Jackpot!: Michelle Adams and Michelle Giannunzio of Bacon & Eggs"/>
In 2010 Michelle Adams and Michelle Giannunzio, affectionately referred to locally as "The Michelles", took a Jackpot (a run-down convenience store) and turned it into Bacon & Eggs, one of Walla Walla's hottest breakfast spots for hungry winos. From the dedicated "Wall of Spice" and thoughtfully crafted Mexican-inspired plates to full 2 oz. hair of the dog pours and growlers to go, these gals lovingly fill a niche for those hungry for something a little bit different for breakfast.
"The Michelles": Michelle Adams and Michelle Giannunzio
Why "Bacon & Eggs"?
Michelle A: Before we opened, I asked a bunch of people we knew, "what's your favorite breakfast?" and across the board, even internationally, it was bacon and eggs. We thought it would be an interesting name for something. A guy we did some business classes with lectured us greatly on the thought that if somebody's driving by, whether it's on the internet or in person, and you have a name they don't understand and they can't tell what you do, that can be detrimental. So between those two things -- so many people saying, "we just love the classic bacon and eggs" to thinking about signage, it was clear. We serve breakfast, we also serve lunch, and literally, our bacon is the BEST bacon.
Michelle G: Plus it allowed us to use a cute pig and chicken on our logo. We went over names for a while -- just funny, creative names and finally we were like, "this is so dumb, let's just keep it simple." It's not confusing and it just seemed right.
Michelle A: I think now too it's kind of cheeky because it's so simple and a lot of our menu is vegetarian so that's sort of funny. But the pig and the chicken are awesome -- there are a lot of things you can do with them.
Was opening a restaurant a dream for you --- and, specifically, a breakfast place?
Michelle G: When we moved here three years ago we had noticed that, for us, the town maybe was lacking breakfast restaurants. And that's not to dog on any of the current places, because we love Clarette's, Tommy's, and all of the other places, they are great. But we wondered if we could do a different type of breakfast with stumptown coffee, cocktails, local organic produce -- just different. So we worked in restaurants here for two years and then over time started to come up with the concept. It was really intuitive. I worked in restaurants in Seattle for 25 years so in a way it's kind of a culmination of all the places, I think. And I hate to say it, it wasn't my dream to open a restaurant, I really wanted to open a coffee shop...
Michelle A: She will live her dream through her dream espresso machine we have here! It's the best.
Michelle G: Yeah, it somehow just turned into a whole restaurant, which is great. I was like, "no, no, no, I'm too old, I'm too tired!" and Michelle was like "no, we can do this!" So it's good because I get a little shove from her in a lot of areas where I'm kind of doubtful.
Michelle A: Well, also she's humble. I tell her she's brilliant and she is.
Michelle G: I love to cook. I really love to cook. I just think the idea of a restaurant was just overwhelming and I couldn't really actually see it in my future, but it just kind of came together.
Michelle A: I could see it! I am really visual and I have an art degree so for me, it made sense. At home she cooks just like in a restaurant anyway -- she uses every single thing and the floor is just a mess.
Michelle G: Well, I cook at home like I do in a restaurant. I'm wiping things on the floor and messing up pans and everything.
Michelle A: Trust me, the clean up is worth it. She'll make this incredible dish where everything thing on the plate is delicious and plated perfectly and we're like sitting with our perfect glass of wine in our jammies and it's amazing.
Michelle G: We like food. We like all food. Not just breakfast. But I like to cook breakfast because it's fun and fast paced -- a lot different than more low-key fine dining.
Michelle A: Yeah, in Walla Walla people do like breakfast. And for the breakdown of the people who live here going out and spending hundreds of dollars on a meal all the time is not feasible. We really wanted to be available to people who live here, like we do, and want to spend $10 on a good meal.
Michelle G: We wanted the students and everyone to be able to eat here, not just people passing through.
Michelle A: Sometimes the whole dining room is filled with locals and they get up and talk to each other and sit with each other and that's really awesome.
What inspired you to move to Walla Walla?
Michelle A: We visited first in 2006 and absolutely just fell for it. The thing for me is the change in landscape between Seattle and here is just immense -- the way you go through green forests, mountains, the Pass, and then you're in dry desert. It's amazing in only four hours you go through so many different landscapes.
