Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Jack's Restaurant in Orcutt gets new owners
BY SHELLY CONE
Can a restaurant be the happy ending to a love story? As the new owners of Jack’s Restaurant celebrated with a recent ribbon cutting surrounded by friends, family, and fellow merchants it certainly seemed so.
It was a passion for food and service that brought owners Chris and Terri Salazar together, and as they celebrated their latest labor of love, they acknowledged that labor hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a little hectic but like everything we’ve experienced in the restaurant business, everything falls into place,” Chris said.
Part of that is because of the incredible support the Salazars have received from friends, their extended families, and the community. The rest comes from their experience and extensive restaurant knowledge.
The Salazars have a long history in the restaurant business. In fact, it was the restaurant business that brought them together in the first place. The couple tells their story with that timing found in people used to being in sync with one other.
“We met working at Shaw’s years ago,” Terri said.
“I was just out of culinary school; I was working for Milt Guggia who owns Shaw’s, and he gave me a kitchen manager job. She was a server there, and the rest is pretty much history,” Chris said.
“Now we’re married,” Terri added.
The couple has three kids, four grandkids, and a brand new restaurant to baby. Their meeting may have been fate, but the restaurant has been part of the plan for years.
“This has always been on the back burner, so when the opportunity came up we jumped on it,” Chris said.
The decision wasn’t a hasty one, though. The couple knew they wanted something that was special both to the community as well as to themselves.
“It was the right little place. We’ve looked at other restaurants to buy, and this just seemed like the right fit for us,” Terri said.
Re-creating the beloved Jack’s Restaurant in Old Orcutt into something that doesn’t deviate too far from what the community has grown to love but, at the same time, reflects their unique style hasn’t been easy, but so far it’s been a smooth transition, Chris said.
He’s sensitive to the fact that the restaurant has a menu that’s pleased the community for years. So they’re keeping much of it, but they’ve added some special changes as well.
Chris said they’ve also extended hours to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. “A lot of places in Orcutt aren’t [open those hours], so we want to be the place everyone knows they can go to any time of the day,” he said.
They still have fresh pies available in the cooler or to be custom-ordered, made by the same woman who’s prepared them for 25 years. The homestyle dinners on which Jack’s built its reputation are also sticking around—meatloaf, roast beef, and turkey—but Salazar added barbecue, which he calls his passion, to the list. The burgers, chicken sandwiches, steaks, ribs, and seafood all spend time on the grill.
When it comes to barbecue though, Santa Maria Valley residents won’t see anything unfamiliar. “I’m classic Santa Maria-style. That’s what I was raised on, that’s what I learned, and that’s what I love,” he said. “I try to keep true to that”
The couple’s parents helped at the ribbon cutting, greeting friends and encouraging people to try out the linguisa (from Cattaneo Brothers in San Luis Obispo) and the tri-tip sliders with Salazar’s special 805 beer-braised caramelized onions.
“Oh, we’re so proud of them,” Chris’ mom Janyce said, adding that owning a restaurant was a lifelong dream of her son’s.
He started out as a dishwasher at the now defunct Central City Broiler, then he moved on to prep cook and eventually became a busser, a job he didn’t like because he wanted to be back in the kitchen, Janyce said.
After that, he went to the Cordon Bleu culinary School in Pasadena, dad Jerry said. “And it was worthwhile,” he added with a smile.
In addition to Shaw’s where he and his wife met, Chris’ early career included work at Pea Soup Andersons, Brad’s in Pismo Beach, and as kitchen manager at Kay’s Country Kitchen. Terri was most recently house manager at The Swiss.
Chris will man the back of the house, working in the kitchen putting out old favorites alongside the new, while Terri mans the front of the house, making sure the atmosphere, décor, and hospitality is as homey and welcoming as ever.
As Chris’ parents watched their son and his wife bustle about the restaurant, they acknowledged that taking over Jack’s was a grand undertaking.
“It’s a lot of hard work but they can do it,” Jerry said.
Shelly Cone is licking her lips for linguisa. Contact her via the interim editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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