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Sidewalk dining during downtown’s busy season

by Brian Clarey

 editor@yesweekly.com

On an unseasonably hot spring day, downtown Winston-Salem’s 4th Street bustles at the lunch hour with foot traffic from the office buildings, cars searching for parking spots and RiverRun Film Festival volunteers wheeling carts of sodas and snacks to the various venues in the district.

The energy of the film festival, still a couple days away, permeates the warm air on 4th — by the weekend the sidewalks will be jammed up with film aficionados, and there’s much to do in preparation. But today is a perfect day for an unhurried al fresco lunch at a sidewalk table, before everyone else in town has the same idea.

With my wife and my sister, we settle on Jeffrey Adams, because we’ve tried just about every other place on this short strip of restaurants, and also because we’ve heard good things about this place that took over the spot where Noma Urban Bar & Grill once did business.

Jeffrey Adams takes up where Noma left off: a sharp, classy, city restaurant where grown-ups can dine and drink without worrying about sticky tabletops, flat tap beer or godforsaken rest rooms. And the lunch menu boasts a solid contingent of choices, some common and some truly original.

Pot roast nachos? Why didn’t I think of that? Like I say, it’s hot, and we’re all trying to eat healthy — one of us is, in fact, in the middle of a fast, so she’ll be having a glass of water — so we focus on the salad portion of the menu, and we’re legitimately torn. The beef tenderloin salad, with stone-ground mustard ale cheddar and Texas Pete onion straws sounds crazy good, as does the arugula with figs and candied cashews. But we settle on the ahi salad, with rare tuna and crispy wontons, and the Caesar, which comes with fried artichoke hearts and, for a small upcharge, a half-dozen grilled shrimp.

Salads are — or, at least, they should be — a specialty in the culinary arts. Far too many Triad restaurants take a handful of iceberg lettuce, which has absolutely no nutritional value, throw in a couple of cucumber slices, a couple grape tomatoes and a handful of shredded cheese and call it a salad. But the whole point of eating a salad — for me anyway — is to get some healthful raw food into my body before it realizes it’s eating raw food.

The Jeffrey Adams Caesar fits the bill: a generous portion of romaine hearts with fried artichokes and a light dose of dressing, which goes marvelously with the shrimp. My only complaint is that croutons need to be added to a Caesar before being tossed with the dressing, not after, so that the croutons get a hit of the sauce.

The ahi salad, which sounds Asian in its provenance, is by the inclusion of kalamata olives and hearts of palm, more of a Mediterranean affair, with a vinegary bite in each morsel. Next time we’ll try the Asian Chop Chop, a chopped salad with bok choy, edamame and cashews.

The dinner menu looks similarly impressive — the Twisted Flounder and Lobster Picatta with capers and artichokes is a major dish, and the bone-in ribeye, the most expensive item at $34, is on my list of must-eat steaks.

Desserts intrigue as well, particularly the fig crème brulee. It’s a sophisticated menu, served in a sophisticated room, just what this stretch of 4th Street needs, particularly during RiverRun, which draws its fair share of folks who appreciate this kind of place.

Rest assured, it will be easier to get a table when the film fest is over.

WANNA go?

Jeffrey Adams on Fourth, 321 W. 4th St., Winston-Salem; 336.448.1714; jeffreyadamsws.com

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