Customers are often none the wiser when a restaurant changes hands without switching its name. Sure, the wall color might be different, but the menu often stays the same Ñ though the execution may not.
Such was the case with the venerable Cafe Lena, a popular breakfast joint that also served as a longtime poets' haunt. After original owners Steve Sanders and Leanne Grable divested themselves of Lena, two successive owners, including Karen Harding of Cup and Saucer success, took stabs at running the place. Harding injected some new life in the well-worn restaurant, contributing a strong new direction for dinner.
But at the start of last December, Lena got yet another set of parents and, finally, a new moniker: Jam. Two Western Culinary Institute class of '97 alumni, owner Uri Kushner and chef Josh Parker, decided it was time to craft a fresh identity for the Southeast Hawthorne eatery.
'We didn't want to continue the trend of same name, different owners,' says Kushner, who most recently served as general manager at Pizzicato in Sellwood. 'We wanted to make a bit of a break.'
To that end, the pair knocked out a wall to open up the dining room and treated Jam to a new paint job. The name refers to the many flavors of fruit spread whipped up about three times per week: strawberry-kiwi, marionberry, raspberry, strawberry-peach. It also reveals Jam's raison d'tre, breakfast.
Jam serves breakfast all day, bustling out plates of chocolate-cinnamon French toast, lemon-ricotta pancakes, tofu wraps and scrambles with apple-wood-smoked bacon on the side. Parker is well-versed in the breakfast trade, having cooked at Lena under Harding's ownership, and also at Dahlia Cafe, another Harding venture.
The coffee is organic Stumptown and a vegan-sausage egg sandwich is the best-selling item.
'The emphasis is on vegetarian and vegan food,' Kushner says. 'We're catering to what the neighborhood is looking for; we're not trying to serve ourselves.'
In addition to sit-down breakfast, Jam offers vegan muffins and cookies, egg sandwiches and coffee to go. It also serves lunch. Dinner is not part of the picture right now, but Kushner is trying to promote Jam as a place for custom private dining; the restaurant has already hosted two private events.
2239 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-234-4790
There's no firm opening date yet, but look for Sungari Pearl, an offshoot of the elegant, downtown Chinese restaurant, to start dishing up braised duck and crispy prawns within a couple of weeks. The new location is at 1105 N.W. Lovejoy St.