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Hog heaven: Bacon Jam serves tasty American diner staples, Mexican food

Bacon Jam’s Defibrillator appetizer consists of two strips of bacon cooked in a fried chicken batter. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

Last year, the federal government mandated that chain restaurants list nutritional information on their menus and menu boards. Implicit in the law was the suspicion that fast-food chains had been sneakily foisting calorie- and fat-laden meals on naïve, unsuspecting Americans.

Bacon Jam, a breakfast-and-lunch spot that opened in March on Candelaria between Carlisle and Interstate 25, isn’t nearly that discreet. It embraces the heavyweight items on its menu, bestowing them with such names as the Defibrillator and the Widow Maker. Not surprisingly, bacon shows up everywhere, in different guises. Bacon slices get dipped in batter and fried or chopped to bits and mixed into batters.

Although it’s set back from the road in an area of auto repair shops, Bacon Jam is easy to find: Just look for a block wall painted in a pink-and-white checkerboard pattern.

The space inside has several booths lining the front window and a dozen tables scattered around. A mural depicts a rock band made up of cartoon pigs, perhaps jamming out one last time before they become the latest casualties in America’s ongoing bacon craze.

Breakfast, served all day, includes a combination of American diner staples and Mexican food in the $3-$9 neighborhood. Lest you think that everything on the menu is setting you up for an angioplasty, there are lighter options, such as a fruit bowl and oatmeal ($3.95 each).

The aforementioned Defibrillator ($3.95) – two slices of bacon dipped in batter and fried – is not nearly as imposing as the name suggests. The peppery batter makes a thin, crisp armor around the thick slabs of bacon. Served crisscrossed on a pile of shredded lettuce alongside a ramekin of peppery cream gravy, it’s salty, crunchy and irresistible, if a bit overpriced.

A better value is the breakfast burrito ($2.95) featuring potatoes, eggs and cheese packed into a vessel only slightly smaller than a mailbox and smothered in a wonderfully fiery housemade green chile sauce.

The breakfast burrito comes smothered in Bacon Jam’s housemade green chile sauce. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

The golden-brown bacon batter pancakes ($7.95), with bacon bits clustered in the middle, look like a surefire hit sitting on the table in front of you. But the pancakes had the tough, chewy texture of a batter that’s been overworked and not rested long enough before going on the griddle. The syrup comes in a squeeze bottle, making it difficult to apply. If you’re going to serve pancakes, you should spring for some syrup dispensers.

Sandwiches and burgers ranging from $5.95 to $9.95 make up most of the lunch menu. Feeling challenged, I ordered the Big Bad Wolf ($8.95), a chicken-fried steak served under a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy. Past experiences have made we wary of steak served this way, but Bacon Jam’s version is an absolute winner. The fried chicken coating from the Defibrillator making a return appearance here, wrapping the cube steak, hammered thin and tender, in a crackling embrace. The excellent cream gravy also returns to spell the starchiness of the buttery, well-seasoned potatoes. It’s outstanding comfort food.

Service was friendly if a bit scattered. A couple of servers and the manager worked together to keep things moving at a brisk pace.

Bacon Jam is worth ducking into for a caloric charge to start your day, or to treat the lunch-break hunger pangs. Just plan on having a salad for dinner.