If restaurateur, chef and culinary man-about-town Dave Query has a signature spot that captures the evolution of his empire, that would be the Jax in LoDo. Here, in a retooling of the Boulder original, Query's vision and his attempts to meld the upscale with the downhome come together most smoothly. From the brick walls sketched with graffiti to the big horseshoe bar, to the seating crammed in every which way on the floor and the butcher's paper on the tables, Jax exudes a feeling of casual fun. The moment you walk through the door, you want to loosen your tie, then eat too much, drink too much and definitely stay too long. The servers are competent and deferential until you start asking their opinions, at which point they'll tell you precisely what they think is good and not so good on any given night. But there's always plenty that's good: The kitchen has a wonderful way of dealing with those creatures of the briny deep that end up on the chalkboard menu each day.
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The menu is certainly fish-centric -- buoyed up (no pun intended) by varieties of oysters offered in all their seasonal splendor -- but last month Jax also kicked off a Sunday brunch menu, and for a fishhouse, it makes damn good eggs. I tried the deviled eggs, muscled up by the kitchen with white truffle and served with slices of fresh watermelon (which may just have been a way to assemble a nice-looking plate -- the small watermelon wedges surrounding a pile of microgreens -- but also worked as a strange and wonderful pairing of flavors); followed those with a few gratis peel-and-eat shrimp dusted with spices and served with the house's custom cocktail sauce; then went for an omelette of lobster claw meat, thick-cut bacon and damp tomatoes laid limply over a pile of home fries and dressed with a fall of crème fraîche. I skipped the mimosas and bloody Marys in favor of a cuppa joe, but since the brunch menu devotes an entire page to beverages -- and most of them of the alcoholic variety -- it's clear that the good folks at Jax understand that the only real reason for brunch is to give a fella an excuse to drink before noon on a Sunday.
And if you can eat lobster at the same time, so much the better. $-$$$