October 15, 2001
The ‘Mason Jar’, a little less than three miles northwest of downtown Colorado Springs, calls itself a ‘family restaurant’. At least half the tables were, in fact, occupied by families with children when I visited there at 7:30 one Wednesday evening. And, it was FULL: The waiting line in the lobby was at least 10 people long.
Fortunately, people with kids don’t generally linger at the table over drinks; I was escorted inside after just seven or eight minutes. Well before that, a hostess had fetched me a pre-dinner cocktail as I sat waiting in the anteroom.
The drink --- a properly-made Manhattan --- revealed the origin of the restaurant’s name: It was served in an apparently-genuine, two-thirds-cup Mason Jar like the one my mother used to ‘can’ jams and jellies during World War II. When I ordered a ‘half carafe’ of wine, it came in a 450-milliliter Ball Corp. jar like the ones she used for fruits and vegetables.
The menu included the usual stuff you’d expect of a Western family-style restaurant: fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, many beef, barbecue and other meat-and-potato dishes, plus burgers and other kid-friendly selections.
Surprisingly, there was also some good, low-fat seafood in addition to the typical fried shrimp. My first night, I had a generous serving of fork-tender ‘Boston bluefish’ with a nice accompaniment of potato and carrots. On a return visit, there was a surprisingly good dinner of grilled trout --- normally something attempted only by more upscale restaurants.
On my first visit --- the 7:30 arrival --- service was somewhat chaotic at first but, as the crowds began dispersing, became more diner-friendly. My server was a cordial, capable young man and, though obviously overextend early on, was, by the end of the evening, as attentive as anyone could have asked. On my second evening, when I arrived shortly before 5 p.m., things were much more relaxed with service prompt and capable. However, by the time I was ready to leave shortly before seven, the place was becoming hectic again.
If you prefer quiet dining, it’s best to come here early. But for someone accustomed to Chicago restaurant prices, the tabs at the Mason Jar were a revelation: Dinner, three pre-dinner cocktails and wine during dinner plus, on my final night in Colorado Springs, a brandy, never more than $32 before taxes and tip.
From journal Colorado Springs: Walking Through the Garden of the Gods