Q&A: Keith McCarthy of Jones Hollywood
Jones Hollywood has been open and serving since 1994. It’s a little rock ‘n’ roll, and very adept at classic Italian service and cuisine. Yet, there’s something ultimately feel-good, throw-back American about this restaurant, which certainly turns into a rowdy, must-visit nightlife spot after 9pm. It’s a fine place to visit for dinner, but it’s truly an experience for a late-night in the neighborhood.
General Manager Keith McCarthy discusses a famous piece of pie, their secret to delicious Bloody Marys, and how Jones stays so cool.
When did Jones open and what was West Hollywood like during that time?
Jones opened in May of 1994. What the area is now belies its history. When we opened, the blocks between La Brea and La Cienega were not the pictures of glitz and glamour they are today. It was far edgier, teetering on seedy. Here’s the thing, though – In Hollywood that’s not necessarily a negative. We were busy right out of the gate and, in a manner that has become emblematic of [Owner] Sean MacPherson’s places, there was no ostentatious opening gala or media pre-opening party. By the second night of service Bruce Weber was at one table, Elle Macpherson was at another, and so on.
Describe Jones in terms of ambiance, vibe and personality in one word.
One word? Cool. That’s it. You feel it the second you walk in the door.
You’re very connected with a sense of Rock ‘n’ Roll and with Italian cuisine – how did this place manage to marry those two ideas?
Jones draws a ton of inspiration from some of West Hollywood’s classic spots – The Rainbow Bar & Grill, Barneys Beanery, and Dan Tana’s. Two of the three serve Italian-American cuisine and they all have long and rich associations with Rock & Roll. At Barney’s, there’s even a plaque inlaid in the southwest corner of the bar that reads ‘Here sat Jim Morrison, poet, artist, legend’.
What would you say is the most famous thing on the food menu?
I think if you ask ten people you’ll probably get ten different answers. And that’s kind of the point of Jones. If Jones is anything, it’s welcoming. Even the name of the place communicates a level of inclusiveness that’s also reflected in the menu. That said, our apple pie for two absolutely kills. It’s as decadent a dessert as you will find anywhere.
What about drinks – what do we absolutely have to try?
There are two. The Dirty Martini and the Bloody Mary made with our house-made spice mix. A few years ago, Eric Tecosky, who was our bar manager at the time, started playing around with recipes for, of all things, olive juice. I don’t know how many Dirty Martinis we make in a night, but it’s a lot. And you always run out of juice before running out of olives. ET realized it was costing him money every time he had to run in the back to get a new jar of olives while customers piled up at the bar. He developed a brand of twice-filtered, bottled premium olive juice called Dirty Sue. It’s a staple behind bars all over the country including ours. It’s what makes our Dirty Martini better than anybody else’s and it’s the secret ingredient that rounds out Jones’ Bloody Mary mix and gives it a nice umami flavor.
Talk to us about the name. Is there a “Jones?”
Not that I’m aware of. The name stemmed from us wanting a place that was very Americana, simple and straightforward.
Competition is fierce in West Hollywood. How have you remained relevant?
By keeping our eye on the ball and off fleeting trends. Jones is what it is because we know better than to try to fix something that isn’t broken. It’s about staying true to what we originally conceived Jones to be.
What’s new at Jones for 2019?
We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in May. That’s a milestone not many establishments are fortunate enough to hit.