COURTESY OF JASON JACKSON
Jason Jackson moved to St. Louis from Atlanta in 2018 and has already developed a big following.
A new restaurant plans to open this summer in the Wash Ave spot that previously held Hiro Asian Kitchen (1405 Washington Avenue
). Chef Jason Jackson says his concept, Kitchen 4AM, will offer gourmet dishes, lounge-like vibe and late-night hours.
But don't expect the kitchen to say open until 4 a.m. Jackson says the restaurant's name refers to how early in the morning he begins marinades and other prep work. He intends to keep serving until 2 a.m. — which, as he notes, is significantly later than most spots downtown.
"It's very hard to find a place where the kitchen is open that late, especially in the Washington Avenue nightlife district," he says. "After 10 p.m., everything is closed — the only thing you've got left on Wash Ave is a hot dog stand. We're going to offer good quality seafood, pasta, nice salads — something that will be a big change for the downtown area."
A culinary school graduate, Jackson moved to St. Louis in February 2018 from Atlanta, where he had a successful career with the Firehouse Subs chain. He joined one of the franchises here as its operating partner, but found time on the side to open a catering company he called Kitchen 4AM
. The business offered elegant entrees to go — and it took off in a huge way. Begun in his apartment near the Central West End and using only Instagram as promotion, Kitchen 4AM quickly attracted a huge following. Jackson quickly moved it into a commercial kitchen, and then began hunting for spaces for a brick-and-mortar operation.
Originally, Jackson says, he contemplated something similar to the catering concept, likely a takeout-only operation. But fate had other plans. One day, his car overheated on Wash Ave while he was on his way to a meeting. Stuck without wheels, he found himself chatting with Bernie Lee, the chef/owner of Hiro Asian Kitchen, which at the time was coming to the end of a six-year run downtown. As Jackson showed Lee photos of his food on Instagram, Lee asked if he was looking for a space. When Jackson said he was, Lee said he had something in mind.
"He said he had a location for me, but he didn't even tell me it was Hiro," Jackson recalls. Once Jackson saw the space, an elegant storefront with high booths and a modern look, he was sold. "This was all God's plan," he says.
Now he's giving the place a makeover — he mentions a black-and-red tiled floor and new upholstery — with an aim to be open by mid-August, so long as he can get his liquor license in time. He's confident Kitchen 4AM will get a positive reception.
"The city is literally waiting on it," he says.
Hiro Asian Kitchen closed in May after a six-year run.