Cafe Society

The comfortable Jonesy's EatBar is famous for its mac & cheese fries

I stopped by Jonesy's EatBar for a beer and a chat with a friend. I'd already eaten dinner, but halfway through my Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, when my server popped by, the words "We'll have the mac & cheese fries" spilled out of my mouth like a flood through a crumbling dam.

The pile of crispy, golden-brown fries was doused in enough creamy, savory roux to maximize satisfaction without saturating the dish. Cheddar was grated over the top, studded with bits of smoky bacon for depth and crunch, and chives for a fresh bite — as well as the illusion of balance against the richness. I dug in as though I hadn't eaten for days and didn't quit until every fry was gone.

Jonesy's is famous for those fries, and has been since Leigh Jones opened the gastropub in 2008. Before that, this spot was Jones's Dish Bistro, the latest in a series of restaurants she'd opened since moving to the Mile High City a decade before. The Atomic Cowboy was one of her startups, though she turned over the keys to current owner Drew Shader after just a few months. For Jonesy's, she envisioned a comfortable neighborhood joint, a place that would serve affordable, hearty, sometimes eclectic food: rumaki (bacon-wrapped water chestnuts) and porky udon alongside meatloaf and a flat-iron steak. She's worked to stay true to her original concept, even as the chefs have changed.

"That's been a challenge in the kitchen," she says. "After a chef has been here for a while, they get antsy to do something bigger and better. We're not going to turn into Barolo Grill tomorrow; we're Jonesy's. There's coolness in doing that great dish that's made everyone feel warm and comfortable."

Her current head chef, Beau Simmons, stepped up to his position in September, and while he's still making great dishes like those fries, he's also added some new items. My favorite of his additions is the bison stroganoff: egg noodles, tender asparagus shoots and thin chunks of bison bathed in rich sauce infused with mustard seeds. It's best washed down with a crisp, light beer.

But really, Jonesy's is so comfortable that it would be a good place to hang out even if the only snack it served was stale popcorn. Thanks to her numerous ownership experiments, Jones has learned how to put together a bar — and it's also clear she knows how to run a restaurant. Through staff and menu changes, her vision for the neighborhood gastropub is as consistently executed as those ridiculous fries.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk