Down-home food heads downtown

General manager of Portland's Screen Door to open Grocery Cocktail and Social

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Cocktails and comfort food will be the main fare at a new restaurant in downtown Vancouver planned for the corner of West Seventh and Washington streets, a space vacated years ago by the Chicago Sub Shop Deli and Bakery.

Husband-and-wife business entrepreneurs Chris “Salty” and Cindy Reed say they will rely on their experiences working for renowned Portland destinations such as the popular Screen Door restaurant, with its refined Southern-style menu, and the recently closed Wildwood restaurant, which focused on hyper-local ingredients.

Salty Reed, 35, has worked as sous chef at Portland’s Acadia, known for Cajun and Creole dining, and also at Camas hot spot Roots Restaurant & Bar.

The couple have leased the 2,100-square-foot space and expect an August opening for Grocery Cocktail and Social. The name comes from the main word for food used by Salty’s Southern relatives, who hail from Wiggins, Miss.

“Food was always referred to as groceries,” explained Salty Reed, 35, now general manager of the Screen Door. Cindy Reed, 31, works for Starbucks.

The Screen Door’s entrance on the corner of Northeast 24th Avenue and East Burnside Street regularly has a waiting line of hungry diners.

“We’ve got regulars from Vancouver who are ecstatic about having something on this side of the (Columbia) River,” said Salty, who takes his nickname from his “salt of the sea” tattoo, which he said symbolizes his entrance into the food service business.

He is optimistic that downtown diners will seek out and support his new venue. The site’s former tenant, the Chicago Sub Shop, closed its doors in 2007, shortly after the closure of C-Tran’s Seventh Street Transit Center.

In 2009, a group of downtown advocates spruced up the former transit facility’s plaza, adding shade trees, a three-story wall mural and a water feature made of recycled scrap metal.

It is situated across the street from the two-story brick building at 115 W. Seventh St. that Grocery Cocktail and Social will call home.

“We have faith in downtown Vancouver. It really feels like it’s happening,” Salty Reed said.

Searching for space took more than a year, he said. The Reeds will base the restaurant’s design on historic characteristics of the building, built in 1904 as a mechanic’s shop.

“It has 100-year-old fir floors, exposed brick walls and exposed beams,” Reed said.

He expects to equip the new venue with a bar and take advantage of mezzanine seating, upon approval from the city’s building department.

“We want it to have the feel of an old general store,” Reed said.

Longtime downtown restaurant owner Tom Owens predicted the timing is right for the Reeds’ planned venue, which he said will feed off downtown’s new and established brewpubs and restaurants, and could spur new business. Owens, owner of Tommy O’s, said he’s noticed an uptick in Friday and Saturday night business at his and other local establishments such as Woody’s Tacos, Thai Orchid and newcomer Willem’s on Main.

“This (Grocery Cocktail and Social) will just add to the downtown scene,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome for the neighborhood.”

Reed is planning a menu focused on fresh and local foods that are multiregional and familiar American comfort cuisine, he said. Those dishes could include anything from grilled romaine hearts to pickled shrimp, a pan-fried burger and chicken liver mousse, Reed said.

“We want it to be the kind of place where you can find something familiar,” he said. “Like your mom’s or dad’s favorite dish.”

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect a correction. The venue is located at 115 W. Seventh St. Cindy Reed works for Starbucks.