1022 South J heads into summer with a new menu and party

By Ron Swarner on June 9, 2014

Even if you didn't grow up with it, Southern food is comfort food: big, satisfying flavors that are the antithesis of delicate and calculated haute cuisine. Most attempts to refine it are unsatisfying. It's generally best if the chef just gets out of the way and lets the flavors express themselves.

That's why I was interested to hear about Chef Riley Morgan's summer menu at 1022 South J on Hilltop Tacoma. The Southern-raised Morgan has created a Northwest meets Southeast menu, adding a Northwest touch to deviled eggs, pulled pork, collard greens, grits and other Southern staples. He's taking Southern flavors and airing them out for summer.

"There's a big Spanish and French influence on the East Coast and Asian influence on the West Coast, and I want to meld those influences in the new, light menu," says Morgan. "Expect a lot of smoked items and touches of Mexican spices, too."

Morgan will offer barbecue with mole instead of barbecue sauce, avocado tartar with mango, vegetarian sandwiches, shrimp and grits, Carolina Gold scallops and collard greens, and cold dishes.

He mentioned incorporating local, seasonal organic products several times during our conversation Sunday.

"I'm going to take advantage of summer fruits, creating cold soups and mango gazpacho," Morgan added. "The whole menu is my memories of summer, growing up in the South and now living here. A combination of the two climates and culture."

He created the menu while sitting on the 1022 South J patio, sipping on his newly created smokey mojito. The 1022's new kitchen won't be completed until the beginning of September.

"I'm looking forward to bouncing ideas off someone else and collaborating on menus," he says, referring to the one-person size of 1022's current kitchen. The new kitchen will be seven times larger, with a full range, grill, fryer and prep area.

"The new menu is amazing," adds 1022 South J Manager Rose Peterson. "We have the perfect deck for it, too. We open at 4 p.m., just when the sun dips behind our roof. It stays warm, but no one sweats into his or her food. It's the perfect summer chill."

New cocktails will be added in conjunction with the summer menu. Gone are the hot drinks, replaced with patio drinks, including whatever Morgan calls his new mojito, with mint leaves he grew, smoked infused rum, lime zest poured over smoked ice into a smoked glass. Smojito?

The new menu will debut toward the end of next week.

The 1022 South J will send off its spring menu in style, hosting its one-year anniversary party Sunday, June 16. Launching at 4 p.m., happy hour prices will remain until close, plus food and drink specials.

I, for one, can't wait to taste Morgan's ideas about how to modernize and present Southern flavors, taking down-home upscale if you will.

1022 SOUTH J, 4 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday-Sunday, 1022 South J St., Tacoma, 253.627.8588

>>> Smojito?