The menu is a riot of swooping lines and elegant calligraphy although the actual food leans less to elegance and more to Franco-utilitarian, especially if you’re looking for an old-fashioned bistro in Nice which is how the eatery styles itself.
Steps from Minetta Lane and its eponymous theater, Chez Jacqueline delivers old standbys in a muted setting with low-level lights. Diners can start with one of the specials recited at break-neck speed by a waiter who has been around the block or opt for a frisee salad with a portion of goat cheese, string bean salad with sautéed chicken liver or celery remoulade, an old-timey, old-world best bet. My entrée of trout amandine was perfectly serviceable if not thrilling, the boned fish under a welter of slivered almonds, string beans and halved cherry tomatoes. My companion's daube, the French version of beef stew, looked tasty, served with a small pile of ricotta-filled ravioli. There are lots of sides--pomme frites, ratatouille, Brussels sprouts with a smattering of bacon, cauliflower smothered in an undistinguished Béchamel sauce and others--in the $7-9 range. Yes, there is a steak frites as well as roast lamb Provencal style that often means including olive oil, onions, garlic and often anchovies as well as herbs de Provence, most of which belong to a school of cooking that Jacqueline doesn't get close to. Most days of the week bring "specials" as in Tuesdays, given over to mussels prepared in a range of styles including a Chinoise (excuse me, Chinese) approach with soy sauce, ginger and scallions (possibly tasty but about as far from Nice as can be.. Wednesdays are devoted to "Steak House," a rather non-French concept with beefy items including skirt steak and veal medallions.
Desserts (all $9) include a lemon tart with cassis, a raspberry liqueur ; crème bruler and a tarte tartin that could use a more caramelized top. The brunch menu calls itself "Dejuner " the French word for lunch but hey, this is Provence in the Village and presumably we don't speak French. At, um, brunch, you could eat ham and gruyere crepes, a frisee salad with poached eggs and bacon or a salad Nicoise and do it for a modest $15.95. At all times, wine by glass or bottle is available and if you ask you can get a small taste before making that big decision.
Chez Jacqueline is frequented by many NYU professorial types, parents of students and folks in the 'hood for theater or a movie. Most diners love the relative calm and are willing to overlook rather hit or miss eats. Food is satisfying which can be a relief with no high wire acts and the place is usually quiet enough to hear your dining companions. In a world where nothing lasts more than a nanosecond, it's pleasant to have a restaurant like this that keeps on keeping on.