If you’ve dined at Chambers Bay Grill, you already know that executive chef Dustin Joseph is a fan of Northwest-spun food and layers of flavors. I like to call his food French in foundation, Northwest by design.
This month, Joseph is tackling a pretty big life goal - to own his own restaurant by age 30. He’ll become chef and part-owner of Art House Cafe, a 48-seat cafe and bakery that will open later this month in the Stadium neighborhood across the street from the new retro burger restaurant Shake Shake Shake that also has a planned February opening. Joseph's last day at Chambers Bay Grill is Feb. 4.
Joseph's new Stadium restaurant is in partnership with Lucy and John Armstrong, who opened the Stadium neighborhood’s Open Arts Studio in 1996. The Art House Cafe will be an extension of the neighboring art school that covers broad territory – from performing to visual arts, with classes for children, teens and adults.
Joseph, a 2002 Johnson & Wales University graduate, has been executive chef of University Place’s Chambers Bay Grill since 2009. Joseph has a resume that took him to kitchens from New York to his native Bay Area. Before relocating to the Northwest, he served as an executive chef at a restaurant group in New Mexico.
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Joseph has built a reputation at Chambers Bay Grill for food that matches a stunning view (bypass the drab dining room - summer al fresco is the way to dine at Chambers Bay Grill). Joseph’s flavors are tweaked with interest - like the flash-fried calamari I wrote about in this 2010 review. While fried calamari seems to exist on menus as a sauce delivery vessel, Joseph’s calamari rendered dipping unnecessary with the layering of what could be dissonant flavors - fried orange slices and artichokes with a peppery breading. Eating those beautiful slices of fried oranges - pith and all - left me wondering, “how does he do that?” The answer, he told me, was a buttermilk bath that removes the bitterness from the pith and turns what could be a wrong note into a citrus symphony. What a neat kitchen trick.
He’s generous with those kitchen tricks - he’s taught a year of classes through Pierce County and now he’s going to lead his own cooking classes at the Art House Cafe, which will carry a companion mantra to its sister school that you’re never too young or old to become an artist. Not only will there be a teaching kitchen downstairs at the cafe, but a kitchen dining counter upstairs will seat nine and will be available for cooking lessons, private events, winery lectures and special dinners.
The upstairs cafe will serve meals from morning through evening with an on-site bakery producing breads and pastries for take-away purchase. Among the bakery items for sale will be baguettes, buns, ciabatta, challah, muffins and herbed breads.
The breakfast menu sounds intriguing and more polished than anything that’s offered in that immediate neighborhood. Joseph described a breakfast menu with house-made English muffins as a base for eggs Benedict with Carlton Farms ham and a citrus hollandaise. The house baked brioche will be used for the French toast, served with applewood smoked bacon. Sign me up for pumpkin pancakes with vanilla bean butter. This could become a neighborhood favorite - fried eggs over sautéed mushrooms with fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat. Stumptown Coffee will be served.
At lunch, expect a menu of house-made soups and salads - like roasted beets with a gorgonzola vinaigrette and an iceberg wedge with candied applewood bacon, crisp leeks, dried blue cheese and a tomato vinaigrette. This made my mouth water: a hearts of romaine salad with a parmesan crisp, a lemon vinaigrette and duck fat croutons.
Served at lunch and dinner will be pizza. Joseph described his pizza as thin and crispy - Neapolitan in spirit. The pizza menu leans big on flavor with combinations like roasted butternut squash with chicken and caramelized onions topped with sage and blue cheese. A blue cheese-walnut pizza comes with spinach and a port wine reduction. Shrimp pizza? Yes, he's got that, too - with candied bacon and caramelized red onions. Smoked wild mushroom pizza will come with goat cheese, capers and basil.
Sandwiches ingredients sound just as interesting - cold smoked salmon with a caper tapenade and arugula on grilled herb bread; a brioche croque Madame and a grilled turkey with brie and apples.
The dinner menu is still a work in progress, but Joseph said to expect pizza, shared appetizers and other cafe specials.
There will be no reservations - except for the nine seats at the kitchen dining counter. Children and families are welcome. Expect a date-night atmosphere with live music on weekends.
Prices will be mid-level and up, with breakfast entrees starting at $9 and the lunch and dinner entrees priced around $9-$20. The restaurant will have a full bar serving craft cocktails and a wine menu with a by-the-glass selection.
Art House CafeWhere: 111 N. Tacoma Ave., TacomaOpening: February 2013