Michelle G: It was time to leave the city, for me. I had been there since about 1991 and Seattle was, I think, just different then. It seemed smaller and more manageable and as time went by I think I just outgrew it. We had come out here to visit and, I don't know how the conversation started, it was like, "Wow, do you think we could move? Could we really move to Walla Walla?" and again, she's like, "Yeah! Let's do it!"
Michelle A: I was like, "We can do this! Let's go! Let's just make a plan." We visited over and over and over, started meeting friends, and then started talking about why can't we live here and start visiting Seattle? Can we make a complete shift? And we did.
Michelle G: Our good friend Tom Uberuaga was a good motivator. He's since left town and is in New York now, but I worked with him at Campagne a million years ago...
Wait, you too? What would the food scene in Walla Walla be like if Campagne had never existed?
Michelle G: Oh yeah, me, Jim, Jamie...we've all crossed paths in one way or another. But we just fell in love with it and Tom spoke so highly of his time here and his experiences. He convinced us, I think, by just seeing him and what he had done here with Creektown and all that. So here we are three years later and it's great. I don't think we would ever go back.
Michelle A: Huh uh. I don't think that we dislike Seattle. We miss the water, the culture, our friends, but we own a house -- we could never have bought a house in Seattle. Ever. And we were both working so much. We never saw each other, we were in the car all the time, and it was just exhausting.
A lot of people in the city think it's scary to "downsize" to a small town. They always ask, don't you get bored?
Michelle G: I think they just don't know. The difference for me is that the air smells clean, the sky is clear, it's affordable, it's accessible, it's friendly. You want to actually spend time with people here. I actually enjoy people's company here because they're real people. In Seattle it wasn't like that. I hated going out anywhere because everyone's so caught up in the city people scene.
It sounds like a lot has changed for you in the last few years. What's been the greatest thing -- other than the day you opened Bacon & Eggs?
Michelle A & Michelle G: [LAUGHING. A lot]
Michelle A: Accomplishment aside, I wouldn't say that was the greatest day of my life. I don't even remember anything! What is great is that the wine here has absolutely taken us by storm. It's really unbelievable. It's worldly and dirty and delicious and red and fruity and all of that good stuff. That's one of my favorite things.
Michelle G: My favorite thing is the Jimgermanbar.
Michelle A: I was going to say, if you pick Tom U., I pick Jimgermanbar as my main influence for moving here. I know that everybody knows them and whatever, but Jim and Claire were instrumental in getting us out here and actually, they were the first, and only, people to read our business plan. I made the first business plan and said to them, "Get your red sharpie out and I need you to destroy this like wild animals. Consider it a gift to us. Tear it apart because you otherwise will see us go down in flames because you wished you had said something." Sure enough, we get it back and it is like a sacrilege -- it's awesome. One by one they went through that business plan and it was really amazing how much their feedback helped us. And, Claire is also my biscuit teacher.
Michelle G: Michelle has been in charge of all the baking for the last six months and Claire gave her some instruction on the biscuit technique. Claire's hot biscuits! If you ever get those with any of her jams, it's a lucky day for you.
Do you have a favorite dish on your menu?
Michelle G: I think mine would be huevos rancheros. That's a thing I could eat every day. I never get tired of it. It's not too much and has just enough spice to it.
Michelle A: I love the huevos chorizo. So much.
Michelle G: We get our meat from Kimi and Christopher at Blue Valley Meats and they do a nice job with chorizo.
Michelle G: I like things with a lot of flavor and for me, that flavor leans towards spice. Not in all food but in the morning, I like it. The pico de gallo or salsa verde gets me going. We also talked a lot about portion size and plate size so we make realistic portions and people leave feeling good. Not like they ate too much to start the day.
Michelle A: We really do try to have you eating just what you should eat. One of our friends, he's a huge Navy Seal guy, we add a little extra to his because he can bench press me.
Michelle G: Also, I really like the eggs benedict. I would not eat it every day but it's such a great classic. We make the hollandaise from scratch - it will make you go into meditation with all the whisking. That's one of my favorite dishes in terms of breakfast nostalgia.
Do you ever think you'd be open for dinner?
Michelle A: Yeah. But we can't tell you why.
Michelle G: It has crossed our minds. Right now we don't have time, obviously, but because of the space and how it is, it's really nice here at night. It's so pretty. The lighting is nice, it's comfortable, there's a bar. There's talk. It's sort of in the works for the future.
