Before we discovered the happy-hour oysters, the lively seafood dishes, or even the red-capped Bill Murray portrait behind the bar, it looked like Jacqueline might become known for its breakfast. By 2017, when we included the Southeast Portland restaurant as a critic’s pick in our new brunch guide, the mimosa set had begun to gather for fried-egg-topped smoked trout served with eye-dropper bottles of house-made sauce, all doused by rounds of Rainier micheladas.
But behind the scenes, brunch was causing problems. The small kitchen at the old St. Jack space was too small to fit both morning cooks cranking out the last of a suddenly hopping brunch, and a dinner shift with its own setup to do, Jacqueline owner Derek Hanson recalled this week.
“Brunch was getting to be super popular, and with that little tiny kitchen, there was no way that we could have switched over to doing dinner service,” Hanson said. “Dinner cooks were frustrated that they couldn’t be set up in time, and we just had to do one or the other. And you make so much more money during dinner.”
For as much as COVID-19 has decimated Portland restaurants, there have been opportunities as well. Around the end of the month, Hanson plans to reopen the restaurant, which went into an early “hibernation” in October, as Fair Weather, a new breakfast cafe where some of Jacqueline’s best-loved dishes will come with an egg.
As with the old dinner service, Fair Weather’s menu will be vegan and pescatarian friendly, though for now, the main criteria is items that can survive being taken home in a box. Jacqueline’s Hollandaise-topped Dungeness crab toast, which we once compared favorably to Portland’s legion of crab Benedicts, will officially join those ranks at Fair Weather with a poached egg on top. The signature cedar-plank trout will come in a smaller portion with potatoes and scrambled eggs. Smoked trout and miso roasted mushroom congee will make appearances. And Hanson is dusting off an old German cast iron waffle maker to make yeasted waffles with fried chicken as an optional add-on.
With a young son at home, Hanson, who previously cooked at the nearby Broder and its sister restaurant, Broder Nord, actually prefers working brunch hours. And he believes most people are getting out during the day, making coffee and doughnut runs early then hunkering down at night. Luckily, the counter in Jacqueline’s oyster room was previously used by St. Jack for everything from pastry display to salad prep, and was already plumbed and wired for an espresso machine. Alongside natural coffees from the likes of Water Avenue, Push X Pull and San Francisco’s Sightglass, Fair Weather plans to offer cookies, muffins and cornbread from Jacqueline alum Sierra Wilder, with a possible doughnut pop-up coming later this year.
For now, Fair Weather hopes to offer limited outdoor seating alongside its carryout options. But the new brunch menu won’t be the final change in the Jacqueline universe. The restaurant’s lease is up in summer, and a relocation or expansion could be in the cards. One way or the other, Jacqueline — and its happy hour oysters — will return.
Look for Fair Weather to debut in the Jacquline space, 2039 S.E. Clinton St., around the end of the month.