Questions for a Restaurateur - Jonathan's

Jonathan's is now closed

From the left: Casey, Caitlin Sause, Pete Demuniz Jr
Casey M Lucas was born in Salem, Oregon in 1974 and spent his childhood growing up in Stayton, Oregon. The youngest of five boys (God bless his mother), Casey graduated from Regis High School in 1993 and continued his education, graduating from Pepperdine University in 1999 with a B.A. in Political Science. After a stint at Willamette University College of Law and two years working for Power Auto Group as a Sales Manager, Casey moved to Palm Desert, California where he owned and operated Casey's Restaurant and Lounge for almost 8 years. In February 2009, Casey took over Jonathan's Oyster Bar and moved the operations to its new location at 136 High Street SE, to what has become Salem's "Restaurant Row."

First food memory:
One of my favorite food memories was when I was in grade school and every Tuesday I would go to my grandmother's house for pan fried chicken, mashed potatoes and coffee cupcakes. Years later I watched grandma make her pan fried chicken and learned her secrets. Not the healthiest by any means!

What are your greatest joys of owning a restaurant?
My greatest joy of owning a restaurant has to be the people I have met over the years. Many of my customers and employees have become lifelong friends and having the opportunity to have a social outlet that a restaurant affords you is pretty special.
Happy crowd in the bar

What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge as with any business is always trying to stay ahead of the curve. There are so many great restaurant ideas out there. Customers love to see consistency, but they also love to see a restaurant always evolving and trying new and exciting things. That is something we have been doing at Jonathan's and I think it's starting to pay off.

Anyone you would like to thank (and why) for helping with your dream of running a restaurant?
I honestly never dreamt I would be running a restaurant in my wildest dreams. Now that I am, I wouldn't change it for anything! If I had to thank anyone it would have to be my step-father, Chuck Morgan, who taught me a great deal in running a bar and giving me the opportunity to prove myself. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him and how happy he would be that I am back in Salem running Jonathan's.
Fresh Alaskan Cod and Crab Marlay

What do you think is missing, as far as the food scene goes, in Salem?
Having listened to many of my parents friends over the years, the restaurants that used to dominate the scene in the 70's and 80's, (The Prime, Colonial House, Night Deposit, Keg & Platter, Inn of Orchard Heights, The Hind Quarter, etc) are no longer here. I think Salem has lost a lot of character in restaurants over the years, but I do believe we are making a comeback. There is an abundance of chain restaurants and although they are good, I tend to support the independent operators who are able to have much more creativity in their dishes and atmosphere.

What do you cook at home that you never cook at the restaurant?
Well, I don't cook at the restaurant, which is a good thing. When I am home though and have the time to cook for myself, one of my favorite dishes is a Chicken Marsala dish (click here for recipe) that my mom taught me back in High School. I've always loved the grill, so a big tri tip or beef tenderloin is always on the top of my list.

What's your favorite kitchen tool?
My favorite kitchen tool is our Robot Coupe. Our commercial food processor. It makes the chore of making sauces and dressings a breeze.

Do you think it's important for local restaurateurs to support each other?
Most definitely! Competition brings out the best in all of us and with the growing number of restaurants springing up downtown it's only going to benefit us downtown business' as a whole.

Any advice for someone who's thinking about starting their own business?
Don't! LOL The greatest feeling in the world is being your own boss and creating something that hopefully the greater public appreciates. Make sure to have a business model and plenty of money to burn the first two years. Be willing to deviate from your business model, because what you think is going to work, doesn't always happen that way. Always be willing to evolve and grow and be mindful of what it is your customer base wants. You're not going to win over everyone and nor do you want to. Be unique in what you do and success will follow.


Anonymous said...

Sooo...which one is Casey [assume he is not the (ahem) rather busty person in the middle?]

Salem Man said...

Bringing Jonathan's back to life was huge! It brings a lot of character to the downtown. Thank's Casey.

Oregon Maiden said...

Thanks for adding the names---those two guys look remarkably alike.Here's a Q for Casey: I have not visited Jonathan's since the reopening/relocation primarily because my understanding is that the current menu closely resembles the "old" menu (of which I was not a fan).If indeed you have updated the offerings, I would be thrilled.

Casey M Lucas said...

The lunch and dinner menu have the same flair as the "old" menu, but we have a tremendous small bites menu available in the bar. We also run specials that are definitely unlike our regular menu. Saturday night we ran a fresh Alaskan Cod and Crab Marnay. You should at least pop in to say hi. You might find yourself liking what we have done. :-)


Casey M Lucas said...

Thanks Salem Man. :-)

gstatty said...

I love the small bites menu, especially during happy hour. I can order 2 or 3 things and a drink and not feel bad about the bill. My personal favorite small bite is the bacon wrapped scallops with truffle oil.

Beka said...

Mmm. I love the new small bites menu too. Love the fish tacos! They aren't your typical fish tacos, so don't go expecting that, they are more like fish fajitas or something. But delicious just the same!

gstatty said...

I'm at Jonathan's right now and I just had the shrimp fritters and man those things were fried to perfection and had the best kick of spice, yum!