According to his bio, “Steve Jones is a cheesemonger, educator, and cheese ambassador.” And that’s just the bloomy, beer-washed rind of the story. Since 2007, Jones has been sniffing out, sharing, and proselytizing cheese finds: the great little American farmhouse beauties, the insider artisan wheels, and the best of the Northwest’s emerging scene.
Jones’s Cheese Bar on Southeast Belmont is one the country’s best—super intimate and stocked deep with his artisan obsessions. If anything is interesting in Portland’s food world, charcuterie to chocolates, you’ll find it at Cheese Bar.
Can he take it to the next level? We’ll find out on March 16, when Jones launches Chizu, an intriguing new experiment at 1126 SW Alder St: a sushi-like experience, but with cheese instead of seafood. Eat Beat sat down with Jones for an early look inside the space next to the Multnomah Whiskey Library downtown. Here’s what you need to know:
Ordering, the Chizu Way: Diners will perch around an 11-seat counter set with glass boxes holding the day’s chizu (Japanese for “cheese.”). There’s one table only, what Jones calls “Portland’s most intimate seven-top.” You’ll be handed a menu with 30 options ($4-5 each), listed from light to heavy, fresh goat to aged sheep, concluding with fine blues. Check off whatever sounds good from a “scorecard” list or get in the spirit and order the omakase or “chef’s choice.” In short: name your price, and Jones and his merry band of cheese obsessives will create a dream plate to match. Selections will arrive on walnut slabs with condiments from the house selection, perhaps ginger pickles, wasabi hazelnuts or chutney. If your stomach is still rumbling, a few meat or fish boards will also be available.
Three Cheeses Not to Miss: The kick-off menu is stacked with finds, surprises and yardstick cheeses.
- Le Puits d’Astier, a French sheep wonder from star cheese monger Rodolphe Le Meunier
- Cascadia Creamery’s Logsdon Sawtooth, a small-batch, beer-washed, raw artisan cheese from Washington.
- Briar Rose Hazel from Oregon’s fast-rising cheese makers.
What to Drink: A small selection geared towards cheese pairings. Right now, expect a handful of beers, Japanese ginger beer to Belgians (“great with cheese,” says Jones), eight to ten wines by the glass including a Riesling from up-and-comer Jasper Sisco, and a couple of carefully curated sakes and ciders, like Cider Riot’s Burncider, which Jones deems the best in Portland’s hot cider scene.
1126 SW Alder St.
Opening Hours: Sun-Wed, 3 - 10pm
Thurs-Sat, 3 - 11pm