Nancy and Jimella return to restaurateuring

Lucas and Main await you in their new dining room.

KLIPSAN - People pining for the fine-dining days at The Ark Restaurant have a treat in store at Jimella's Market Café.

Nanci Main and Jimella Lucas, owners of The Ark for more than 20 years, have slowly been transforming the building they bought two years ago into a small version of the beloved restaurant. "We're easing into it gradually," Main said. "Word of mouth in a small community is more effective than a truck with a loudspeaker driving through town. And it helps people get used to a new menu that's different from The Ark."

The business combines a fish-market, deli and fine food store and the bistro-style restaurant is now open for dinners Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Limited reservations will be available for dinners. Jimella's is also open for lunch Wednesday through Saturday and is closed Monday and Tuesday. Sunday is soup day with chowder or soup, bread and dessert.

Why "Jimella's," not "Nanci and Jimella's"? Main said the name would have been too long.

Meals at the restaurant will focus on the local - from seafood to organic greens, Main said. Even the eggs are laid about four blocks away from the restaurant. Lucas and Main were recognized years ago as pioneers of Northwest cuisine and received a state award for their recycling program before the Ark was sold. "We still recycle everything," Main said.

Main and Lucas will do pretty much what they did at The Ark - Lucas will be preparing entrees and Main responsible for desserts and homemade breads. "It's nice to be cooking again," Lucas said.

On a recent evening, tables filled up fast after locals heard about the new dinner hours. Retired state Sen. Sid Snyder and his wife, Bette, were there with friends. "It's our first dinner here, we're thrilled," Snyder said. And a couple who said they escape to the beach every time they can, Mary and Richard Lemke, grabbed a seat as the sun set and the subdued lighting and candlelight took over. "The dining room comes alive at night," Main said. "Already people who recognize each other are combining tables. They all say it's exactly the feel of the lounge at The Ark - cozy, intimate and friendly."

The decor is perfect for comfy, informal dining with terracotta and sage walls, tablecloths in the colors of Provence and signs and keepsakes from The Ark. "Thank you for buying local, we'll pay it forward" reads a sign above the door. And a sign from The Ark - "We wish you good times and delicious memories."

Art by locals adorns the walls and soap from Harmony Soapworks in Oysterville is for sale. "We love to carry local products," Main said. "There are stories behind everything in the shop. We wanted a place where people can meet and talk, a place for conversation. People love to tell stories. It's like a European cafe'."

Warren Ani of Ocean Park Boholuxe Interiors designed the interior. The new sign outside is by Randy Brown, also of Ocean Park, an "amazing artist," Main said.

Even some of The Ark's employees are working at Jimella's. Tony Ward is market assistant and server. "He does it all," Main said. "He serves, he sells fish. He's becoming our restaurant renaissance man." And, Alex Cavala, who cooked at The Ark for four years. "He knows how to cook our menu," Main said. "We're really lucky. People have been begging for Ark food. We're going back to our roots.

"We're starting small and paying attention to what people want," Main said. "We have special things for special people and our old friends from the Ark. We decided we could make it work with eight tables and not the 120 seatings we had at The Ark. It's not so consuming and I can talk to people. It's really nice." She said people have come in who ate at the Shelburne in Seaview where they started out 29 years ago. "It's so great," she said. "The rhythms and the stories, it's a continuity. We send people to other restaurants on the Peninsula. It's a community, especially with regard to our fellow restaurateurs. Cooperation is so important. It's the key to success in a small community. We all work together."

Jimella's Market Cafe' is at 21712 Pacific Way and the phone is 665-4847.

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