Without jumping into the whole terminological moshpit that keeps raging locally around the word gastropub, I’ll just say that I skew conservative, even sentimental, in linguistic if (I hope) no other terms. So by my standard, if you’re anywhere outside of the UK, you’ve got to work pretty hard to earn identification as a pub. Not because pubs are any better than bars, or cantinas, or cocktail lounges, or honky tonks, or any other type of watering hole, mind you – but because I don’t want to give up the sense of place the word still conjures without a fight. Indeed, the same goes for the whole lot; it ain’t no honky tonk, for instance, if it opened its doors 2 years ago in postironic Brooklyn.
So anyway, I’ll avoid gastropub altogether in favor of the more vanilla, hence less objectionable, bar & grill. The intended emphasis, on food as well as drink, is the same. Meanwhile, I’m also growing increasingly fond of a synonym thereof—the fledgling neologism eat bar (per Google, there are at least a few here & there). Unlike gastropub (to American ears, anyway), it’s light-hearted & laid-back—as is Denver’s own example, Jonesy’s.
I kind of knew that already, but solid confirmation—or rather liquid confirmation, what with me sliding under the table as per usual in the company of Comrades L & Mo—a few nights ago was nice.
Now, granted, a nominal emphasis on food as well as drink is not the same thing as a virtual guarantee of remarkable cooking. Grill alone (we’ll deal with the variant grille later) suggests a limited range (no pun intended)—suggests error on the side of grub. Sometimes that suggestion is misleading, and the kitchen is actually top-notch; sometimes it isn’t.
In Jonesy’s case, I’d say it isn’t. This is not a really great place to dine. What it is is a really fun place to graze & hang out. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The backlash against sliders is, I think, as pointless as the lasting craze for them. They’re little hamburgers; their advantages are 1) they’re hamburgers & 2) they’re little, so you can save room for other things too. That’s it & that’s that; all over but the shouting. Anyway, L & Mo preferred the lamb with bacon & blue cheese, but I think I actually liked the pan-seared blade steak with horseradish sauce better. I am, admittedly, a bit of a whoresradish. Will swallow it in any form.
What the shouters should focus on is buns, regardless of burger size. It’s integral to the concept of a burger, which is otherwise just a patty. Sounds obvious, yet what are the odds of getting a storebought flap of cotton at all but the most serious, devoted burger joints? 9 to 1? Shit’s the staff of life whose possibilities are endless, after all. In fact I’ve just a started a Chowhound thread on the very topic.
Jonesy’s big bowl of fries, meanwhile, is just a big ugly junkpile. If loving them is wrong, & it surely is, then I don’t wanna be right. Already being a fan of the buffalo fries (see above-linked post), I was glad Mo chose the flavors I’d yet to try, truffled with aioli & mac-n-cheese, hold the mac, with bacon.
The former turns the essence of a delicacy into something cheap & dirty, & I’m down. The latter turns the essence of something cheap & dirty into a faux-delicacy, & I’m down with that too. So what’s next? Word to Jonesy’s: rotating fry specials! Let’s see some red-eye gravy, some white gravy, cheese curds, Asian-inspired hot oil drizzle & of course curry & chili (as in beef-n-bean; we’ll leave the green chile to every other local joint). Hell, let’s see whatever you’ve got—why not a sauce based on clam chowder or one of the veloutés?
We also split an order of potato, onion & cilantro samosas, rather clunky doughwise, but the filling was good—highly herby, reminding me oddly enough of some falafel.
And the chutneys, of all things (which also come with the spiced cauliflower, a nonpictured platter of florets fried so lightly they were really just browned, interesting if not definitely successful), were excellently tongue-tingling, & so the joke would be on me if they’re not housemade.
It was around this point that I just zoomed downhill &, I’m told, started eating pasta carbonara with my fingers.
I think maybe I thought it was more fries—which, come to think of it, is another great idea: carbonara fries.
On the one hand, like most everyone else, I was delighted to hear the wonderful old Buenos Aires Grill space was finally being put to use. On the other hand, like most everyone else, I was so sorry to see BAG go that I was bound to regard anything that replaced it with a bit of a stinkeye. The fact that what replaced it is yet another American bar & grille (the added -e having come, for no clear logical reason, to stand in the estimation of some for extra swank) only deepened my natural skepticism.
Now that I’ve been, taking into account that 1) it’s still in shakedown & 2) I’m operating on a 1st impression, I can only wish the The Lobby well. From the bartender to our server to the manager who made the rounds, the whole floor staff aimed constantly & earnestly to please, instilling in me enough goodwill that I’ll assume the same is true of the kitchen, & that its crew will prove it down the line.
Otherwise, I might be strongly inclined to question the tagline in the logo, which alludes to inspiration I just don’t see yet. At least not on the dinner menu, which, with a few notable exceptions, is a straightforward compendium of clichés from the past 30 years: Artichoke dip. Wedge salads. Sweet potato fries. Fried calamari. Fettuccine in cream sauce. Blackened chicken. Crème brûlée. It’s not that none of these things can be good; it’s just that aren’t likely to get me through the door again when there are so many more interesting repertoires to sample—including The Lobby’s own brunch selection. Bacon risotto with eggs? Berry risotto with mascarpone? Housemade biscuits with grilled salmon & “ranch mornay”? Blue cheese–jalapeño frittata? Now that’s way more like it.
And the signature stuffed burgers—one of the aforenoted exceptions—are too.
This patty contained cream cheese & jalapeños, like a popper had popped from within.
It was all as naughty as it looks: a little pink & angry, then a lot juicy & creamy. The accompanying hush puppies simply needed salt; the cornbread was a little underseasoned, so a little bland. But they had the right dense, moist bite.
The mushrooms stuffed with two cheeses, garlic & herbs needed far more work—first & foremost in terms of presentation, obviously.
Skimpy as it looks, it was in reality even skimpier, since the menu listed 2 dipping sauces—a roasted garlic aioli we never received as well as the ancho aioli, which was good but too robust for the stuffing; a little crumbled bacon or sausage might go a long way there.
The ahi tuna nachos aren’t quite ready for prime time either.
First of all, having seen ahi nachos around for the past year or so, I must admit it’s a trend I don’t really understand. I suppose it’s basically a ceviche downgrade—but rarely to such an extent. Something like this is what I think of when I think of tuna nachos; the above just seemed like chips surrounding some tuna chunks. Both elements were all right—the former crispy but not greasy & crisscrossed with avocado cream & aioli; the latter lightly seared & mixed with pico de gallo—but they didn’t cohere into any kind of whole.
Still, if 1 out of 3 ain’t great, I’ll call it 2 simply in recognition of the staff’s hospitality. And I’ll return on those grounds, too, with real hope for the best.