Why Jimgermanbar's Jim German Wants You to Head East, Young Men and Women!
It's day two of a four-day stay in Walla Walla for me (all in the name of work). And no trip out to these parts would be complete without a stop in nearby Waitsburg to see Jim German at his namesake cocktail bar, hailed as one of the best in the state.
German spent a long time in Seattle, working at various restaurants, most notably at the now shuttered Campagne, where he managed the bar for 10 years (1991-2001) before being lured to Walla Walla, eventually openign is own place, the Jimgermanbar, in July, 2007 with his wife Claire Johnston.
Jimgermanbar is the cutest, quirkiest, most wonderfully weird spot in the Waitsburg/Walla Walla area. You are literally driving through wheat fields for what seems like an eternity (really, it's only about 20 minutes from Walla Walla) before you stumble upon a tiny town that, upon first glance, looks stuck in time. It's a quaint small town complete with tumbleweeds, a water tower that anchors Main Street, one gas station, a mercantile, and nary a car in sight.
It's easy to spot the Jimgermanbar, however. It's a bright blue beacon of some of the best food and drink in town. And it's where everyone flocks: farmers in their overalls, city slickers, and other locals drawn to the pure sense of community contained in one tiny bar.
For the first time in a long time, German had a little bit of a breather and sat down with me over a few drinks yesterday to indulge me in talk about food and life. What he's passtionate about lately is getting people from out of town—talented, young, hardworking, motivated people—to open a restaurant or other inspired concept in Waitsburg, where the rent is cheap and the pace of life is more snail-like than rat-race.
What do you miss the most about the Seattle food scene?
“I miss the talent. That’s what I miss.”
What's the biggest difference between the Walla Walla and Seattle dining scene?
“I think the dining scene here is very intimate because you’re quite often running into the same people—we all support the core group of things, so we go from one to another. I think it’s very…fraternal in a way here, whereas in Seattle, there’s so much going on; you’re not running into the same diners all the time. I think it’s really almost club-like here. And all those people would support any other thing of quality that came [to Walla Walla or Waitsburg]."
What type of restaurant would you like to see open here?
“I would say an Argentine grill kind of thing, just because it would fit so many things and it would be a really good model here. I feel like something along that line would really sell itself here—mainly Walla Walla—and pizza or barbecue in Waitsburg.”
How often do you get asked to open a cocktail bar in Seattle?
"About every month."
Would you ever do it?