Village Hut shutdown should last only a few more weeks, says owner
Before there were tiny houses, there was the Village Hut, a very small restaurant with a big reputation beyond Multnomah Village.
But the Hut, which hugs a short stretch of SW Capitol Highway on the west side of the intersection with SW Canby, will be shut down for what owner J C. Harris hopes is just a few more weeks. (That's not a typo, there's no period after the J per his request.)
"I hope to have homemade seafood chowder this Friday night. (Feb. 1) As far as operational, it will be some time in February," Harris said.
That's short term. The longer term plan for the Village Hut, he says, is a year-and-a-half plan. "Now that they have the project starting next door (Multnomah Station Apartments), coinciding with their year and a half completion date I want to gently refresh my place, to take advantage of all the food and cuisines I've developed over 13 years. And I want to improve the flow and just the general operation of the building," he said during a break overseeing the construction work being done.
He plans to set his son up in the main restaurant building. "My 19-year-old son will develop the concept around historic bento bowls that we've done over the years.
"My cook station and a fresh outdoor area in the back will be my domain. That's where I'll prepare the higher end plates we're known for - halibut, seared ahi, top sirloin," explained Harris.
"We're also going to get a liquor license to go with the beer and wine permit. We'll serve signature cocktails."
Harris openly shares the inspiration for his improvements, "Oh, Por Que No, no question," he said of the taqueria with locations on Mississippi Ave. and Hawthorne Blvd. "I just love their feel, their concept, how they treat their employees. I might have their margarita on the new menu, but I won't be doing Mexican food."
Harris expects the longer-term improvements to be completed by the time the new apartment complex next door opens. "I've been in a kind of 14-year soft opening. I think I can carry that on for another year and a half. Maybe I'll have a real grand opening in a year and a half.
"This (construction) is kind of a necessary evolution of the place. I bought the property one and a half years ago. I'm not going anywhere. It's nice to have a remnant of yesteryear in Multnomah Village. And if this little piece saves the block from being nothing but condos and apartments, so be it," he said of his triangle of land which includes a main building of 240 square feet and an "annex" for food preparation and dining.
As for relations with his new neighbors, developers of the under-construction, 39-unit Multnomah Station Apartments, "It's going good. Seth, one of the principals with the developer, has mentioned more than once that when they were attending neighborhood meetings, one of the biggest considerations that people asked of them is to make sure they didn't hamper or damage me in my business."
Harris admits, "I'm kind of old school. I kind of like how Portland was. This is the last area in Portland to be noticed and we're no different from any other part of town. I'm looking forward to having a nice building next to me and hopefully it brings life to this end of the Village."
The building that houses the Village Hut was built in 1950. It is believed to have housed professional offices at first, then a hair salon and eventually a business called Lil Bento. That was when Harris spotted the property while driving along Capitol Highway about back in 2004. He was working at the time for an electronics firm and was ready for a change.
Fifteen years later he's ready for more change.
There will be a longer version of this story in the March 1 issue of the SW Community Connection.