“Parenthood is a vortex of bad art,” said my friend Ellen the other day when I asked what was it like to have “Elmo’s Potty Time” on endless video loop. You don’t have to be a parent, just an American with a modicum of taste, to know that it’s also got to be a constant barrage of bad food. Drinking middling wine & playing Scrabble at the bar as family after family with teens & tweens & toddlers streamed into Jordan’s Bistro & Pub last night, I imagined in pretty vivid detail that suggesting the place was a mistake. I’d already suspected as much based on the name. Did Jordan—versus, say, Jean-Georges or Kieran or Jean-Georges-Kieran—think “pub & bistro” would serve as an upmarket synonym for “bar & grill” rather than a promise of Guinness & colcannon on the one hand, vin de table & frogs’ legs on the other?

Still, it was close to home, it was quiet & casual enough that a pseudofriendly game of Scrabble wouldn’t be out of place, & it listed on its menu a slew of just the sort of overstuffed salads I was craving. In fact, it listed on its menu a slew of just the sort of overstuffed everything everyone craves at any given time: “Irish nachos” with corned beef, Swiss & horseradish-Dijon; mac-&-cheddar with brie & sundried tomatoes; pizza from a wood-burning oven; & sure enough, the likes of fisherman’s pie & boxty, steak-filled & whiskey-sauced.

Ultimately, the proof that Jordan really means well was in the pudding, in this case hummus (though for all I yet know it may be in the pudding too, black & white, both of which are offered at weekend brunch).

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Alongside pita wedges that were not only warm but, I’d swear, cornmeal-dusted (ours is not to wonder why, at least not when it’s our turn, we’re staring down an A, A, E, I, O, T & a blank, & the dinner tab’s riding on the game) was a bowl brimming over with a chunky, peanut-butter-colored substance that I indeed recognized as chickpeas freshly ground with salt. Whether or not you’d accord it the status of hummus depends on whether or not you believe in a world drenched in olive oil & lemon juice &, occasionally, topped with fried ground lamb. I do, so I wouldn’t.

Still, the mere fact that the kitchen crew is even attempting to cook from scratch in a joint that’s not only at the edge of a college campus but part of a statewide franchise—that it’s demonstrating a DIY ethic against all odds—is downright stirring.

& the grilled beef tenderloin salad clinched my, if not undying admiration, certainly hearty non-objection.

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A, observe the so-red-it’s-nearly-blue hue of that steak. I asked for it rare, & I got it, which is itself pretty rare in the lower-brow circumstances. B, note the fat, lumpy cloves of roasted garlic, not at all like the old brown fingernails that come from a jar. C, mentally compare that honey-mustard dressing to its bilious & cloying bottled counterpart. Granted, it erred so far on the side of Dijon that they probably should have called it mustard-mustard dressing. Granted, the chopped red onion was not grilled as advertised but raw as a skinned knee. Granted, the gorgonzola was supermarket-grade. But all in all—the which also included cherry tomatoes & roasted bits of red & yellow pepper—my low expectations were certainly surpassed.

Incidentally, this is hardly among the more intriguing offerings; both the goat cheese salad with, apparently, deep-fried eggplant “croutons” in a pomegranate vinaigrette & the almond-studded Cobb have my number—an inspiring feat in itself, since my number’s infinity, which is extremely hard to get on a salad.

The Director, for his part, was delighted with his prettily piped, richly gravied shepherd’s pie,

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which is fortunate, since he had to pay for it after drawing both the Q & the Z in the last round of the game, poor dear shlimazl.