Port Angeles natives plan ‘gastropub’ on First Street

PORT ANGELES — As they open their doors to job seekers tonight, the owners of downtown’s newest restaurant aren’t calling their place a restaurant.

Next Door, a dining and drinking establishment at 113 W. First St., will instead be a “gastropub,” according to co-owner Jacob Oppelt.

This is the word, he said, for a public house serving food that’s one step up from your typical pub fare.

Gastropubs originated in Europe, owing to the term “gastronomy” — the art and science of good eating.

To the 16 people who land cooking, serving or bartending jobs here, possibly after applying for work during the open house today from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., Next Door means opportunity.

Oppelt, 27, along with his sister, Angela Oppelt, 28, are Port Angeles natives with a plan for a place people will come back to again and again for its food, drink and atmosphere.

New look

In the space that used to be Matay Lunch & Lattes, the Oppelts and their kitchen manager, Justin Tognoni, are going for a whole new look.

To begin with, they tore out the low ceiling and put in stylish booths and a long bar.

They hired Jamie Mendenhall, a veteran of the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant and the Cafe Garden, to be their head chef.

And they named the place after one that used to be two doors down.

Next Door, Jacob Oppelt explained, was a clothing store his father, Curt Oppelt, owned — and where he met Jacob and Angela’s mother, Lesa — back in the 1970s.

Homage to parents

So this incarnation of Next Door is “an homage to my parents,” Angela Oppelt said.

Her father, a veteran business man, is the realist in the family and has cautioned his children about this venture.

Her mother, meanwhile, says, “Go for it.”

Angela is the one with a lot of face-to-face experience with customers, gained while working in cafes from Port Angeles to Seattle to Costa Mesa, Calif.

“My brother has more of the business savviness,” she said of Jacob, who owns Liquid Painting, a house painting firm based in Port Angeles.

He also has had experience as a bartender in Las Vegas.

Next Door “is exactly what Port Angeles doesn’t have,” Jacob said.

“We have some very good restaurants, and we have a few bars.

“Our vision is something that meshes in the middle.”

The gastropub will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., offering dishes made with fresh, organic ingredients from local farmers and fishermen, he added.

Its seating capacity will be about 43.

The Oppelts have yet to set the date they’ll open for business.

“I’d love to open just before Labor Day,” which is Sept. 5, Jacob said.

Looking up at Next Door’s high ceiling, he added: “We’ve put in a lot of time and a lot of love.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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