Call it a mix of selfish motivation and insightful business sense. Back in 1994, Boulder restaurateur Dave Query wanted to eat some oysters. “There wasn’t a place to sit down and mack a plate of oysters in Boulder, and I love the whole process,” he says. So he opened Jax Fish House that autumn to add to his growing family of restaurants.
Fast forward 25 years, and Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar opens in Colorado Springs Jan. 7. The new addition to the Springs’ dining scene is the sixth Jax, joining the others in Boulder, Denver’s LoDo, Glendale (Cherry Creek), Fort Collins and Kansas City.
The high-end yet casually comfortable brand has long been lauded for its excellence and sustainability, and Executive Chef Sheila Lucero serves as a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, a national network of chefs leading the conversation and execution of seafood sustainability. “All of our menu is sustainable,” Lucero says. “To be a partner with James Beard and Monterey Bay, they require 98% of the menu is sustainable, and we exceed that.”
We visited Jax new home at 11 South Tejon Street with Query and his team for an early preview. The group has transformed the former, long-time home of Il Vicino into a cozy oceanic-themed eatery. Leaving no room for doubt, diners are greeted by fresh, chilled shellfish upon entering the front door. The two-sided bar runs full-length down the center of the dining room, and the open kitchen is visible in the rear of the restaurant.
In a word, the several dishes we sampled were superb. But we’ll let the photos tell that story below. You’ll also find a list of sample menu items and weekly specials. To read more about the Jax backstory, check out Front Range Hot Spot Jax Fish House Hits the Springs. And make sure to get yourself to Jax soon.
An order of fried calamari includes cuttlefish, a tender, delicious addition. The starter is served with tangy mango-chile mojo sauce and lime aioli and topped with microcilantro.
Oyster lovers will find their favorite mollusk in any desired variety. Of course, there’s always raw on the half shell, and Jax features proprietary Emersum Oysters sustainably raised in the Chesapeake Bay. You can add a fried oyster to the Niman Ranch Burger, which has won Westword’s Best Burger. And members of the Oyster Club gain exclusive access to coast-to-coast seasonal varieties for carryout home consumption.
The lump blue crab cake is the best I’ve ever tasted, tender, fresh, and lightly seasoned to let the mild meat stand deliciously on its own. “We make it in small batches,” Lucero says. “We’re really gentle with the lump, so it doesn’t break apart. You’ll see big chunks, with very little binder to hold it together. There’s a little bit of whipped egg, a little bit of mayonnaise, lemon juice and shallot, a teeny bit of breadcrumb. And it’s dipped in clarified butter.”
The Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar team. From left: Owner and founder Dave Query, Executive Chef Sheila Lucero, Chef de Cuisine Jesse Guare.
New England Sea Scallops are a delicious fixture on the seasonal menu. The large pan-seared shellfish are currently served on a bed of butternut squash gnocchi, a treat on its own. Crispy-fried kale tossed with aqua pozza and pomegranate seeds add fresh texture and a savory-sweet combination. The gorgeous entree is plated with a silky fennel soubise.
Executive Chef Sheila Lucero and the culinary team break in their new Colorado Springs open kitchen.
Jax Sample Menu Items
Full menus can be found here.
Rotating fresh-shucked oysters – MKT
Daily selection of East and West coast
Fried Calamari – $12
Mango-chile mojo, lime aioli
Lump Blue Crab Cake – $19
Preserved lemon aioli
Ahi Tuna Poke – $21
Sushi rice, fuji apple, avocado, black pepper ponzu, spiced cashew
Clam Chowder – $7/$14
Clams, ham hock, potato, mirepoix, fried zesta
Peel N’ Eat Shrimp – $8-$14
¼ lb – ½ lb
Spanish Octopus – $30
Risotto, piquillo peppers, preserved lemon, ‘nduja, cilantro, roasted almonds
Passmore Ranch White Sturgeon Caviar – $85/$165
Niman Ranch Burger – $14
Lettuce, tomato, pickles, Jax mustard, fries
Lobster Mac N Cheese – $36
Butter, poached lobster tail, truffled breadcrumbs, pickled mustard seeds
Whole Alamosa Bass – $29
Roasted fennel, mushroom conserva, salsa verde
River Bear New York Strip (16 oz) – $46
Smashed-fried potato, NOLA butter, arugula, demi-glace
$5 Martinis M-F lunch
Beets and Burrata – $15
Seaweed pesto, balsamic reduction, kale, smoked sea salt, beet chips
Crispy Fish Sandwich – $13
Pete’s tartar sauce, iceberg lettuce
Lobster BLT – $27
Candied bacon, aioli, brioche
Fish N Chips – $19
Beer battered, crispy fried, french fries, slaw
The Commodore Bloody Mary (33 oz) – $45
Green chile vodka, spicy house bloody mix, 6 oz dungeness crab, jumbo cocktail shrimp, oyster, golden caviar
Breakfast Marg – $11
Reposado tequila, agave, lime juice, egg white
Beignets – $6
Basket of small fried pillows of pleasure, sugar, seasonal preserves
Fried Shrimp and Waffles – $16
Fried eggs, collard greens, hot maple butter
Oscar Omelet – $17
Blue crab, arugula, hollandaise, choice of breakfast potatoes or grits
Classic Benedict – $14
Shaved ham, toasted english muffins, roasted tomato, hollandaise sauce, choice of breakfast potatoes or grits
Kentucky Hot Brown – $13
River Bear ham, pepper bacon, tomato, poached eggs, mornay, toasted sourdough
Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sat 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Dinner daily 4 p.m.
Happy Hour daily 3-6 p.m. and ALL NIGHT Monday
Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.
Brunch Sat-Sun 10 a.m. [Note: Brunch service starts Sunday, January 11]
All-Night Happy Hour Mondays
Tuesday Burger Night
Over-the-top burger specials and $3 cans of Howdy Pilsner
Half-off bottles plus perfect paired pastas
Shrimp Bucket Thursdays
Low-country boil and $15 buckets of beer
Service Industry Sundays