Rarely do 24 hours pass these days without someone texting me, “Is JuneBaby open yet?” This volume of communications pales compared to the stream of inquiring passersby that chef Edouardo Jordan experiences in person as he readies his second restaurant. Ravenna regulars and hardcore food nerds should both be pleased—JuneBaby opens, at last, April 26.
Salare is new construction, a spare oasis of white walls and soothing sea green. JuneBaby occupies a quirky mustard-colored building three blocks down at 2122 Northeast 65th Street, its low ceiling painted bold black and the bar smack in your face upon entrance. Jordan’s aiming for that sort of elbow-to-elbow, laid back, joyfully cocktail-fueled bar vibe But, he says, “the menu will quickly dissuade you” of the notion this place is anything other than a restaurant.
The chef’s new restaurant is a paean to the foods of the south, be they staples from his childhood or dishes that tell the story of the region’s foodways. Especially as they connect to West Africa and the slave populations who prepared food like chitterlings and pig feet because they had no other choice...and learned to make them delicious. JuneBaby’s website already has a sample menu that spans hoecakes and oxtails and collard greens with neck bones. Jordan visited southern rice fields in the course of menu research and is very aware of the labor and social conditions behind this unassuming grain; every night the restaurant will serve rice from a different growing region. The website also has an impressive encyclopedia section that offers cultural context on Southern terms ranging from turtle soup (no, it's not on the menu) to Gullah Geechee.
JuneBaby has about as many seats at Salare, but it's more compact; diners sit closer together. Jordan kept the space mostly open, so he can see just about everyone from the kitchen pass. A bank of shelves by the window sport glowing jars of Jordan's own pickled peppers, okra, cauliflower, and more, all for sale. The retail doesn't end there; Jordan's filling the cooler with his own ice cream in adventurous-Southern flavors like lovage and madrone bark, and nostalgic ones like black walnut. The nostalgia goes a step further with his own housemade "flips," the chef's term for the popsicles he ate growing up, usually Kool-Aid or lemonade and usually frozen into a Dixie cup; suffice to say his version won't involve any powdered beverages.
While Salare’s menu changes “damn near daily,” as Jordan puts it, JuneBaby’s offerings will be slightly more static, with a nightly special—Friday's brisket night; Saturday means barbecue; Sundays are for fried chicken and biscuits, etc. JuneBaby will be open at 5pm April 26–29, then closed on Sunday, April 30. Regular dinner hours will officially kick off on May 3 at 5pm, while weekend-only lunch from 11 to 3pm starts May 6. Plus, what else, a "moonshine hour" on weekends from 3 to 5pm.