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Article posted: 3/29/2013 6:00 AM

Elmhurst's HB Jones features clever decor, design-your-own burgers


Mascots are usually the domain of sports teams, fast food restaurants and breakfast cereals, but when Salseria owner Anthony Gambino was working on his new spot, he decided he'd have one too. The menu and décor at HB Jones, which opened in December at 551 S. York St. in Elmhurst, are based around the imagined adventures of a fictional world traveler, mixing American cuisine and drinks with a bit of international flare.

Motif: HB Jones' space was originally a greenhouse and grocery store and the glass ceilings and walls make the dining areas very sunny and open. The bar section is more conventional, with exposed bulbs hanging over the high-top black tables set with tall black chairs. A bank of three TVs is tuned to sports, with more sets positioned in the corners. The dining area also features a second bar and a lounge area with couches and plush chairs. The oversized menus and a plaque on the wall tell fictional Jones' story which includes being raised by monks and leading an expedition to the top of Mount Everest. Trophies from his adventures are also on display, like a swordfish hanging over pictures of the animal in action.

Crowd: Families tend to congregate in the front dining room while small groups in their 30s and up dominate the bar area.

Food: Burgers are the focus here. You can choose from one of the 13 options on the menu, like the BBQ burger, which tops a char-burger with grilled onion and pulled pork, or use a checklist on the table to design your own. The 10-ounce patties are thick and juicy, though the mac and cheese side was on the bland side. For something lighter, try the ceviche, which is made with chunks of shrimp instead of the traditional raw fish and served with very crunchy chips, big chunks of avocado and a mild green salsa. Specials change regularly with creative offerings like the reuben egg rolls whipped up for St. Patrick's Day, with salty and tender corned beef and sauerkraut in a crispy fried shell served with Thousand Island dressing and spicy mustard for dipping.

Liquid consumption: The bar serves shakes and floats to go with your burger, adding a kick of rum that works well provided you stir it regularly to keep the mix from settling. There are also plenty more conventional cocktails, like the sweet Moscow Mule served in a frosted mug. HB Jones also offers a dozen beers on tap and 60 by the bottle with an emphasis on Belgians and craft brews such as Rogue Dead Guy and Revolution Cross of Gold. Drink specials include $4 Stella pints Saturdays, $2 Miller Lite and PBR pints Mondays and half-price bottles of wine Tuesdays.

Service: While the place was busy when we were there, service was particularly slow. Our server was friendly, but not very knowledgeable about the menu, admitting he hadn't tried many of the items we were curious about.

Music: Cover bands play about twice a month, providing mellow tunes from the 1970s through the '90s during dinner.

Parking: A free lot provides plenty of parking.

Overall: Novel décor and a fun concept give HB Jones plenty of character.

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