Bringing the coasts to the coastless

Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar in Kansas City is known for bringing the coasts to the coastless by mindfully sourcing and artfully preparing the finest and freshest seafood. Executive Chef Sheila Lucero is an avid cook and food connoisseur whose values align with the core beliefs of sustainability at Jax.

“I’ve been with Jax for pretty much my entire career as a chef,” says Lucero. “I started out at Jax Fish House in downtown Denver while still a student at The Art Institute in Denver and instantly fell in love with the food, culture and commitment to sustainability. We partner with some truly amazing fishermen and oyster farmers from across the country and fly their daily catches in, dock-to-door, every day of the week. We are also supremely committed to preserving global oceanic fish stocks, and every decision we make is guided by an effort to help protect the ocean and the creatures living in it for generations to come.”

With five restaurants across the Midwest, the Kansas City location has its own unique vibe, creative direction and a slightly different menu made with local ingredients.

“The space itself is absolutely gorgeous—the high ceilings, the giant oyster bar, the aquariums, the open kitchen. Whether you’re enjoying some freshly shucked Emersums at the bar or tucking in for a five-course feast, it’s just a great place to be. We also have these really cool custom steamer pots that we use for all of our chowders. It’s a really fun interactive experience—we cook them up right at the bar, so you get to see them being made and hang out with the chef. We also just launched lunch for the first time. The menu is awesome—there’s something for everyone, whether you’re there with your family for a leisurely sit down, or you’re grabbing a quick bite. There’s lots of delicious new dishes that we are all very excited about including lobster mac and cheese, salmon rillette melts, crab cake burgers and butternut squash bisque. We partner with local purveyors to bring the finest KC produce to the table.”

Their relationships with fishmongers guarantee quality, flavorful and sustainable seafood. 

“Our seafood comes from the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Gulf, and it is all 100 percent sustainable. We try to be as mindful as possible about where and how we source our fish, from the region and the equipment used to how it’s transported across the country. We only work with fishermen and oyster farmers who share our commitment to sustainability—they use the right equipment, only fish in season, never over-fish a region, and take care not to destroy marine habitats. The gear costs more, it takes more time, and you don’t catch as much; but in the long run, it means the coastal habitats survive, the fish we enjoy so much today will be enjoyed by the next generation, and the beautiful waterways can stay that way for a time longer.

“We partner with incredible organizations like the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. I was invited to join Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, whose mission is to educate, connect and help create a stronger, more sustainable food system.”

When they say their fish travel from dock-to-door, they truly mean it.    

“Fishermen load their daily catch onto the dock and then it makes its way to our door in under 24 hours. In a way, our airports are like seaports and planes are like boats, and being situated in the middle of the country is actually an advantage—we get Maine lobster in half the time as a restaurant in Los Angeles would, and Kumamoto oysters in half the time a restaurant in New York City would. KC is an ideal location for a seafood restaurant!” 

At Jax, they also say that if you eat fish, you’ll live longer.

“Seafood is high in vitamins and minerals, low in fat, high in protein and known for its excellent omega-3 content. The National Heart and Lung Institute suggests oysters as an ideal food for inclusion in low-cholesterol diets. Four to five medium-sized oysters supply the recommended daily allowance of iron, copper, zinc, iodine, magnesium, calcium, manganese and phosphorus. Oysters are also naturally low in fat, high in omega-3’s and are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and D. Oysters are basically nature’s multivitamin!”

Since 1997, Jax has dedicated March to celebrating the oyster and raising funds to support charitable organizations in the community.

“Every year we celebrate the “mighty mollusk” with an entire month of festivities—regional chefs’ specials, contests, giveaways, all-you-can-eat oyster night, pints of Emersum Oyster Stout, a National Oyster-on-the-Half-Shell-Day party and an epic oyster eating contest!”

As for the future, Jax wants to make sure seafood lasts for generations to come.

“We want to keep serving delicious food and drinks, throwing great parties every night, connecting with people and making new friends every day. We also want to keep spreading the word about sustainability and its importance and finding new ways that our little restaurant in KC can support fishermen on the coasts. We really love seafood, and we want to make sure it lasts forever!”