Michelle A: We take cocktails pretty seriously here. We like simple and easy and fresh and done well. We're planning a trip to Oaxaca in January -- we haven't been on vacation for three years. We travel so well together, it's one of the things that really bonds us, and it's really our favorite thing to do -- eat and walk and meet people. Anyway I was looking at all the states we've been through in Mexico and how things affect our menu and each dish. If it's really authentic and done right from scratch, you can have a ranchero sauce that takes hours to make but transforms an entire dish. So when we get to Mexico one of my favorite things to do is get a beer and tequila because you can't mess them up. But if you buy a margarita in a tourist town you will be disappointed -- and for good reason. So we just want simple and quality. We have a 2 oz. pour on most of our drinks. I think that's...responsible.
I think "responsible" is the best description of a good drink pour I have ever heard.
Michelle G: I'm excited about Winter drinks because we're going to bring whiskey back. We're going to use the Oola Waitsburg Whiskey and do eggnog. We have a great, old school, family recipe that is tried and true. Summer is like gin vodka and tequila. Winter is red wine and bourbon. I love the seasons here a lot and that we actually have a real winter. You can't call into work because the bus and the whole city is shut down. Everyone will just walk in. It's a great excuse for a hot drink.
What else is on tap for Fall/Winter that you're really excited about?
Michelle A: We are going to get a roaster -- a barrel chile roaster! We are going to be roasting chiles outside!
Michelle G: It hooks up to propane, blows fire into the drum and you crank it by hand. So I can dump a box of poblano chiles in there, light it up and crank it and they'll roast. We're going to sell them! And in the winter, if we can, we're going to roast chestnuts.
Michelle A: We're going to smell up this end of Main St. I'm also really excited about eggplant because we have way too much eggplant in our garden.
Michelle G: I am excited about making dan dan noodles tomorrow night. It's a Szechuan dish.
I love that you are excited about what you're making for dinner in the next few days.
Michelle G: We don't really have time to think too far beyond that. This business is like we have a child. It's 9 months old.
Is it a good child or a bad child?
Michelle A: It's a GREAT child.
Michelle G: We are so lucky. We have the best employees and we've had really great luck.
Michelle A: Yes. Our staff defines our restaurant, I feel. They are wonderful and amazing. Our employees treat each other with respect, everybody here is equal, and new hires get a quick lecture about the fact that we are all the same and it's important that we can all do everything. I don't like hierarchy in jobs and how it can down other people, whether it's cultural or gender, I don't care. It's totally unacceptable.
Michelle G: We like being here. I guess I would like to have more time off but kind kind of not really. I don't want to not be here.
Michelle A: It's our oasis.
Michelle G: We built this space because Jim German said, "Build the space you love because you will be living there."
Was it hard to build a space you love out of a mini-mart?
Michelle A: We have always together had a great aesthetic.
Michelle G: I think we took that and applied it here. But it was a much bigger project than anything we'd ever done, not like redoing our bedroom at home. Jim actually pointed us toward this and I was like, "There is no way I am renting the Jackpot Grocery."
Michelle A: No way, it was a shithole! This place was so jacked up.
Michelle G: We came in to look at it and there were still rows of stuff like chips and Twinkies and Ho-hos on the shelf. Even the deep fried Jojo making machine was still here.
Michelle A: Yeah, even the cigarette machine was still on the wall. And every wall was filled with RV plumbing parts and fix it jobs and when we got the inspectors in here it was a hot mess. We both worked here all day -- we tore the ceiling out, chipped the floor out, everything, and then we would go to work, basically, full-time at night.
Michelle G: I don't know how it happened, but we took it. I really don't know what happened. We worked at our jobs until about one month before we opened. I was at Brasserie Four and she was at T. Maccarone's. Those were some interesting times.
Michelle A: Well the walk-in is her dream come true. That was the real seller. I will say right now, we made a list of things we both needed to have on our own. We both needed windows, even in the kitchen, and the walk-in for her was a dream come true -- you can literally live in this one. It's a small apartment.
Any final thoughts?
Michelle A: I would like to say I think that eating is the quintessential part of being human beings. Eating together with family or friends or whoever it is you are forced or choose to eat with, is a special time and it connects humans together. That, for me, is the special part of having a restaurant -- creating a family structure and having a meal that makes us so happy and has people leaving happy, satisfied, maybe a little surprised and maybe even having learned something. We don't take food lightly but we try to have fun and make it something exciting.
Michelle G: We're also just really lucky to have landed here in Walla Walla. It's a great town and we have a great community of people. Now we're restaurant owners and people have just been so supportive and friendly and nice. We're just really happy to be here.