605 Carlton Avenue


Monday to Friday 5:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m and 5:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m.


Photo by David Penner

Most of us are caught up in the proverbial rat race of New York City, and that extends to the restaurants where we eat — if we're going to spend our hard-earned money, we want it to be on the newest, hottest place in town, where we can see and be seen and stay abreast of our rung-climbing celebrity chefs and their ever-escalating dishes. It's nice to play hooky from that life once in a while, though, and that's when we head to our reliable neighborhood restaurant, where we know we're going to be well treated and well fed, where we're going to drop only a reasonable amount of money on a bottle of wine, and where we're going to feel good going when we have no place to go at all. In Prospect Heights, that restaurant is James, owned by neighborhood residents Bryan Calvert and Deborah Williamson. When James opened in 2008, it was a pioneer, and it drew diners pursuing the restaurant rat race from all over the city. They loved its snug, charming dining room and its unpretentious yet ambitious menu of seasonal American fare. As the restaurant aged, it settled into a neighborhood rhythm and its menu scaled back and it became more charming. Regulars come for its farm-to-table cooking, its burgers and kale salads, and, of course, its brunch. They drink biodynamic spirits in their cocktails and somewhat obscure French wines at night, and bloody marys and urns full of Gimme coffee on weekend mornings (and afternoons). James is where you tell your friends to meet you when you can't be bothered to think of a plan — and it's better than what your plan likely would have been, anyway.