Jakers Bar & Grill opens in Pocatello


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Jake and Grace Jones at the opening of their new Jakers Bar & Grill restaurant in Pocatello on Thursday. | Doug Lindley, Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — This week, Jakers Bar & Grill in Pocatello opened its doors.

For owner/founder Jake Jones, it’s a return to the town where he launched his career as a restaurant owner more than 40 years ago.

“I’ve always liked Pocatello,” he said. “It’s like a second home.”

Jones’ modest beginnings in the food service industry began decades ago at the University of Idaho, where he lost his football scholarship and took a job as a food server at the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house.

However, it did not start well.

According to Jakers’ website, Jones accidentally dropped a jam knife down the dress of the sorority’s housemother, who then reassigned him to the kitchen to assist the cook.

“As it turned out, the cook was the best cook on campus,” Jakers’ website said.

Jones later transferred to Idaho State University, where he graduated in 1964 with a degree in business administration. His knack for cooking and leadership got him jobs managing multiple college food services, as well as employment with Royal Fork Buffet Restaurants.

“I cooked my way through college,” he said.

Nowadays, Jones lives in Sun Valley with his wife, Grace, and owns a restaurant empire that includes six Jakers restaurants and two Red Robins.

But his first restaurant was located on Yellowstone Avenue in Pocatello. This eatery, called Jake’s, was opened in 1975, followed by additional restaurants in Idaho Falls and Boise. Over time, Jake’s was rebranded as Jakers, which currently has four locations in Idaho (Idaho Falls, Meridian, Twin Falls and Pocatello) and two more in Montana (Great Falls and Missoula).

However, the original Jake’s location in Pocatello struggled during the 1980s, leading to its eventual sale during the middle of the decade. The former Jake’s location on Yellowstone Avenue eventually became the current Mama Inez.

“I felt bad about selling it,” Jones said about the former Jake’s restaurant in Pocatello. “I always wanted to come back to Pocatello.”

The opportunity to return to the Gate City emerged at the end of last year with the closing of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant at 2365 Via Caporatti Drive. Jones stepped in and leased the building so he could expand his chain. The Pocatello Jakers employs approximately 50 people, including some former Ruby Tuesday employees.

Once the doors opened on Thursday afternoon, customers who started pouring in were greeted with a newly designed interior. A larger salad bar, which Jones said is a signature part of the Jakers brand, was installed, while a new U-shaped bar that seats 15 people has also been included in the redesign.

For local residents familiar with the Jakers location in Idaho Falls, the Pocatello menu is largely the same, with a strong focus on steak, prime rib and seafood as well as more casual fare such as sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads. The restaurant chain is also focused on using locally-sourced ingredients in its dishes, as indicated by the logos of numerous Idaho companies at the bottom of the menu.

Officials with the Pocatello Jakers said the restaurant will honor any unused Ruby Tuesday gift cards until May 20.

This article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.