sandwich is packed and ready to go at Jumps. )

If there's a restaurant with more fiercely loyal regulars than the place called Jumps, I can't imagine it.

The restaurant on the lower level of an office building in Grosse Pointe Farms was a virtual club, not because the proprietors excluded anyone, but because the 48 seats were usually filled with people who made the place almost a second home. It was theirs, and they wanted it to stay just the way it was.

So when word came that Jumps was going to re-locate to a bigger and more visible space on the first floor as part of the major renovation of the building, the worries surfaced. Would this comfortably casual restaurant lose its appealing character?

Now that it is up and running, the answer is a resounding no. The new Jumps, while adding another 20 seats, a liquor license and a more ambitious dinner menu, is continuing its morning-til-night schedule while retaining its unassuming spirit.

The new quarters, done up with high-backed upholstered booths as well as tables, and bright with mirrors and paintings as well as an uncovered window that allows light to flood into the rectangular room, represents a major upgrade.

But the new Jumps isn't "fancy," as many devotees had feared. It is still the informal place it has been since 1990, with bare tables, friendly and caring service by Mavelle (Mo) Stewart, the chef's wife, her daughter Nicole and the rest of the staff -- and top-notch cooking.

Although the counter is now the cocktail bar, it still overlooks the kitchen, where chef/proprietor Chad Stewart works with an ensemble of serious young chefs, including Jake Abraham and Stewart's stepson, the talented pastry chef Brandon Kokoszki. It was during Kokoszki's stint making desserts at Seldom Blues that he met Abraham, then the executive chef, and brought him to Stewart's attention.

Abraham works as an expediter at busy times, calling out the orders to the kitchen and making sure the plates are delivered in a timely fashion.

The menu is concise and to the point, starting with half a dozen appetizers, including an elegant and delicious gravlax plate, with house-cured salmon, a deviled egg, toast points and capers, just a beautiful combination of flavors. Another is a flaky sweet onion tartlet with frisee and a touch of balsamic syrup. No clichés here -- and none of the appetizers reach the $10 level.

The menu moves on to 11 entree choices including the obligatory lake perch, sauteed in butter and accompanied by cottage fries, green beans and tomato/caper relish; braised lamb shank with sun-dried tomato risotto, roasted mushrooms and natural juices sparked with basil; and Dijon-crusted chicken breast in white wine sauce with buttermilk whipped potatoes, a mix of corn and peppers and broccolini.

A particularly appealing dish is tender circles of pork loin seasoned with fresh sage leaves and stuffed with a mushroom dressing. Also on the plate is a rosette of Duchess potatoes lightly flavored with Boursin cheese, some perfectly al dente baby carrots, patty-pan squash and haricots vert, and at $18 it is an exceptional value.

Very few restaurants even attempt to do all three meals, and not only does Jumps manage the feat, it achieves a level of excellence that is remarkable, from the basic eggs, waffles and pancakes early in the day, through hot turkey and Reuben sandwiches and wonderful soups and salads at lunchtime, to the newly enhanced dinner menu.

It's a hideaway no longer.

abraham67@comcast.net">abraham67@comcast.net (313) 222-1475

Regular customers at Jumps in Grosse Pointe Farms are relieved the ... (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)