Boulder-based restaurateur Dave Query had been fishing around Colorado Springs nearly 20 years for a sixth location of his iconic seafood house. When he discovered the former Il Vicino downtown location at 11 South Tejon last April, he knew he had found the perfect spot. “It had a lot of energy going on,” he explains.
For Colorado Springs foodies, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is a lucky catch. Its highly acclaimed menu of seasonal and sustainable seafood has earned numerous accolades, including a nod in Travel and Leisure’s “Best Seafood Restaurants in the U.S.” review and a 2019 Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. It was also the first restaurant in Colorado to become certified as a partner of the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, a leader in the sustainable seafood movement, the oceanic version of crop management.
“We are making every effort to humanely and intelligently fish our waters,” Query says. Working closely with long-tenured Executive Chef Sheila Lucero, Jax has formed solid partnerships with multiple seafood sustainability programs to ensure that their catch of the day will not only be fresh, but will not jeopardize the depletion of an existing species. Lucero calls it “mindful sourcing.”
“It’s hard to regulate,” Query admits. He cites the popularity of the Chilean sea bass in the 1990s that led to overfishing and vulnerability, acknowledging, “We nearly wiped out the species.”
All the more reason sustainable sourcing is a priority. For her part, Lucero has been invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress about several environmental policies, and she has participated in the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change.
“It’s important to me that we are making decisions that support the future of seafood,” Lucero explains. “We want to serve the highest quality seafood to our guests, while being conscious of what we are consuming.”
That’s exactly what Springs diners can expect. Jax’s seasonal lunch, happy hour and dinner menus will feature an abundance of freshly harvested oysters, mussels, clams, crabs of all kinds, a caviar service and fish—lots of fish. House specialties include fried calamari, jumbo lump blue crab cakes, po’boys, gumbos and chowders.
Colorado Springs will join other Jax Fish House outposts in Boulder, Denver, Glendale, Fort Collins and Kansas City. The newly energized Tejon venue will seat 75 indoors.
“It’s definitely not a quiet, intimate dining experience,” Query says. “It’s not cozy, and it’s not quaint. There will be good music and a lot of action—especially at the raw bar.”
Apparently, the formula works like live bait. At every one of Jax’s restaurants, advance reservations are a must.
Jax opens to the public Jan. 7.