Friday, January 20, 2012

New on-water restaurant opens Sunday

Jake's Place, at Halesford Harbour in Moneta, will offer casual dining fare at family friendly prices.

Jake's Place, a new Caribbean-themed restaurant that will operate in the former Harrison's and Camper's Paradise restaurant building at Halesford Harbour, is slated to open for dinner on Sunday, Jan. 22.

Training for kitchen and hospitality staff has been ongoing over the past two weeks, with servers meeting to become versed in food safety and food allergies, staff sanitation and hygiene, work flow, customer care and the Jake's Place menu of casual-dining dishes.

Menu items include mango mahi-mahi ($18.99), a tropical salad ($8.99), coconut shrimp ($15.99), chicken jambalaya ($15.99), Jake's burger ($8.99) and jerk chicken ($15.99).

Kitchen staff, led by former Chicago Chef Karl Cureton of Rocky Mount and sous chef Jay Ouellette, formerly of Casa D'Amici in Moneta, also spent several days working through menu-item preparation and kitchen work flow.

Jake's Place will be managed by Michael Gordon, 36, son of restaurant owners Tom and Lynn Gordon, who also own and operate Blackwater Cafe. The Gordons' other son, John, 33, general manager of the Blackwater Cafe, is an advisor to the new operation. Their daughter, Susan Saxon, will be working in the restaurant office.

"We're really excited to be opening as scheduled," Tom Gordon said.

The restaurant is located at Halesford Harbour, formerly known as Sunset Cay and Camper's Paradise, off Virginia 122 in Moneta. The site has been vacant since 2009 when the marina's former owners filed for bankruptcy, leaving the lake with one fewer by-boat eatery.

"Nearly 200 lake-area people, many who are regulars at the Blackwater Cafe, attended the three open houses we held earlier this month to elaborate on our plans for Jake's Place, and the support was overwhelmingly encouraging," Gordon said. "People are eager for a waterfront place where they can get really great food at family prices. Jake's Place will fill that need."

Halesford Harbour has set aside 20 transient slips in close proximity to the restaurant's lakeside entrance. There will be seating for 40 on the umbrella deck, 30 on the covered porch, 118 in the remodeled dining room and 41 at the bar, which will be tended by laker Dave Krumm.

"Opening in the off-season lets us take it slow and get everything fine-tuned before the summer rush begins," said Gordon.

Jake's Place has hired about 25 servers to cover off-season hours of 4 p.m. until closing Thursday through Monday. Summer-season hours will be extended to include breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

"It'll take a staff of at least 75 to cover our in-season hours," Gordon said.

Hiring of additional staff will occur at a job fair in early April, he said.

"We're hiring people who really want to work here," Gordon said. "We provide the training necessary for a motivated person to excel."

Included in the restaurant's island-themed decor are posters featuring the restaurant's mascot and namesake Jake, the Gordon's yellow Lab, garbed in island shirt and sunglasses. Tentative plans call for Jake to be on hand to meet patrons on Monday evenings in the near future.

"That'll be just part of the family fun atmosphere we want the restaurant to offer," Gordon said.

Servers will be decked out in tropical-hued T-shirts and, weather permitting, shorts. Recorded island music will play over the speakers, with live entertainment on the deck on special occasions.

Jake's Place, Halesford Harbour, 1041 Harbour Inn Lane, Moneta. 297-4732.