“From day one, we wanted to be both a bar and a pub,” says Aaron Barnett, the executive chef of NW 23rd’s St. Jack and SE Clinton’s La Moule, but after opening a year ago as a mussels and frites bar, La Moule has become more of a mussels and frites restaurant. The ambitious Belgian beer program has taken a backseat to seasonal cocktails from bar-star and co-owner Tommy Klus, and the menu, which started out as a hit list of European classics, now has more experimental dishes.
“People treat La Moule like they want to,” Klus tells Eater. He says the bar still has the sexy, sleek vibe that earned it the 2015 Eater Stone Cold Stunner award, but the other half of the restaurant has become a dinner spot, especially for those who like to linger over European dishes.
“La Moule’s a cool scene of chefs and musicians, but it’s also for grandpa,” says Barnett. “It’s a place where grandpa can hangout, too.”
Barnett has recently brought Elise Walker in from St. Jack to serve as La Moule chef de cuisine, and together, they’re working with more seafood and seasonal specials — things like live arctic surf clam, hamachi crudo, and a mammoth lobster BLT for $37. La Moule’s Cobb salad now comes with Dungeness crab, and the restaurant’s making more handmade pastas in-house, too.
Last month, La Moule started taking reservations through its website, and in the future, prepare for extended daytime hours for a more European model. That way, families can come in for a meal, while late-night spirit geeks can come in at 11 p.m. and still get a traditional absinthe service.
“Clinton Street is more grown up than when we first opened St. Jack here in 2010,” says Barnett. “You now find skateboards and BMWs. But so many people are still surprised to learn Clinton even exists.” At least in some cases, the more Portland changes, the more things stay the same.