RIDGEFIELD — Jeff and Johanna Herron opened their new downtown Ridgefield restaurant, Pioneer Street Restaurant, on Friday in the space formerly occupied by Pioneer Street Cafe & Bakery, 207 Pioneer St. The new restaurant serves breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Monday. The menu transitions from breakfast to lunch at 11 a.m. When its license to serve beer and wine is granted, it will also serve dinner featuring Italian classics, such as chicken Marsala and chicken Castellana, and steak.
The Herrons met while Jeff worked as a chef and Johanna as a waitress at Vallata, an Italian fine-dining restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2000. After they met, Jeff continued to pursue his culinary career and discovered a passion for sourcing local ingredients. Johanna worked as a waitress and bartender through college. After earning a Master of Science in community nutrition from University of Alaska Fairbanks, she established farm-to-school programs and helped small farmers grow their businesses so they could sell to restaurants, retail and international markets.
The couple moved from Fairbanks to Ridgefield with their children in July 2020. When they learned that the Pioneer Street Cafe & Bakery was for sale, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue Jeff’s dream of owning his own restaurant.
The Herrons will implement two new programs that may not be obvious to diners.
They will create a business model that reduces waste.
“There are two purposes to the waste-reduction program,” Johanna Herron said. “First, it’s good not to waste, and second, it’s hard for restaurants to stay open because of cost. In the long term, if you shift the way you think about things, you can save.”
This shift in thinking starts with portions meant to be a satisfying meal to the customers when they dine at the restaurant with no leftover food to be thrown out or taken away in plastic containers. This program will evolve as the owners get a better sense of what diners want. To help reduce food waste, Pioneer Street Restaurant offers a build-your-own breakfast with a la carte sides, such as a fruit bowl ($4), two pancakes ($5) and house potatoes ($4) that allows customers to custom design a meal that fits their appetite.
Pioneer Street Restaurant will also source as many ingredients as possible from local farms. Johanna Herron worked with farmers in Alaska and Vermont as a development specialist at the state of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture and the state of Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. She understands the difficulties small-business owners have scaling up to meet market needs.
Nonetheless, she’s hopeful that she will be able to source ingredients from Ridgefield-based farms for her husband to use in the kitchen at Pioneer Street Restaurant. As a chef, Jeff knows that locally grown ingredients are best for the quality and flavor of the food he cooks. The Herrons also want to use local sourcing as a way to reduce food waste and build community.
Grass-fed beef and pork from Ridgefield-based sustainable farm Greene Jungle Farm is already in the works, but the owners are seeking other local meat producers to fill the gaps when Greene Jungle doesn’t have enough product to support the needs of the restaurant.
“We’re trying to find more and more options for local sources,” Johanna Herron said. “If people come and tell us what they have, we’d be interested in talking to them.”
Baked goods from La Center’s Sadie and Josie’s Bakery will supplement Jeff’s confections, such as tiramisu cheesecake. The Herrons also carry Lakeridge Maple Farm maple syrup from Jeff’s brother’s farm in Vermont.
Future customers indicated they would like some vegan and vegetarian options, so the Herrons are offering plant-based options and making them easy to identify on the menu. A small green symbol that says 100 percent vegan marks dishes, such as a hummus plate ($8), housemade lentil burger ($16) and avocado toast ($8).
Updated information will be posted to Pioneer Street Restaurant’s Facebook page.