Johnny Mac's hopes to hit it big at the movies

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By AJ Vicens

A movie about John and Myrlene McLean would have the restaurant business as a backdrop. And their latest venture does indeed have a place in the movies — or at least next to the movies.

The South Jeffco couple opened Johnny Mac’s on Sept. 24 in a space just off the lobby of Elvis Cinemas at West Bowles Avenue and South Kipling Street. The diner-style eatery, which can hold about 30 people, is adorned with movie posters, the biggest from Robert Redford's 1992 hit "A River Runs Through It."

"That's because it's about the Maclean family," John says with an easy demeanor and a toothy grin. "We had to put that one up."

The fare is Americana, with homemade rolls for the burgers, marinated chicken for all the chicken dishes, and fresh onion rings. The most expensive dish — a steak sandwich — costs $6.99. As the weather gets colder, the couple plan to offer various soup and sandwich options, and they're hoping to feature Myrlene's homemade chicken noodle soup. They also have daily specials and offer take-out.

"It's comfort food," John said.

The McLeans have had a few busy stretches since they opened, but they'd like the restaurant to be busier so they could hire some employees and give back to the South Jeffco community, which has been their home for 18 years.

"We just fell in love with it," John said.

The McLeans are originally from Utah. John and Myrlene started their working lives at restaurants, and they operated Kentucky Fried Chicken and A&W stores in Utah, California and Colorado for many years.

The couple have six kids ages 13 to 32, and many of them help around the new restaurant. John and Myrlene are committed to their church group and to the South Jeffco community.

"This community has been through a lot. But it's a good place to raise your kids."

The couple did spend a couple of years outside the restaurant business, but even then Myrlene catered on the side and cooked meals for their church group.

"We've always done food for our church," Myrlene said. "People always said we should do our own restaurant."

And so they have. But the pair said opening a new restaurant in today's economy is "a huge risk."

"But this is just a family-owned operation," John said. "That's what it's all about. We want to make sure we take care of the customer. It is a scary proposition when the economy is bad, but if we have a clean restaurant, a good menu, a friendly, fun atmosphere and a good value for the money, we'll be fine."

John said he wants Johnny Mac's to be a place where families come before going to the movies.

"Family is important to me," he said. "They can come here and feed their families for a decent price, then go to the movie."

John added that the cozy space encourages conversation, and he and Myrlene typically make friends with customers.

"We just want to be here as a friendly place to park yourself and enjoy the atmosphere," Myrlene said. "It's a cozy throwback to the old malt shop. Come in and sit down and talk. We'll go as fast as we can, but plan on sitting down for a minute."

"We're just a family that wants to be part of the community, serve a good product and grow with the customers," John said. "Like the old days."

More info ...

Johnny Mac's is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s located just off the lobby of Elvis Cinemas at 6014 S. Kipling Parkway, on the southeast corner of South Kipling Street and West Bowles Avenue. Call 720-981-4070 for take-out.