Booze

There's not really a Jake behind Jake's Food & Spirits, but that's okay

The first time I walk into Jake's Food & Spirits, two days after its October grand opening, I'm greeted by not one, not two, but seven employees in black T-shirts. A few are leaning against the pool table, but most are just waffling around in the middle of the empty room, and I make it only a few paces past the welcome booth before a unanimous, rambunctious "Heeeyyy!!!" rings out in my direction, followed by seven toothy smiles and a simple question: "Are you gonna eat?"

Indeed I am.

Which sets them scrambling — four to the kitchen, to fire it up; two to the bar, to lube it up; and one, my server, to grab a menu, water and silverware. The place is alive with purpose, if only to make my (surprisingly inspired) club sandwich and fries.

"Everybody knows a Jake and likes that Jake," explains one of the cooks while I pull from a Coors bottle. In fact, his name is Jake, but he's not the Jake. There is no actual "Jake"; the joint's name is just inspired by the abstract notion of a guy whom everyone knows and likes.

The second time I walk into Jake's, some ten days later, the place is packed. Granted, half the bar — the northern half, near the stage and the DJ booth — is filled with fans and folks associated with DenverStiffs.com, a Nuggets blog co-operated by one of Jake's co-owners. They're watching the game on a dozen or more hi-def TVs and playing Nuggets trivia during the breaks. A friend and I belly up to the bar at the far end of the two-room restaurant and order a series of five-dollar Guinness pints and burgers with bacon, bleu cheese and fried eggs on top.

Formerly Las Potrancas — a Latino bar and nightclub I never felt quite comfortable enough boozing in without a capable translator — the space that is now Jake's has the same challenges to overcome as every bar in the Cole neighborhood, bars like Phil's Place and Swallows. (The Gin & Sin Speakeasy, formerly Jezebel's and Marco's and...has apparently closed.) Call it the Downtown-Is-Close-But-Not-That-Close complex. But employees tell me that one of the investors in Jake's also has a stake in Tracks, the successful gay dance club a few blocks away. So that's encouraging.

As is the future commuter rail stop at 38th and Blake streets (one block away from Jake's), part of the East Corridor stretch between Union Station and DIA — even if construction is behind enough to force Jake's to cancel its 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. breakfast hours and switch to a later start less than a month in. The spot has a lot of potential, both now — thanks to a tasteful remodel, nightly entertainment and a made-from-scratch food menu, not to mention reasonable drink prices — and next spring, when a garage door currently acting as the back bar will open onto a yet-to-be-constructed-but-full-of-promise outdoor patio area.

For the record: I've only known a few Jakes in my short life and have never been especially attached to any of them.

Here's to new beginnings.

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Drew Bixby