JJ's Diner: 'Maniacal about the details'

Marilyn and James are postered around and Elvis music plays through a genuine jukebox. It’s a diner all right.

JJ’s Diner at 2901 Perry Ave. in Bremerton is the third restaurant with the double-letter moniker opened in Kitsap County by Jeff and Judy Eagleson, of Silverdale.

The two other eateries are JJ’s Fish House at 18881 Front Street near the Poulsbo waterfront and JJ’s On The Bay, 833 1/2 Bay Street, in Port Orchard. The Poulsbo restaurant opened in July 1995 and the Port Orchard location in June 2000.

“If one was successful, we always thought we wanted to do more of them,” Jeff Eagleson said during an interview Tuesday.

JJ’s Diner hosted a grand opening Dec. 1 at the former site of Joe’s Diner.

“When we decided to move into this space, we thought it would be fun to keep the diner look and the diner menu essentials and add to them a selection of appetizers and entrees not found in any diner we knew,” Eagleson said.

The restaurant has chrome and plastic chairs, neon signs and other appropriate ’50s motifs. Eagleson said the floor and ceiling will soon be converted to something suitable for the saddle shoes and bobby sox crowd.

Eagleson said that in addition to “perked up dinner classics” such as meatloaf and chicken pot pie, the new JJ’s Diner will offer cheese wontons, crab cakes and other “anti-diner” offerings, including crab medallions, Tortellini Alla Panna, potato crust salmon and prime rib — none for more than $12.95.

But the restaurant will feature a classic fish & chips entree for $7.25.

Eagleson buys so much of the meaty white fish from Alaska that he deals in “cod futures.” Twice a year, he will set a price for his supply of cod.

“We’re talking about tons of cod,” he said.

Other things will also be fresh on the menu, Eagleson said.

“We take almost nothing out of the box. We find the freshest possible ingredients and put them together,” he said. “If you take care of the little things, then the big things take care of themselves.”

Eagleson said the business uses Dungeness crab and shellfish from the Pacific Northwest.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

One thing Eagleson is proud of is the spaciousness of the kitchen in the 8,000 square-foot restaurant.

There is plenty of room for Chef James Tonkovich, sous chef is Gene Coliron, and floor manager Samantha Gamble is on hand to direct the busy staff of 30 people.

Eagleson has hired a full-time baker, Mary Venezia, to prepare desserts and dinner rolls for all three JJ’s restaurants.

The Eagleson’s landlord at all three locations is Kitsap County businessman Joe Mentor. That’s appropriate — Judy is Mentor’s daughter.

Judy is a real estate lawyer working out of the family’s home. The couple met in Washington, D.C. where both were working in the world of lobbying and politics .

The couple had an antique mall in Poulsbo before they were convinced a high-end fish restaurant might work in the former Norwegian fishing village.

Jeff handles the operations and hiring at the restaurants and until recently, Judy did the fiscal end. The corporation now has more than 100 employees forcing the couple to hire a bookkeeper.

“We are truly a partnership,” Eagleson said of the couple and their restaurant success.

Several restaurants have occupied the location where JJ’s Diner now sits at Perry Avenue and Sheridan Road — including Joe’s Diner, Annie’s Buffet, Noodles, and Brad’s.

But Eagleson is convinced JJ’s Diner has the secret for success.

“We are maniacal about the details here,” he said. “Our customers will tell you that.”

Ask “The Fonz” — he’s over in the corner booth.

JJ’s — in the ‘yes’ business

The new JJ’s Diner at the Perry Avenue Mall complex will be open seven days a week:

l Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

l Friday and Saturday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

l Sundays: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The restaurant accepts most major credit cards and offers senior discounts. Beer and wine are available.

Small people are also welcome, Jeff Eagleson said.

“We love kids and we have a kid’s menu,” he said. “We love kids in our restaurant.”

The restaurant can accommodate 110 people in the main dining area, with another 150 for private parties or banquets. Take out is available, and catering could be handled on a case by case basis.

“I tell my staff, we are in the ‘yes’ business,” Eagleson said.

For information, call (360) 782-2676.

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