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Eat and Drink

A Colorado-Inspired Menu Is the Draw At the Local Jones In Cherry Creek

The restaurant, which opened in the former Departure space in early June, offers dishes like locally sourced trout schnitzel and rack of lamb in an airy, inviting space.

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Accomplished Dallas chef Josh Sutcliff had never been to Colorado before opening Cherry Creek’s Local Jones earlier this summer, but he’s a quick study. His menu, which is full of Rocky Mountain staples like Alamosa striped bass, Longmont’s Buckner Family Ranch lamb, and local greens and heirloom tomatoes, looks like it was written by a Coloradan, not a North Carolina-turned-Texas transplant.

“On June 2, I got into town and I got to work on June 3,” Sutcliff says. “We opened the rooftop on June 4, my second day at work. It was crazy and still is a little bit crazy.”

He learned of the gig from his friend Justin Fields, the senior vice president of Makeready, the hospitality brand charged with transforming the former Departure restaurant space adjacent to the Halcyon hotel into the new concept. One of the first things Sutcliff did once he signed on with Local Jones was to flesh out the menu into a full roster of finessed classics. His favorite dishes include the Colorado trout schnitzel, which Sutcliff describes as an elevated version of the fish fries he grew up eating in North Carolina. “It’s a good dish that represents who I am and where I come from,” he says.

The Local Jones. Photo by Jimena Peck

He’s also especially proud of the beet hummus served with warm flatbread and crudite; the smoky, crispy potatoes, which are a spin on patatas bravas; and the octopus appetizer, which is braised in red wine, garlic, and lemon before getting a good charring, a quick dip in the deep fryer, and plating with a caper and olive puttanesca.

While the Centennial State isn’t exactly brimming with octopus, many of the products being used at the Local Jones come from area farms and producers, like the zucchini and squash for the side of seasonal veggies from Fresh Guys Produce; salad greens from Rebel Farm; breads for the early-day avocado and ricotta toasts from Aspen Baking Company; and bacon and sausage from River Bear American Meats. The menu for Elevated, the Halcyon’s rooftop pool café, is similar but with more casual fare like burgers, queso, and sandwiches.

If you visited the futuristic, pan-Asian Departure, you’ll be surprised at the transformation of the space into Local Jones by renowned design firm AvroKO. “I would say it’s just the opposite,” Sutcliff says of the design. “Before it was a more modern approach, trying to push the envelope and do something different. Now it’s open, vibrant, colorful. It just feels really warm and inviting.”

Local Jones is currently open for dinner daily, along with weekday breakfast and weekend brunch services. Cherry Creekers seem to be responding to the new spot; Sutcliff says the majority of diners come from the neighborhood. “It’s a lot of locals. That’s what we’re going for—we want to be a fun neighborhood joint. We’re not doing anything crazy, just delicious, simple food and honest, humble service.”

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