1927 S'mores will take over Chizu's downtown Portland space in mid-July.

Image: @WeRomantics

Bittersweet breaking news: Chizu, Steve Jones’ sushi-style cheese counter experiment—which PoMo named one of 2015’s Best New Restaurants—will close Sunday, June 2. “It sucks,” admits Jones. “We had really good luck when people got in the door but getting them in the door [did] not prove that easy.”

The silver, err, chocolate lining of the closure? The cheesemonger has handpicked his super-sweet replacement: fancy s’mores cart and caterer 1927 S’mores. The gooey treat-maker, which has been hand-torching wildly flavored s’mores on sidewalks, at festivals, and for catering events around town since 2015, plans to open its first permanent home in the Chizu space at 1126 SW Alder St. in mid-July.

“We are officially going in next to [Multnomah] Whiskey Library, my mind is blown,” says 1927 cofounder James Kelly, who shares the s’mores biz with his wife and 1927 recipe master Elise. “And it’s the first s’mores shop in the Northwest. It’s gonna be so good.” 

The clever brainchild of a pair of service/food industry vets—Elise was a server at Renata; James worked for Starbucks—1927 started with a desire to engineer a better s’mores, with each element now made at 1927's outer east-side commercial kitchen.

Elise built a sturdier base from a cross between a buttery shortbread cookie and a traditional graham cracker. James demanded a better shaped marshmallow (1927s are square and infused with everything from Smith Teamaker chamomile to Water Avenue coffee). And the pair kicked hard chocolate to the curb in favor of dribbles of bittersweet fudge, salted caramel sauce, or even lemon curd. Then everything gets torched to order with the kind of flourish one expects of a bartender pouring a Spanish coffee. The end result is often overwhelming and fun—purists will quibble that these are not the s’mores of childhood campfires of yore, but they’re a sweet, sticky-fingered riff all the same.

1927 S'mores owners James and Elise Kelly in front of their new downtown digs. They have Chizu owner Steve Jones' blessing to take the space.

Today, the biz boasts a cart at the Moda Center for Blazers games, catering gigs at Nike, and DIY s’mores kits stocked at REI outposts nationwide every holiday season. Now, the Kellys are partnering with mega-successful restaurant group ChefStable (Lardo, Loyal Legion, St. Jack) for the brick and mortar, the next step in a Salt & Straw-like plan to dominate local tastebuds. 

Come mid-July, expect a walk-up s’mores counter flaunting 8–10 flavors, from classics like bourbon salted caramel or Moose Trackers (peanut butter on cocoa grahams) to rotating specials like an “Old Fashioned” s’mores that tops a honey graham with a dark cherry and bitters marshmallow as well as burnt orange-whisky caramel sauce. All, of course, torched to order. “It’s a bit of a show. It’s our version of pizza shop [guy] tossing dough in the air,” says James with a laugh.

Also on offer, s’mores parfaits layers with crumbled grahams, chocolate mousse, and marshmallow fluff and a lineup of fancy hot cocoas topped with those bubbly, charred mallows. Plans for boozy s’mores flavors and even savory stacks are in the works too. And maybe a maple-bacon s’mores. (You can’t live here and not do a maple-bacon,” James confirms.)

1927 S'mores torches some treats.

1927 is actually named for the year that the Girl Scouts first published the recipe for s’mores in its newsletter. Appropriately, the theme for the new space is cozy, “log cabin in the city,” complete with brown and yellow US Forest Service-inspired menu boards, a “Hike of the Week,” and Chizu’s old loft tricked out to look like the tree house from The Sandlot. This is all pure, unapologetic, nostalgia-bait James confirms. “Have you ever been to Disneyland? If there was s’mores shop in Frontierland, this would be it,” he says. “Because what we’re really selling is [a] feeling.”

Tentative hours are noon–10 p.m. weekdays, with plans to stay open late on Friday and Saturday nights to accommodate the Tasty n’ Alder and Whiskey Library crowds. “We’ll always be family friendly, but we’ll turn up the ’90s R&B for weekend late nights,” says James.

And as for Chizu? Don’t say goodbye just yet. Jones’ confirms that the restaurant “is not all the way dead, it’s just morphing.” Expect it resurrected as a pop-up later this summer, with cheese dates firming up at local breweries and wineries. And, of course, Cheese Bar, Jones’ super-popular fromage haunt, is still going strong in Southeast Portland. (Psst: If you want to DIY Jones’ magic, his book Cheese Beer Wine Cider: A Field Guide to 75 Perfect Pairings, came out this past spring. Check it out.)

May we suggest a cheese-and-chocolate s’mores collaboration someday soon?

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