The Mason Jar is homey, popular and, consequently, puzzling.

It’s been part of the Old Colorado City dining scene since 1982 with an emphasis on comfort food. The menu features many dishes associated with home cooking, such as chicken fried steak, catfish, mashed potatoes and cinnamon apples. Nightly specials include such kitchen table favorites as meatloaf and chopped top sirloin, but little of what we sampled was worth leaving the house for.

The full parking lot and busy dining rooms belie my disappointment. I can’t help wondering about The Mason Jar’s appeal. Granted, service is exceptional. Every employee we encountered wore a genuine smile and was polite, helpful and efficient. Still, this wasn’t enough of a distraction. Neither was the country store/log cabin décor. After all, it’s the food that leaves the ultimate impression.

Several entrees are available as lighter portions, which is still a big meal. My country fried chicken ($12.79) included two pieces of bone-in poultry served with a choice of two sides from more than two dozen options: I opted for mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed broccoli. The full portion would have included two more pieces of chicken for an extra three bucks.

Good fried chicken should be golden, not greasy, and seal in the juicy meat. Here, it was difficult to cut through the tough, bronze-colored, fried covering. After breaking away the thick, rigid skin, the chicken was tough and dry. Thankfully, the mashers were well-prepared with hints of garlic and small chunks of potato. A better-than average white gravy, sprinkled with pepper, provided additional flavor.

In addition to country fried chicken, the menu offers chicken fried chicken ($12.79 for the lighter portion). This item features breaded boneless breasts instead of what’s described as “specially seasoned” bone-in pieces. That could be a big difference.

All entrees are served with cornbread, which was moist and flavorful, along with biscuits, which were dry and bland. Honey, from a local apiary, helped a little.

The house dinner salad is among the sides. For $2.99, it can be added as an extra if you want more than the standard number of sides. It’s a typical blend of greens with two cucumber slices, a tomato wedge and fresh red onion. It was clearly made in advance — not necessarily a fault — since the bowl it came in was chilled.

The grilled center-cut pork chops were also dry. A small serving of apple sauce alleviated some of the dryness. Even the side order of french fries couldn’t salvage this plate.

It’s possible we didn’t order appropriately since there were plenty of happy diners around us. Perhaps we should have ordered dessert because the options sounded enticing: triple chocolate brownie, strawberry shortcake and fruit cobbler (all $4,99), to name the ones we reluctantly turned down.

Beverages are served in Mason jars, which is clever and fun.

Bottom line: Thank goodness for the service because otherwise the evening would have been a complete letdown. It was nice seeing people who enjoy their jobs, even if I didn’t feel the same about the food.

Restaurant: The Mason Jar

Address: 2915 W. Colorado Ave.

Contact: 634-4820; masonjarcolorado.com

Restaurant character: Family-friendly, home-style entrees with lighter portions

Rating total: 3.33 of 5 forks

Food: 2 of 5 forks

Ambiance: 3 of 5 forks

Service: 5 of 5 forks

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Entrees: $8.79 to $22.99

Alcohol: Yes

Credit cards: Yes

Vegan options: Yes

Outdoor dining: No

Gluten-free options: Yes

Wi-Fi: Yes

What’s online as of April 3:

• 5.9 of 10 based on 77 votes on Foursquare

• 4 of 5 stars based on 801 reviews on TripAdvisor

• 3.5 of 5 rating based on 69 votes on Zomato

• 3.5 of 5 stars based on 189 reviews on Yelp

• Active on Facebook

Excellent rating on Aug. 27 by El Paso County Public Health.

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