St. Jack Restaurant and Bar offers expertly executed dishes, a well curated sophisticated wine list, sharp decor, and a Pacific Northwest-meets-South-of-France vibe. If you're looking for a Portland French restaurant, you've found it.
On a classic grey January day in 2014, the Mister and I were wandering around Southeast Portland running errands while both working from home, and we needed a place to grab a quick lunch. On the corner, in a galley-like space, was St. Jack. It was cute, we were hungry, so in we went.
The small, jovial eatery was charming and buzzing with mid-day conversations. We found a table by a window and enjoyed some delicious tartines (mine was a rib eye tartine that clearly was amazing because I can still to this day almost taste how delicious it was), and it made me simultaneously miss our old Southeast Portland neighborhood and miss traveling through Europe.
Fast forward to almost exactly two years to the day from that delightful lunch, and I found myself once again in St. Jack... except St. Jack, all grown up.
That boisterous little Portland French restaurant has bloomed into a 2,600 square foot eatery and bar on Portland's hoppin' NW 23rd Ave. No longer on the verge of being cramped, St. Jack retains its rustic French flair in a space that breathes in Pacific Northwest calm. It's a beautiful space ideal for dinner with friends or date night.
If you want the South of France with a Portland twist, St. Jack is it.
The visit featured here was a media lunch at St. Jack thanks to Enzymedica.
We'll start where all good meals begin: with great service (yay!) and tasty drinks.
Wine Director Christopher Sky Westmoreland has curated a sophisticated wine list that features excellent selections from France and from throughout the Pacific Northwest.
On the list is one of my favorite Oregon Pinot Noirs: the 2013 Phelps Creek Vineyards Cuvée Alexandrine ($102), as well as a stunning Syrah: the 2012 WT Vintners Les Collines Vineyard Block 30 ($110). You can also find wines in the $30-40 range, and you may bring your own bottle for dinner ($20 corkage fee).
You will also find creative craft cocktails for $11-14 each.
At St. Jack, you can dine either in the main dining room or in the separate bar area. I love that there are a large number of seats (around 45) in the bar area alone, which makes it a great spot to tuck away into for a quick drink and happy hour with friends and co-workers.
I've enjoyed every dish I have tried at St. Jack. Chef Aaron Barnett - who has been on Food Network's Chopped, one my kids' favorite cooking shows - is a master of creating mouthwatering, unfussy dishes that allow the essence of the ingredients to shine.
At this particular media lunch, Chef Barnett gave us a cooking demonstration on how to make St. Jack's Mussels Nantua.
Side note: Mussel farming is a huge part of France's aquaculture, and almost all of the mussels served in restaurants throughout the country are local. While Moule Frites (mussels with fries) are popular in France, they are thought to originate in Belgium, where you will also find them in abundance. Know where else you will find an abundance of Moule Frites? At Chef Barnett's latest bar: La Moule, at 2500 SE Clinton in Southeast Portland. That's right: it's ALL about the mussels at La Moule! Go check it out!
Mussels Nantua is made with caramelized fennel, tomato, garlic, shallot, capers, shellfish, cognac, and cream. The current St. Jack dinner menu features Mussels Normandy, for $26.
I'm mildly obsessed with these mussels and keep meaning to try this recipe at home. The tomato cognac cream really brings out the freshness of the mussels and it's perfect to soak up with a side of bread.
Steak Frites - Shallot and red wine demi glace, pommes frites, béarnaise ($27 - Onglet 8oz, $42 - Rib Eye 12 oz)
I enjoyed the Whole Roasted Trout with warm lentil salad, kale (note: the current menu subs arugula), brown butter vinaigrette ($28).
This trout was prepared perfectly, with crispy, salty skin and well seasoned for full flavor. The delicate fish was balanced out by the hearty, comforting warm lentil salad.
Another fellow diner enjoyed the Lyonnaise Onion Tarte, with a perfectly poached egg, melted onion and leek, cevre, and sauteéd kale ($26).
Dining + digestion
As I mentioned earlier, this particular meal featured in this post was from a media lunch with Enzymedica, a company that produces 100% vegetarian enzyme products formulated to help with common digestive discomforts, food intolerances, cardiovascular health, proper immune function and healthy inflammatory responses.
Having recently gone through my own food intolerance discoveries, I was curious about these enzyme products. I'm a lifelong journalist and therefore a natural skeptic who questions everything, so I had to try these for myself for a few months to see if they made a difference.
For the past few months, I've been taking the Digest Spectrum, which is supposed to help with food intolerances like mine (dairy, eggs, etc). I've also been taking the Enzyme Nutrition Multi-Vitamins.
When I take the spectrum right before I eat a meal with dairy (food bloggers must eat all things, after all, and dairy is always on the table at food events), I have noticed that I seem to have less of a reaction. I do like that the multi-vitamins contain probiotics, which I am a huge fan of already (go probiotics!). Will it make a difference for you? I think it's worth it to try, especially if you have been experiencing digestive issues, and if your doctor says it's okay for you to test them out. You can find these at places like Pharmaca, Whole Foods Market, and New Seasons Market.
I love, love, loooove St. Jack and cannot wait to go back. I didn't take any pictures of the desserts, but you should know that their chocolate pot de dremé is amazing! As is their sorbet.
They take reservations online through Open Table for parties of all sizes (hooray! Big bonus points for all Portland restaurants that take reservations!).
1610 NW 23rd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97210
Restaurant Daily, 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Bar Sunday - Thursday, 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday - Saturday, 4:00pm - 12:00am
Happy Hour 7 days a week, 4:00pm - 6:00pm; 10pm - close
Have you been to St. Jack before? If you live outside of Portland, is there a French restaurant near you that you love?
Thanks to St. Jack and Enzymedica for the complimentary meal featured in this post. As I wrote above, I have been to St. Jack on other occasions on my own dime and loved it. All opinions and photos are my own.