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.
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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.