Bar profile: One door closes, another opens for Front Street Bar and Grill

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From the March 27, 2014 edition

The freshly minted Front Street Bar and Grill came with a built-in fan base.

When a new landlord ordered Lori and Kevin Ames to “cease and desist” operating out of the former Jack Whitney’s, the Ames decided they wouldn’t let their gastropub die. After transforming the upscale Frezno into Front Street Bar and Grill, regular patrons of Jack Whitney’s, 20-somethings and empty-nesters alike fill the barstools to enjoy chef-centric pub grub and ski-ball in a relaxed atmosphere.

“We had a lot of success with Jack Whitney’s, but when the building was sold we had to move,” owner Kevin Ames said. “We decided to bring that concept to the Frezno space, and a lot of our regulars from Jack Whitney’s are happy about it.”

The space at 460 S. Front St. has been totally transformed. A ski-ball game and pool table dominate the former dining room. The patio offers ample seating and allows for quiet conversations, even with its close proximity to Front Street. A few TVs are mounted throughout, but not enough to be distracting.

“The people we want to reach are more about socializing. They’d rather hang out with their friends than split a $70 bottle of wine with a date,” he said. “I think that’s why the Front Street concept will work better than Frezno. The focus is on fostering a social environment.”

The menu reflects the concept shift by offering more small plates, and pub classics are favored over heavier dinner fare.

“The focus now is on chef-driven tavern food,” Kevin said. “We want to offer simple dishes with quality ingredients. We don’t want to over-do it.”

Shareable items like pizza, wings and guacamole take center stage. A few favorites from Frezno still remain, including the Mediterranean Salad and Chicken Parmesan.

According to Kevin, the response thus far has been overwhelmingly positive.

“At first we were concerned we wouldn’t get the chance to explain what happened to Frezno and Jack Whitney’s because we closed so suddenly,” Kevin said. “But the response has been surprisingly great. We are seeing a lot of old faces and some new ones, too.”

Photo by Meghan Ralston