You Can Enjoy Food and Soul at This Oregon Restaurant

Delicious cuisine, roots, and a library are on the menu.



Jonathan Jones doesn’t need to moonlight working other jobs to find fulfilling roles that check all the boxes for him. This is because this intrepid chef and co-owner has his hands and heart full running his restaurant in Salem, Oregon. It blends his love for good cuisine, community, and Black authors in an exquisite restaurant venue he has called Epilogue Kitchen and Cocktails

As Jones tells  Northwest Grown, “For the eight to 13 hours, we’re here in this building, this is our home. So, we’re inviting you into our home and like opening up ourselves to try and make connections,” Jones said. “Food is universal. Everyone speaks food.”

The road to foodie heaven!
The Washington Post  recounts how Jones and his wife, now still only in their early thirties, moved to Salem from Wilmington, North Carolina,  in 2014 to pursue their dream of opening their own restaurant. They started with a food truck they called Prologue Pastry, and finally turned it into a brick-and-mortar eatery in 2019.

Today, Epilogue is basking in the culinary spotlight. As Northwest Grown reports, for the second year in a row, Jones has been named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in the Region. 

As its website details, the James Beard Foundation is named after a pioneer foodie fondly known as  the “Dean of American cookery.” This foundation celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture “committed to supporting a resilient and flourishing industry that honors its diverse communities.”

Jones is delighted by but modest about the recent award nomination, "If I'm being honest, I never expect (recognition or awards) because there's always so many people doing amazing things," he told the Statesman Journal, and yet his restaurant’s growing popularity saw it relocate in late 2022 to a new spot, over twice as big, in Oregon’s capital, Salem, while his staff has almost trebled to 21.

Led by its community spirit
But Epilogue is about more than food. Here’s what one Tripadvisor reviewer posted: “Salem is so lucky to have this gem in our community. In addition to the amazing food (I recommend the fried chicken sandwich served on the best biscuit you will ever taste) and the incredibly cute atmosphere, Salem is so fortunate to have a restaurant that cares about the good of the larger community.”

Epilogue’s growth hasn’t always been plain sailing, however. The Washington Post  has covered how local racist groups have targeted Epilogue, one of the few Black-owned restaurants in downtown Salem, and Jones and his wife, with vandalism and organized harassment, on- and offline. Friends and community members stepped up to counter negative social media posts with positive stories, and support the restaurant. “The best way to fight back is to just get louder and be excellent,” Jones believes, as he explains to Northwest Grown.

So this couple has responded with love and giving back. During the recent pandemic, Jones and his wife spent the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday serving up 200 free lunches downtown. “Feeding the community was a huge part of the civil rights movement,” Jones told the Washington Post. 

The restaurant partnered with local radio station, 105.5 the Moon, to broadcast two of King’s most famous speeches, including his “I Have a Dream” speech,  while they handed out free chicken sandwiches and salad.  "We're using Dr. King's words and his voice as sort of a vessel for our ability to feed the community and nourish the community [with information]," Jones said to news streaming app, KGW8

The Statesman Journal shares that Jones has been nominated in the James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest category for chefs who set high culinary standards who “help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions while contributing positively to their broader community."

Dip into the best of Black writing
As Northwest Grown reveals, Jones’s Salem eatery honors his love of books with the restaurant’s library room aiming to connect his community with Black authors: “We have everything from a history of the Civil War, from Sumter to Perryville to really modern, sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi that is just like a celebration of weird, geeky science fiction,” it quotes Jones as saying. 

This “Library of Black Excellence” contains almost 400 examples of the cream of Black fiction and non-fiction books which include autobiography, culture,and of course, cookery.

As Statesman Journal reports, his restaurant’s library,  where customers can select and read books, has also become his pride and joy, and led to broader interest: “It's just wild to be recognized, like last week I was getting the Martin Luther King Junior Courage award (from Willamette University) and then this [the second James Beard award nomination] — it's pretty elevating and euphoric," Jones said. 'What I'm most excited for is that it brings new people into the fold and grows our community, and does all the cool things that 2023 will bring."

This New York City Restaurant Invites Grandmothers to Cook
These Train Passengers Will Eat Out in Style in 2023!
People and Nature Can Share a Home!