The dining room of still new Jamul restaurant, Chandelier Lounge Cuisine
On the approach to Jamul, Campo Road wends between tree and scrub-colored hill slopes, blithely rising and falling among rugged peaks and large clusters of boulders. Though fewer than 20 miles from the densest center of downtown, the route lives up to its name — country road, if you care to translate — and the illusion is not broken when I cruise into the parking lot outside Chandelier Lounge Cuisine, to find a swarthy cowboy, cantering by on a dark gray horse made striking by a silvery mane and tail.
13881 Campo Rd., Jamul, CA
Then I walk into the restaurant. The first thing I notice is a white baby grand piano in the near corner of a dining room set with white linen, an abundance of carefully manicured plants providing splashes of green against whitewashed brick walls and arched, French pane windows. And sure enough, chandeliers droop from the ceiling throughout Chandelier Lounge. The mismatching set includes fixtures made of brass, of crystal, of wood. They’re hung at different heights, lending to the breezy elegance installed throughout the place.
Chandelier Lounge opened three weeks before the pandemic arrived.
I take a look out the window, just to be sure. Campo Road, rolling hillsides, cowboy: all three, check! Yes, we’re still in Jamul.
A cowboy guides his horse outside the restaurant window.
Chandelier Lounge Cuisine definitely wasn’t here the last time I visited Jamul. In fact, it opened a couple months after the new year. Rather, 2020 new year. Maybe it would have made a new restaurant splash had it not opened amid interesting times. At any rate, the lavishly decorated eatery is already teetering on best-kept-secret status among those in the Jamul area looking for a culinary reason to emerge from isolation. You can’t replace this atmosphere in a parking lot.
The western burger, with bacon and swiss
While vibe alone makes Chandelier Lounge an interesting find, it’s the food that sets it apart. A scratch kitchen serves just a little bit of everything, from omelets to pasta, hot sandwiches to steaks, from vegetarian entrees to chicken fingers appetizers. Somehow, it’s the sort of place you might go for a bacon cheeseburger ($10), just as easily as you would a pan-broiled sea bass in lobster sauce ($20).
A creamy, spicy, jambalaya pasta with chicken and shrimp
One of the restaurant’s early favorites is a creamy Jambalaya ($21), served over pasta rather than rice, with shrimp and chicken. The day I walked in, I got to enjoy a savory Mexican special, carne en su jugo (meat in its own juices), which features the trimmed ends of the steaks on the menu — filet, ribeye, sirloin, and New York — stewed with tomatillo along with beans and bacon ($20). It wasn’t much for a camera to look at, but the dish easily won me over with a balanced marriage of spicy, tangy, salty, and savory flavors. And warm corn tortillas.
The Daily Dose coffee bar, within Chandelier Lounge Cuisine
Chandelier Lounge is family owned and operated, in part because even centrally located restaurants are struggling to staff during this great reopening. Leading the enterprise is chef and owner Georgina Márquez, a longtime caterer who had uncanny luck opening a fixed-location restaurant when she did. Connected to Chandelier Lounge is another newer addition to Jamul, the coffee bar, Daily Dose Coffee, opened by her barista son. With the pandemic (hopefully) in the rear view, the family is giving plenty of us reason to make that country drive.