When I arrived mid-day yesterday (just hours before the private grand re-opening), Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar Denver renovations were at a fever pitch. Drills were buzzing, lighting was in mid-install, tables were moved, and wine was being schlepped precariously around harried workers, open ladders, and mounds of cords. The energy—and frenzy—was palpable as everyone pulled together for the final transformative hoorah. There is much to celebrate: a remodeled space—fresher, brighter, and more efficient than before; a revamped dinner menu with friendlier prices and new additions; and—at long last—the introduction of lunch.

First, the scene: At the center of it all, sits a long and low, marble-topped bar flanked by retro-inspired leather stools. Booths line the walls. Select patches of the old-Jax’s iconic crayon-covered brick remain but gleaming white subway tile now lines the north wall. Overhead, in classic Big Red F Restaurant Group fashion, is an installation of whale’s tail-shaped wooden cutouts. These combine to resemble the hull of a boat that spans the length of the bar (pictured) to create a dramatic focal point.

The makeover would not be complete without a menu refresher. Chef de cuisine Amos Watts—along with executive chef Sheila Lucero—revamped the board to offer greater selection with less emphasis on singular entrées. The new menu is arranged into three sections: from the raw bar (oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp), from the counter (cold-plate items such as crudo and ceviche as well as hot dishes like the new single-serving “steam pots” of mussels or made-to-order chowder), and from the kitchen (more traditional plated fare). Another welcome addition: house-made bread, baked daily.

And then there’s lunch, which will be served for the first time since the fish house opened in 1995. The offerings aim to find balance between the high-quality cuisine Jax is known for and lunch-appropriate fare. The staples—such as calamari and crab cakes—will anchor an array of sandwiches and entrées, including shrimp and grits, Watt’s buttermilk-fried chicken, and a Reuben with house-made pastrami. LoDo’s lunch business has grown significantly since 1995, and I imagine Jax will quickly find a sweet spot.

Try it Out: Dinner service in the new space starts January 18. Lunch officially commences on Thursday, January 24th.

Bonus: In December we told you about Jax’s new Glendale location coming this spring; stay tuned for details.

1539 17th St., 303-292-5767