It’s true, there was a time when Manhattan didn’t have a “chef-driven” restaurant on every block – and Madonna had just started dating Sean Penn. Into those times was born the Great Jones Café, which closed last year after 35 years, following the death of founder Jim Moffett.
For the longest time, the restaurant was one of the defining destinations of the vague-ish NYC neighborhood of NoHo – jammed between Soho and the East Village. During that heyday, it was just cool to be there, every visit was an outing.
Like a select few other Downtown stalwarts, it acquired “icon” status, if just for the fact that they managed to survive those fabulously insalubrious early days. And if Florent, Odeon and close neighbor Indochine each attracted some mix of artists, writers, models, drag queens, rock stars (and their dealers), Great Jones Café seemingly hosted them all.
The hallowed space was reborn just last week as The Jones, under the direction of Gabriel Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality, and thankfully has retained some of the old DNA. Bright and airy with huge mirrors and light wood furniture, it already feels like a new take on the classic creative class hangout; indeed, our fellow diners during a recent lunch were very much of the “too cool for an office job” sort. And after having only been open a few days, it has apparently already attracted a handful of regulars – always a good sign.
With well-thought-out identifying elements – the logo, matches, pens and ‘brand characters’ extend to custom comics that follow fisherman and bartender Jones and his dog Baxter (a nod to Ron Burgundy’s canine) – and a menu that nods to current dining sensibilities without any of the trendy beet-and-avocado tweeness, The Jones exudes a low-key cool that feels even a bit Scandinavian.
Our ricotta, snow peas and toasted bread and poached prawns, mayonnaise and mache made for a deliciously satisfying lunch. But we were already eyeing the filet o’ fish, scallop tartare and East Coast oysters for our next visit.
In our imaginations, we were picturing those heady days when Madonna, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat warmed the seats, over hush puppies, fried chicken and strong margaritas. But it was encouraging to see The Jones buzzing away again; and with the addition of dinner service, and booze, after Labor Day, we’re hoping it evolves into a multi-decade icon all its own.