Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the “Best of Bainbridge” special section. The Readers Choice Awards publication was included in the Aug. 26 edition of the Bainbridge Review.
Working 80 or even 90 hours a week with your mother standing over one shoulder and your wife over the other may not sound to many men like a recipe for success.
But for Jake Angel, the titular Jake behind the “gourmet fast food” spot Jake’s Pickup, it’s yielded an award-winning product. Indeed, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You’re going to have a zillion friends in and out of your life from the time you’re a baby until the time you die,” he said. “But if you have good family, and you can kind of keep that family in your little circle, then those should be your best friends.”
And he’s not just talking about relatives either.
Angel makes it a point to treat his customers like family. Employees, too. After all, they work in the same kitchen as he, his wife and his mother, and that also is a philosophy that has earned him a lot of respect.
Jake’s Pickup claimed three top spots in this year’s Best of Bainbridge poll, as nominated and voted for by islanders. They won “Best Boss,” “Best Caterers” and “Best Vegetarian Fare,” and were also finalists in several other categories. Having only just opened in 2014– and serving locally-sourced artisan comfort food from within the incongruous venue of the High School Road Chevron Station – Angel said the restaurant’s quickly rising acclaim has surprised even himself.
“It feels like a big fat hug,” he said. “We work so hard, and to get acknowledgment like that makes every ounce of effort worth it.”
The “Best Boss” nod was an especially touching surprise, as Jake’s only employees about a dozen staffers – mostly high school kids.
“Half my employees didn’t even vote for this,” Angel laughed.
As nearly 30 votes were cast to earn Angel the award, you don’t have to be in the kitchen, it would seem, to value the man’s style.
“So many people come in here and watch me orchestrate all these high school kids and say, ‘Wow, you’re doing such a good job,’” Angel said.
“People always commend us on our staff because they’re such good kids,” agreed his wife and business partner Kristi. “He runs a tight ship, so we only hire the good ones.”
Angel said past experience with good teachers and bad bosses alike left him with a clear idea of the kind of mentor he wanted to be.
“When I was in high school the cool teachers were my idols,” he said. “It was like, ‘I want to be a high school teacher.’ I like that. Fast forward, I didn’t want to be a high school teacher but here I am – I’m a high school teacher, but doing something I totally dig and it’s not geography or geology it’s ‘cookology.’
“I’ve worked under so many Gordon Ramseys,” he added, referencing the infamously hot headed gourmet whose very name has become a kind of culinary shorthand for tyrant. “You wanted to work in their kitchen so bad you didn’t care what they did. You just wanted to learn their stuff and get respect from them – which you may not ever have gotten. It taught me how to be really good in the kitchen but it also taught me what I didn’t want to be in a boss.”
Thus the Jake’s model: Angel leads his teenage troop in the kitchen with his characteristic soft-spoken enthusiasm, assisted and inspired by his mother Barbara.
“She has led the brigade of my culinary career without question,” Angel said. “Everything I do is to either one-up mom or to show her I can do it or to make her proud. If I can run 70 percent of this as quickly as she can when I grow up, I’m all set. She’s insane.”
Barbara insists, however, that she’s just support staff.
“It’s all him,” she said. “Anything I could do, he takes it up a notch and does better.”
Kristi works the front of the house, manages the catering business, and is also an artist (her handiwork adorns the restaurant’s signs and menus).
“No one’s ever dissatisfied,” Kristi said. “He’s putting out food that should be served at a fancy bistro cafe.”
The fare reflect’s Angel’s life on a plate: He spent 14 years as a chef and caterer on Orcas Island before opening Jake’s. He was head chef at The Orcas Hotel and at the renowned Christina’s Food and Wine, so he’s no stranger to fine dining.
The dining at Jake’s though is fine minus the frills.
Breakfast options include frittatas made with local organic eggs ($7-$9), an egg sandwich ($7.50) and Saturday’s special: awe-inspiring jumbo cinnamon rolls ($4.75). For lunch, popular choices are the “Memphis style” BBQ pulled pork sandwich ($9), shrimp or cod Po-boy ($11), the beef/pork/bacon Tri-Power Burger ($9) and Mom’s Tuna Salad on rye ($9.50), among others.
And, of course, there are Sconenuts. Angel’s own creation: a scone made from doughnut dough. Not to be missed.
Jake’s is a name on the rise. The restaurant is set to add additional seating soon, Angel hopes to partner with the the Hungry Bear Market owners and have products for sale in other locations as well, and the weekly island-based gear head get together Cars & Coffee recently relocated their Thursday morning chats to the Chevron station after talking with Angel, a well-known car guy himself.
“I want Jake’s Pickup to be a reality show,” Angel said. “This is a trip, when people come in here – the blending of white collar, blue collar – all over food.
“When my grandpa died, he didn’t have any money but he had so much respect that it was beyond ridiculous,” he added. “You can’t take your money with you when you go, but you can take respect. I want to treat people the way he treated people.”
Jake’s Pickup (406 High School Road NE) is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and can also be found at the downtown Winslow Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. Visit www.jakespickup.com or call 206-842-5595 to learn more.