Jam is no longer a word used just to describe a fruit spread for toast, extended musical improvisation, or congested traffic conditions. It has become a quick way of describing a person’s personal preferences, whether in music, food, or just about any aspect of life. For those whose jam is eating breakfast in downtown Tempe, Daily Jam has been around for a decade now to fulfill that need. With its morning mission, the restaurant stands in contrast to so many of its Mill Avenue neighbors with their focus on lunch, dinner, bar food, and late-night eats.
Originally named NCounter, Daily Jam started in 2011 as an offshoot of the popular T.C. Eggington’s restaurant in Mesa. The location is directly across the street from Mill Avenue / Third Street light rail station and also situated along the route of the Tempe Streetcar. There is as much space outside as inside, and the emphasis on patio dining, which expanded to even greater dimensions during the pandemic, is a good match for Mill Avenue’s shady ficus trees and its pedestrian culture. Bike racks are located right outside the restaurant’s entrance.
In keeping with the restaurant’s fast-casual service model, customers generally order at a counter then receive a placard that lets staff know which order goes to which table. Menus are located on overhead screens with printed versions available as well. A more recent addition is the ability to scan a QR code and order from any table. Off-menu specials and a daily soup selection are sometimes written on a white board near the counter. Full service is sometimes available to anyone who chooses to sit at the small bar counter found at each location.
Daily Jam’s foundation is breakfast, which is served at all hours the restaurant is open. There are of course plenty of egg dishes, some of them basic like eggs with toast and potatoes and others more multifaceted like the open-faced croque monsieur with two eggs, gruyere cheese, mustard, and ham on sourdough bread. That dish falls under the heading of “Benes and Such,” presumably short for eggs Benedict. There are also separate categories for “Sautes” and breakfast sandwiches, including a build-your-own option for customized ordering.
Other breakfast food includes pancakes, waffles, and French toast. All come in standard versions with various options for toppings. Blueberries are a natural match for the pancakes, strawberries with whipped cream go well with waffles, and a bananas Foster topping is ideal for the French toast. For a treat, the red velvet waffles with their dark batter and cream cheese icing are a worthwhile indulgence. Meat side dishes — bacon, pork sausage, or turkey sausage patties — are ordered a la carte since they don’t come automatically with breakfast entrees.
Since Daily Jam stays open until 3 PM every day, the restaurant has a lunch menu. The sandwiches are all hearty choices. The Portabellini is a meatless specimen full of mushrooms, artichoke, spinach, provolone, and balsamic mayo dressing. Grilled cheese comes with bacon in the Melt Down or with chicken and a bit of spice in the Peco Grille. Other sandwiches like Turkey Pesto and Focaccia Roma Chicken are combinations of poultry and Mediterranean flavors. All sandwiches come with a choice of chips, pasta salad, or spring mix greens.
The menu also includes a full array of entree-sized salads. The Original Chop salad is actually not so original since it’s one of many copies of Bernie Kantak’s often-imitated creation. Nevertheless, it’s a satisfying, hearty choice. The Mediterranean Fresh salad is spring mix greens topped with crumbled feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, red pepper, red onion, and sunflower seeds, all under a balsamic dressing. Another lighter offering is avocado toast, both in a Mediterranean themed Bravacado version and a Jalapeno Popper variety with a bit of spice.
Daily Jam doesn’t have a dessert menu per se, but there are display cases full of fresh baked goods such as muffins, cookies, and scones. When it comes to drinks, Daily Jam covers the obvious morning choices well with fresh-squeezed orange juice and a full selection of espresso beverages and teas. For those who want to take their fruit to the next level, the restaurant offers smoothies with flavor combinations such as strawberry and banana. For others who want more caffeine than coffee, espresso, or tea can provide, there’s also a splashy emphasis on Red Bull.
Unlike other Mill Avenue spots which stay open past midnight to meet the needs of the post-bar party crowd, Daily Jam closes each day in the middle of the afternoon. Nevertheless, as part of a trend seen recently at many breakfast places, Daily Jam has a liquor license with an unsurprising focus on mimosas and bloody Marys, along with original creations like the Bourbon Maple and the Mezcal Mary. Of course all those little cans of Red Bull found on the restaurant’s website and social media can also be combined with spirits for a caffeinated cocktail.
Since Daily Jam’s debut on Mill Avenue early in the prior decade, the restaurant has attained a level of consistency and quality in its breakfast and lunch offerings. The restaurant has opened (and closed) in other locations like downtown Phoenix and northeast Phoenix via franchising, but the original site in downtown Tempe has remained largely unchanged apart from its mid-life rebranding from NCounter to Daily Jam. Getting up in the morning for breakfast isn’t everyone’s jam, but for those who enjoy the experience on Mill Avenue, Daily Jam is there when needed.
310 S. Mill Ave. #A101, Tempe AZ 85281