- 415 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN, 47130
- (812) 285-1777
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- Tuesday-Friday, 11a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m.
- Official Web Site:
I’m sure that even now a crack team of economists is calculating the costs of the Sherman Minton Shutdown — the lost hours spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Clark Bridge, the shipping delays, the effect on cross-border shopping, and all that (not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars spent on those ill-fated “delineator posts,” the plastic pylons that were supposed to prevent lane-jumping on the Kennedy Bridge).
Anecdotal evidence suggests that for restaurants, the closure was a mixed bag, especially in Southern Indiana, where a loss of Kentucky customers was offset by the number of Hoosiers who decided to take advantage of the growing array of excellent dining options on the sunny side of Louisville — including the rising number of independent restaurants operating on both sides of the Ohio, like Toast on Market, Wick’s Pizza, La Rosita Grill and Cast Iron Steakhouse. One of the best examples of a two-state solution is the Come Back Inn, the excellent Chicago-style Italian-American pub founded by Mark and Gena Wagner in Germantown some 15 years ago (909 Swan St., (502) 627-1777).
In June 2001, Chris and London Smith opened a sister restaurant in downtown Jeffersonville, and though the Smiths continue to hew to the original Come Back Inn concept — exemplary Italian pub cuisine, a shared core menu, the sort of friendly, efficient service one expects in a family-owned restaurant and affordable pricing — over the last decade the Jeffersonville Come Back Inn has developed its own distinctive identity that makes it alluring to diners on both sides of the river.
The space, which once housed chef John Frey’s storied Inn On Spring, offers attractive bar and bistro seating up front that circles around to an expansive, pleasantly dim dining room where comfortable seating is generously spread across a gorgeous expanse of hardwood. The soundtrack — classic folk and rock on a couple of recent visits — is set soft enough that it won’t impede even a quiet conversation.
The core menu is identical to that at the original Come Back Inn, and full of reliable rewards: starters like a scoop of caponata — eggplant, olives and tomatoes, destined for dipping with pita chips ($6.50); a gargantuan Italian beef sandwich ($8) so juicy it requires a knife and fork (especially when enhanced by a dose of crisp, spicy giardinera ($1); a classic pasta marinara ($8.75) that gets even better when a few tender, fragrant meatballs are brought to the table ($11.50); an old-fashioned bowl of linguine with garlicky, herb-inflected white clam sauce ($11.50); or pasta Amatraciana ($11.50), with its crispy bits of pancetta, juicy tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, red onions and spicy flakes of red pepper, all soaked in a deep red sauce made from chianti, olive oil and garlic.
If an order of house-made crab cakes ($6.50) sometimes comes from the kitchen looking drab and greasy on the outside, there’s no denying the spicy pleasures of the meat within. Likewise, a cannoli wrapped in a shell more stiff than crisp was unsatisfying. But on a cold winter’s night — assuming we ever again experience one — there are few dishes more comforting than those listed under the category Il Forno — robust baked dishes that are pasta-free, but eminently satisfying, like a chicken breast bake ($11.50) where golden brown bits of succulent chicken, green islands of broccoli and bright red slivers of sun-dried tomatoes poke through the surface of a nicely judged, none-too-heavy sauce of mozzarella and provolone. And if you’re looking for a lighter touch, there’s a generous bowl of salad greens, artichoke hearts, tomato and feta, dressed with a zesty lemon-based dressing, topped with slices of gyros meat and accompanied (on the side) by a scoop of creamy tzatziki.
Yes, the core menu is in fine shape at the Jeffersonville Come Back Inn, but the Smiths bring their own vision to the table as well, starting with their commitment to craft and artisanal beers — on tap and in the bottle, they feature a generous assortment of great beers from the region and around the globe (including a fine assortment of Belgian ales).
And chef Chris Smith brings an enthusiastic imagination to his constantly rotating list of specials, some of which are so popular they keep coming back by popular demand. There’s a brie pizza that involves layers of goodies — pancetta, red onions and sun-dried tomatoes in a brie foundation with a crowning glory made of spinach, a red wine vinaigrette and a touch of thyme (speaking of spinach on pizza, the spinach ricotta pizza that’s always on the menu is a green and gold delight enriched by wild mushrooms, roasted garlic and crisp bits of ham ($7-$15).
And then there’s a scallop appetizer that’s earned its own cult following: seared on the flat-top, plated atop layers of golden brown potatoes, adorned with spinach and saucily finished with a lemon butter-cream sauce. Heck, that dish was reason enough to cross the river even when the bridge was out of commission.