Mark Jones plans ‘new twist’ on barbecue in downtown Columbus

Mark Jones explains concept for his new restaurant 'Smoque'

Mark Jones will be opening his 10th Columbus area restaurant at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway in downtown. Jones says bluntly, "This isn't your daddy's barbecue."
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Mark Jones will be opening his 10th Columbus area restaurant at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway in downtown. Jones says bluntly, "This isn't your daddy's barbecue."

Columbus restauranteur Mark Jones is betting he can get people to think differently about one of the city’s favorite foods — barbecue.

Jones, who owns or operates nine Columbus-area restaurants, plans to open “Smoque” at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway downtown. The restaurant should open in early October.

“This isn’t your daddy’s barbecue,” Jones said Friday as he released the name and concept for the restaurant in one of the city’s prime locations. “If you know my other restaurants, you know I like to put a spin on traditional southern fare, and Smoque is the same.”

When you enter the new space, a neon sign makes it clear what the top three priorities are — Bourbon, Beer, Cue.

“You are going to have to come in here with an open mind,” Jones said of the concept he has been playing with for a couple of years.

And he knows the new venture comes with challenges because, like with college football teams, many people in Columbus and Phenix City have barbecue restaurants they are intensely loyal to. Yelp lists about three dozen barbecue restaurants in the local market.

“I am not taking away from any of those other barbecue restaurants because I grew up with those places, too,” Jones said, saying his preference was Smokey Pig in Phenix City. “... Columbus and Phenix City in many ways is the barbecue capital of the South.”

But he plans to appeal to the hipster generation, “bringing barbecue into the 21st century,” he said. In addition to barbecue, the restaurant will offer a variety of bourbons, and bourbon cocktails as well as a wide selection of craft beers, in bottles, cans and on tap.

Without going into the specifics of the menu, Jones said that it will include beef brisket as well as pork. The sauces and rubs will all be made on site, Jones said.

“It will be true to the roots of southern barbecue, but the twist will be how we present it and what we pair it with,” Jones said.

His wife, Sheri, as she has with his other restaurants, is working on the decor and design.

“It will be a little rustic modern, but it will be casual,” she said. “Let’s just say it will be comfortable.”

Comfortable is what Jones is looking to project in a space where he can raise large garage-style doors onto the 11th Street sidewalk and give the restaurant an open-air feel.

“I want a place where you can eat, drink and watch football if that is what you want to do,” Jones said.

The current plan, Jones said, is to open seven days a week, serving lunch and dinner. The entrees will range in price from $12 to $21, Jones said.

The new venture is opening in a space that has had two failed attempts in the last two years.

Brandon Haynes, operating under a long-term lease, converted the building that had been used as a shoe store and theater into an indoor/outdoor restaurant with a rooftop bar and large garage-style doors on the ground floor. It opened as a taqueria and most recently was called Parrilla Del Gaucho, an Argentine steakhouse, both owned by Haynes.

The rooftop bar, The Social, will continue to be operated by Haynes. But Smoque will provide a limited food menu from the restaurant downstairs.

Jones, 52, has been one of the most prolific chefs in the Chattahoochee Valley, operating nearly a dozen restaurants under the company Mark Jones Kitchens. He has owned restaurants in Columbus and Harris County since 1995.

Smoque will be the fifth restaurant Jones has either owned or consulted within downtown Columbus. Other downtown restaurants with Jones’ seal on them are the Black Cow on 12th Street, Plucked Up Chicken on First Avenue and Flip Side Burgers & Tacos and Phillyosophy on Broadway. Smoque will give Jones restaurants in the 1000, 1100 and 1200 blocks of Broadway, the heart of the city’s downtown redevelopment.

His other properties include Mark’s City Grill and Ready-Steak-Go in Columbus; Hunters Pub & Steak House in Hamilton; Aspen’s Mountain Grill in Pine Mountain; and Mark’s Pies & Thighs in Cataula. Before the end of the year, he plans to open a bakery on Second Avenue near Bibb City called Baked & Confused.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams