It involved nights of nerve-rattling sweat, shopping runs to Ikea, a lot of black paint, a repurposed stove that fell off a truck, and a kitchen barely bigger than a closet. But ChefStable's Kurt Huffman and upcoming chef Aaron Barnett were determined to transform a forlorn 1890 house into a neighborhood dream.
Their restaurant, St. Jack, opened on December 27, 2010 as SE Clinton Street’s answer to Lyon’s bouchons—a jolly, cramped, offal-loving den of informality where local wine flows like the mighty Columbia, and Portland’s porky excesses, by comparison, look blessed by the surgeon general.
It turned out better than anyone expected, an essential destination where everyone found something to love: adventure, classics, lip-smacking cocktails, and a cozy bar lit by haystacks of dripping wax.
Now St Jack is stepping out and stepping up. ChefStable has inked a lease at 1610 NW 23rd Avenue, on the ground floor of the new LEED-certified "Benevento" building between NW Raleigh and Savier Streets.
The new 2,600-square-foot project, set to open in December, will feature a restaurant and bar, 45 seats each, linked by a kitchen but with separate entrances. St. Jack's Amelie-cute patisserie will not make the journey from Southeast Portland to Northwest. Huffman says a new bakery project is also in the works.
With a real kitchen, at last, Barnett plans to expand on St Jack's popular classics—think blood sausages, tripe, and steak frites. Lyon will still be in the house. But so will a chilled oyster and seafood bar starring the Oregon coast along with composed crudos, foie gras, and a cote de boufe.
New partner John Salas, an alum of New York's respected Saxon + Parole and recent barman at St. Jack's, will helm the cocktail program next door. Barnett is planning a separate menu of "cool French bar food" with its own seafood bar and, not least, St Jack's "secret burger" stacked with caramelized onions, gruyere and, of course, bacon lardons on a double-butter brioche bun.
"There's a real hunger for east-side energy on the West Side," says Huffman. Down the block from the new St. Jack sit outposts of Salt & Straw ice cream and Bamboo Sushi, as well as soon-to-debut branches of Barista and The Meadow (read our story about salt king Mark Bitterman's upcoming 23rd Ave shop here).
So is St Jack a relocation or an expansion? Huffman's not saying. Only one thing is certain: Come December, St. Jack's dripping candles and Barnett's pied de cochon are coming to NW 23rd. See you there.