by HOLLY SCHOENSTEIN | REPORTER | AURORA ADVOCATE

Aurora — Chicken paprikash in a smoked paprika cream sauce with spaetzle and crispy spinach.

Guinness pot pie. Macaroni and cheese with peas, roasted peppers and jalapenos.

That’s “comfort food with a twist,” exactly what Mad Jack’s Grill & Pub owner John Updyke is going for.

He opened the new restaurant to the public Dec. 26, 2011, in the building at 204 S. Chillicothe Road that was previously home to Subtle restaurant and Christopher’s Aurora Bistro.

“My goal was to have my own restaurant, and it took me a year to find the right location and fit,” Updyke said. He considered other locations in Aurora and surrounding communities, but found this location the most feasible.

“We’re very happy to be in Aurora because it’s our community, and we’ve already had tremendous support from our friends and the community. We’re exceeding our own expectations,” he said.

Updyke worked at Gamekeeper’s Taverne in Chagrin Falls for 30 years, 20 of those as general manager. He left in 2010 and returned to the restaurant business by opening his own place.

Mad Jack’s welcomed friends and family the weekend before opening to the public. Updyke said about 70 people attended the two friends and family nights.

Updyke said the restaurant offers casual dining with a “pretty well-rounded, moderately-priced” menu that has “just a little something different.”

It offers weeknight specials, which include ribs, meat loaf, steak and fish.

“PEOPLE enjoy comfort foods, but they just don’t have the four to six or four to eight hours it takes to prepare them,” he said.

The interior has a different of the building look with fresh paint, new carpeting and decorations in the dining room, new flooring in the kitchen, a renovated bar with craft beers on tap and new TVs.

Mad Jack’s employs 20, a mix of full- and part-timers, excluding Updyke and his wife Terri. Most of the serving staff participate in Kent State University’s hospitality program, he said.

“I’m excited to work here. I’m giving it 100 percent, just like John, because it’s a family business for us,” said Terri, a former preschool teacher who works as a hostess.

Mad Jack’s got its name from combining the names of their daughter Maddie, an eighth-grader at Harmon School who busses tables, and their son Jack, a sophomore at Aurora High School and a dishwasher / food preparation assistant.

And John plans to hire an additional 15 to 20 seasonal employees, also a combination of full- and part-time, for the summer.

Executive Chef Erik Gaizutis of Russell Township joined the restaurant after working as a chef at Gamekeeper’s Taverne and the West End Bistro & Bar in Chagrin Falls.

“My hope for this restaurant is to make it a fun, enjoyable place to work and dine, and naturally for it be successful,” Updyke said.

The restaurant is open for dinner Monday to Thursday and lunch and dinner Friday and Saturday.

When the weather gets warmer, the patio will open, and the restaurant plans to host clambakes in the fall.