First look: Jax opens in Glendale on Tuesday
Ask Dave Query what excites him most about the new Jax-Glendale, which opens for dinner on Tuesday in the City Set project at Cherry Creek Drive and Colorado Boulevard, and his answers might surprise you: a dumb waiter, a fish file and a floor urinal in the men's bathroom -- not necessarily in that order.
Pose that same question to Jamey Fader, the culinary director of Big Red F, the Boulder-based restaurant group founded by Query -- and the company that now operates four Jax Fish Houses, along with several more concepts in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and, soon, Lafayette -- and he'll break into a wide smile and graciously point to his kitchen crew. "See these guys? They're awesome," says Fader, who, along with Jax head chef Sheila Lucero, has amassed a team of cooking wizards that struts the talents of exec chef Duane Walker, previously of Lola; sous chef Matt Lewis, the former exec chef of Bones; Adam DeWildt, who cooked at Jax Denver; and Josh Seltvedt, formerly of the Little Nell in Aspen. "It's the best starting crew of an opening restaurant that I've ever seen," echoes Query. "They all really know their way around a kitchen."
And the front-of-the-house squad is equally impressive, with Jimmy Zanon, who spearheaded the bar program at Lola, overseeing the booze syllabus; Lara Vann-Dagenhardt, a ten-year veteran of The Kitchen in Boulder, commanding the floor; Javier Roeth, who spent the last three years as the sommelier at Shanahan's Steakhouse, patrolling the wine list; and Steve Epps, who recently moved to Denver from the Big Apple, assuming the general manager role.
In the meantime, Amos Watts, chef de cuisine at Jax-Denver, will leave his post there on August 1 to join Acorn, a forthcoming restaurant in River North that's owned by Bryan Dayton and Steve Redzikowski of Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder. "It's a great opportunity for him," says Query. "Amos is ridiculously fucking talented and probably one of the most underrated chefs in the city -- he has some really deep skills and I know that the Acorn kitchen will definitely let him shine."
Eric Lee, who spent more than eight years on the line at The Kitchen, both in Boulder and Denver -- and was most recently an instructor at Cook Street School of Culinary Arts -- has been tapped as the new chef de cuisine at Jax Denver, which recently underwent a major remodel, trappings of which are evident in the two-story Jax-Glendale space, which totals nearly 8,000 square feet and includes a rooftop deck and two street-level patios.
"It's way, way bigger than any of our other Jax restaurants, and the rooftop patio brings a whole new element to the space, as does the kitchen, which is incredibly functional," says Query, who tends to open restaurants in vintage buildings, many of which have housed prior restaurants. This space -- a brand-new build-out -- is subtlety nautical, the suspended, curved wooden slats that hover above the bar reminiscent of a canoe, while the ocean-blue walls, which extend to the gleaming subway tile in the open kitchen, are mounted with artistic sea art. And the sky-high pillars, caged with oyster shells that Query spent two months collecting -- there are thousands upon thousands of them -- are some of the most innovative conversation pieces I've seen in a Denver restaurant.
The 35-seat, u-shaped bar, which, of course, boasts a section devoted to the raw, as well as a strong beer and elevated wine and cocktail roster, is the focal point of the windowed dining room; a second dining area, also flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, houses private parties and features its own pick-up window.
And the 118-seat rooftop patio, spanning unobstructed views that overlook the mountains, also trumpets its own kitchen and bar, plus a fireplace, shucking cage and an upstairs-only menu that, says Query, will be grill-driven (think whole lobsters and clam bakes).
The regular menu, served downstairs only, is definitely netted in fish and seafood -- most of it sustainable -- but its reach is broader than what you'll find at the other Jax locations. "The kitchen here is three times bigger than the one in LoDo, ten times bigger than the Boulder Jax and bigger, too, than the Fort Collins kitchen, and because of that, we were able to expand the menu to include a lot more starters, cured and smoked seafood and different proteins," says Query. Halibut, snapper, smoked trout rillettes, sea scallops and oysters now share space with chicken done two ways, pork tenderloin and beef tenderloin.
And happy hour will play prominently into the Glendale location, uncorking from 2 to 6 p.m. seven days a week on the rooftop patio, which opens on July 4, and from 4 to 6 p.m. in the downstairs bar. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday and dinner from 4 p.m. to close nightly; Sunday brunch, says Query, will begin on July 14.
"We love the fact that we're in Glendale," notes Query, who tasked Fader with finding the space. "It's an an area that's under-served when it comes to good restaurants, and we're located at one of the busiest intersections in Denver, with 160,000 cars passing through it every day. Needles to say, we're incredibly excited to be here."
And soon, Jax will be joined by several more new restaurants, including Udi's, Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria, Big Smoke Burger and -- you heard it here first -- another outpost of The Kitchen, most likely The Kitchen [Next Door], and while the lease is still being negotiated, co-owner and chef Hugo Matheson says "It's looking good." If all goes according to plan, that restaurant should be open by the end of the year.
We'll have more news on the new tenants in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here's a first look at the new (and gorgeous) Jax.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.