Photo by Deborah Bethel
Owner Jason Harrison displays a fish basket in front of the menu of his new restaurant, J’s Market Grill at 1808 Washington Ave. in Alton.
ALTON — Walking into what used to be the Dairy Queen restaurant, a newly renovated interior and smell of fresh barbecue mask any traces of what used to be.
J’s Market Grill, 1808 Washington Ave., is a new Riverbend restaurant offering a menu that features barbecue like brisket, snoots, and pulled pork and fish choices such as basa, catfish, tilapia and scored buffalo.
Owner Jason Harrison has been in the food business for 15 years and doesn’t plan on going anywhere. He started out decorating cakes for his father’s catering business. When his father asked him to help out with grilling meat for a family reunion, he realized his true passion in the food industry. Since then, he’s taken his own path in the family business.
J’s Market Grill isn’t Harrison’s trial run in owning a local restaurant; he began his career in 2010 in East Alton with J’s Spot, then moved down the road a few years later with The Fish Spot on Washington.
Bringing one of the main cooks from his previous restaurant and his business partner as general manager, Harrison has assembled a team full of experience and expertise.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “We’re doing extremely well, and I could definitely see it being a model for going into a franchise.”
Alton has proven to be a good location for the restaurant so far, as it has seen a positive response since opening in April. The high-traffic location has helped with the eatery’s success — it sees about 10,000 cars go by every day. Word of mouth also has helped. Harrison’s goal for his restaurant is to redefine greatness with customer service, food and atmosphere.
“When you come here, I want you to say, ‘Man, that topped it all. This place is a great place,’” he said. “We want to keep our customers happy.”
With the friendly faces, the smell of freshly grilled barbecue and fried fish wafting from the back, the acceptance of EBT and the neighborhood feel, the restaurant looks to excel in all Harrison hoped for in his restaurant.
The young entrepreneur got his start helping his father’s catering business, and he plans to develop catering as a key component of his business, too. So far, J’s Market Grill has been booked for graduation parties, family reunions, church events and vending at local exhibits.
“There’s nothing that we couldn’t cater to,” he said.
It took a quick three weeks to transform the Dairy Queen to J’s, and plans are to continue renovations inside the building.
The patio area in front and the lot behind the restaurant are ideal for summer music, further moving toward Harrison’s belief that music and food connects people. So far, J’s has provided the food part of that connection, so he’s looking forward to the possibility of being able to soon provide both.
A grand opening is planned for June, with live music, games and other vendors. Harrison said he is looking into area organizations to choose one to donate all of the proceeds of the opening day festivities.
J’s Market Grill offers an individual menu that is affordable, with generous meals of barbecue, fish or chicken strip baskets with a small side for $7.50. Hours are 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call (618) 465-1575.
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