New chef, boozy ice cream, block party: What’s new at JJ’s

July 20, 2020

This paid piece is sponsored by JJ’s Wine, Spirits & Cigars.

There’s a new chef debuting a new menu, ice cream unlike anything you’ve tried before and a perfect way to safely celebrate all that’s new at JJ’s coming up this week.

The BridgeView Block Party will be a three-day event packed with fun activities, events and ways to sample what’s new at JJ’s Wine, Spirits & Cigars along with JJ’s Axes & Ales.

“The idea is to give people some steps toward normalcy while still being cautious and celebrating everything that’s new and improved here,” JJ’s owner Tom Slattery said.

New chef introduces enhanced menu

One of those new additions is a new face – chef Kaleb Blue – who joined the JJ’s team and will begin debuting parts of a new menu this week for the 3.0 Cocktail Lounge.

He grew up in Vermillion but also spent time in Buffalo, N.Y., and San Diego in his childhood. His mom inspired him to cook by exposing him to a variety of foods from around the world.

“It varied from chicken bibimbap to Russian borscht soup,” he said. “ My mother was my inspiration for taking steps to furthering my culinary career. When I was older and actually had developed a palate for things other than hot dogs and chicken strips, I always told my mother that she should start her own restaurant. She never did, but she continues to cook meals for the rest of our family and even for holidays.”

Blue, though, has been immersed in the food industry since going through the culinary arts program at Western Iowa Tech. He has worked his way up from a high school job at McDonald’s to kitchen manager at Dakota Brick House in Vermillion.

He moved to Sioux Falls and spent a few months at Leonardo’s Cafe at the Washington Pavilion, learning from chef Jason Chick before training under chef John Gilbertson for two years at Grand Living’s upscale dining venues.

“I would say the thought of creating food for people in the specific environment they have at JJ’s is what got me most excited,” he said.

“I really wanted to take bigger steps and climb higher than I had been, so it was really just perfect how it worked out like this. I’m probably most excited about putting my ideas out there and seeing just what can be achieved. I also really like being a part of something that I actually have my own creative design on. It makes me want to do better and better because there’s so much responsibility with it, so I just can’t disappoint; I won’t let myself.”

Slattery said Blue’s enthusiasm for the job helped him earn it.

“He thought it looked like a really good opportunity for him to exercise his culinary education, and I got very high praise and recommendation from his employer, John Gilbertson, who people know in the food scene in Sioux Falls, and he’s already come to the table with a lot of great ideas.”

Blue spent days brainstorming ideas for the menu before he even started the job.

“I wanted to make sure there were options for our dining guests that weren’t similar but also not that different from the theme we’re trying to shoot for. I really wanted to take it to the next level, and no recipe I thought of was simple,” he said.

“We also as a team want to put some JJ’s special foods out there that you really wouldn’t find anywhere else, but we haven’t decided on what yet. I know for a fact I want to put more seafood options on our menu in the future. As a team, we all love our smoked meats, so we definitely plan on adding more items like that. The menu is going to evolve a lot in the future, but we have to start somewhere. Where it will go I’m not sure, but we definitely have our goals set high.”

The menu will feature signature sharable dishes, along with JJ’s flatbreads and dips, and it will be available for a lunch crowd beginning at noon Wednesday through Saturday, served until 8 p.m.

Here’s a look at some of the dishes that will begin this week:

Keep cool, JJ’s-style

If you love The Boozy Bakery, you’ll definitely need to stop into JJ’s soon because there has never been a better time to try Jean Slattery and team’s newest creation.

Boozy ice cream is available Wednesday through Saturday while it lasts in the freezer, to go or to take with you and eat in the lounge or outside.

Half-pint containers are $4.99 in flavors including lemon bar, M&M cookie dough, 3.0 Old Fashioned, Bailey’s caramel brownie, chocolate Stuff’t Stout with Oreos and chocolate Stuff’t Stout with chocolate-covered pretzels.

“Ice cream has been something Jean and I have wanted to do since we opened but just haven’t had the time to put into it,” Slattery said. “We got a new commercial ice cream maker to do some test batches, and as we progress we’ll invest into more sophisticated equipment, but we think this will be a strong staple for The Boozy Bakery.”

Event rundown

The BridgeView Block Party is the perfect chance to try everything and visit the newly opened JJ’s Axes & Ales, located just across the parking lot from JJ’s.

Check the event page on Facebook for updates and information.

Here are some of the activities planned:

July 23: Blood drive and open house at JJ’s Axes & Ales. There will be two bloodmobiles set up in the parking lot starting at 10 a.m. Register here to secure a spot.

Everyone who donates blood will get $3 off any beverage at the 3.0 Cocktail Bar and 10 free throws at Axes & Ales during the open house from 6 to 9 p.m. Hit a bull’s-eye and you’ll be entered to win a $250 JJ’s gift card. Make a $10 donation to the Teddy Bear Den, and get another 10 throws and more chances to win.

July 24: Axes & Ales opens at noon with $20 for 20 throws — after some coaching — for walk-in players. Half of the fee will be donated to the Teddy Bear Den until 9 p.m. Visit jjsaxes.com to learn more. The price per hour is $25 or $125 for a group of six. Live music will start in the parking lot at 3 p.m. with Micah Wetzel, followed by Hailey Steele from 6 to 9 p.m. A single-barrel whiskey tasting and barbecue smorgasbord will be available from 6 to 8 p.m. for $15 along with the new shareables menu.

July 25: Don’t miss the Scottish heavy backyard games featuring kilted participants from South Dakota Highland Athletes competing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the vacant back lot at JJ’s. At 4 p.m., there will be a scotch and Irish whiskey tasting in the parking lot until 6 p.m. with 20 different whiskeys from the Isles for only $20, with half the proceeds benefiting Levitt at the Falls. Live music starts at 2 p.m. with Elizabeth Hunstad, followed by The Jagged Annies at 5 p.m.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people and think we have a great lineup of food, beverages, entertainment and ways to give back,” Slattery said.

JJ’s is hiring! Full- and part-time positions are available for bartenders, cocktail servers, retail clerks and event staff. See general manager Zac Johnson for an application or email jobs@jjswine.com.

JJ’s Axes & Ales opens in new location

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New chef, boozy ice cream, block party: What’s new at JJ’s

A new chef, an expanded menu, boozy ice cream and the return of ax-throwing: Just some of the reasons to stop in and celebrate this week at JJ’s.

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