“You always see wine and cheese together, but I’ve always thought beer was better for pairing,” says Steve Jones, who enjoyed an extensive career in curd-centric foodservice—as a monger, importer, and more—before opening Cheese Bar in 2010. It’s no surprise, then, that the Portland shop and restaurant offers six rotating taps and a bottle list of more than 100 beers, wines, and ciders to accompany the 250-plus domestic and international cheeses available at the counter.
Suds also pair beautifully with Cheese Bar’s elevated pub fare. “The menu here is definitely cheese-focused, but it’s not all cheesy,” Jones says. “We don’t do nachos, we don’t do pizza—it’s more sophisticated and balanced.” Hungry for more? His culinary creativity is also on display at Chizu, the sushi bar–inspired eatery Jones opened downtown in 2015.
culture: What’s a favorite cheese and drink pairing?
Steve Jones: pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, Ore., makes gose, a style of beer with a bit of salt in it. That’s an amazing match with Goat Lady Dairy Providence.
culture: Any strange requests from customers?
SJ: Everybody’s always interested in that Italian maggot cheese [casu marzu]. I don’t know why you would want to eat cheese with maggots—I haven’t and I won’t. People are always looking for a weird, shocking cheese.
culture: What’s your desert-island cheese?
SJ: Part of being a cheesemonger is being agile and not getting stuck in a rut. People ask me this question all the time and the answer depends on my mood. If backed into a corner: a mountain cheese of some sort.
culture: What was the inspiration behind Chizu, your sushi-style cheese restaurant?
SJ: About two years back, I was eating sushi with my family, popping a piece of fish into my mouth, and I had that “a-ha” moment—this could be cheese. Sometimes people at the [Cheese Bar] counter don’t know how to ask for what they want when they see 200 cheeses. I wanted to give people a way to drop their armor and try small bites of cheese.
Tue.–Sun. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Feature Photo Credit: Burton Cousteau