A new restaurant for higher-end dining is coming to University Place in early 2016.
Sawyer Jax will be inside The Keg space that’s been vacant since that steakhouse closed in January 2013.
Sawyer Jax will serve a menu that might seem more at home in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue, which is fitting because the restaurant's owners are Jake Barth and Andy Yee of Dirty Oscar’s Annex, the restaurant and moonshine bar on Sixth that was featured in 2013 on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Unlike the 21-and-over bar Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Sawyer Jax will allow patrons of all ages. There will be a bar, but the dining area, Barth said, will appeal to families with kids.
The executive chef will be Aaron Grissom, a former Dirty Oscar’s chef. He left for California in 2013, where he worked at Bow & Truss in North Hollywood and other restaurants. Reality television viewers might also remember him from Bravo’s Top Chef.
Grissom spent the past two months overseeing the kitchen of Barth’s latest restaurant, Dirty Oscar’s Annex Roundup, near Billings, Montana. Grissom will now oversee the kitchens at Dirty Oscar’s Annex on Sixth and Sawyer Jax.
“Sawyer Jax will have a New American feel with nostalgic notes of American cuisine. This will be a restaurant where we will be cooking at the level of Asado and Pacific Grill,” said Grissom. “We want to be one of the contenders in the city, but we’ll be applicable to everybody. We want to touch on all the markets.”
That means a flexible menu with an inexpensive lunch that will appeal to nearby Tacoma Community College students. Upscale steakhouse items at dinner will be served alongside more affordable regional American dishes.
Alex Henderson will be bar manager. Alicia Boss will be general manager.
Barth and Grissom said the bar at Sawyer Jax will have a Prohibition-era theme, with barkeeps dressed the 1920s part. As with Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Sawyer Jax’s bar will feature an extensive moonshine collection. The restaurant also has hired a distillery to create its own moonshine that will carry the label 1919 (that’s the name of the corporate parent of all the Dirty Oscar’s restaurants).
“On the bar side, we’ll cater heavily to the 30-and-older crowd,” Barth said. “We’ll have a good craft cocktail menu, and a unique menu with small plates.”
A dining room makeover will overhaul the interior and significantly change the footprint of the sprawling restaurant. The dining area will shrink and hold fewer tables, Barth said. He’ll cordon off a large area for private events. The on-display kitchen stays put, but it will be partially glass enclosed to minimize noise.
Barth said Montana artist Troy Evans will construct tables and woodwork in the bar. Artist Emily Cribbage will create oil paintings of legendary Prohibition-era moonshiners and a portrait of Barth’s grandfather Jack as the fictional character “Sawyer Jax,” an amalgam of his grandfather’s name and Barth’s favorite literary character, Tom Sawyer.
Where: 2212 Mildred St. W., University Place
Opening: Early 2016