Written by Gloria Wyszynski
Photos by Perry Conner
It was a beautiful day as I sat outside Saison Market, located on N Adams St, getting to know the two owners, Jay Bayer and Adam Hall. The café is an extension of their restaurant, Saison, and serves a large assortment of wines and craft beers as well as their signature dishes ranging from chicken to oxtail. Go on Saturdays and Sundays if you’re a brunch kind of person and enjoy their popular fried chicken biscuits. The co-owners were incredibly laid back and open, clearly comfortable with sharing a bit of their story as well as what makes Saison market so special. I think it’s worth mentioning that Adam sat with an airsoft gun shooting flies as they landed near us, so yes, they were awesome.
Ink: So what brought you both to Richmond? Are you from here originally?
Jay: Well both of us were born in the Western part of the state, I was born in
Waynesboro, weren’t you born in Charlottesville Adam?
Adam: Yeah, I was born in Charlottesville.
Jay: After I went to JMU I just moved back here, ran a restaurant for a while,
started bartending for a while and that’s where I met Adam, we became buds
and we decided to put Saison together.
Ink: What types of customers do you normally get? I know you probably get
a lot of students since it’s so close to VCU.
Jay: Yeah the market is a different demographic for sure, it’s a really wide
demographic. There’s a big mix of Jackson ward people, students, professionals, random workers.
Ink: it must be a different demographic than you were used to with your other restaurant.
Jay: Oh yeah definitely, but it’s what we were originally trying to accomplish. Saison really hits the demographic we were trying to reach. Mid 20’s…
Adam: creative class…
Jay: yeah, creative class and just younger folk in general. You’ll see on the weekend it’s a lot different than during the week, especially for the brunch.
Ink: So looking at your menu it seems to be pretty meat based, what was the reasoning behind that?
Adam: I basically just make what I like to eat, but we have a few considerations for vegetarians.
Jay: Yeah I think that’s the most accurate, the market menu is mostly what you like to eat Adam, you like chicken sandwiches so you made it and it basically took off.
Ink: Are you paired up with any local butchers?
Jay: For the chicken, no, but for other things we definitely use local meat.
Ink: That’s great, why’s that local partnership important to you and your restaurant?
Adam: Just to keep inclusive in Richmond and surrounding counties. The people also support us in a way.
Jay: A lot of what we want to do is remain an integral member in this community, you have all these awesome farms, awesome suppliers, it does impact price points though, things can’t be as cheap if you’re using high quality ingredients.
Ink: Is that risk worth it to you? Higher quality, higher price?
Adam: Definitely depends on the economy I think, if money’s more tight you might be willing to use a lesser quality ingredient, I think it’s a convenient time to have nice things now though.
Jay: yeah it’s much easier now than like six years ago, no one was going to drop twenty bucks for a free range chicken. They’d probably just buy a thigh quarter. *laughs* I do believe there is a culture change happening with that as well, people want good food but it’s much easier to meet your want with your ability when it’s a better economy.
Ink: You mentioned a chicken sandwich earlier from your menu, is that what you would serve a
food critic who came to see what Saison market was all about? What’s your signature dish?
Adam: Chicken biscuit. I think even if you’re a high end food critic you still like good food,
doesn’t matter if it’s $6 or $40.
Jay: That’s what’s hilarious though, the legs on that thing. It’s delicious and people keep loving it
and it keeps getting more and more popular.
Adam: it’s a very simple thing but we’re glad people are enjoying it and it keeps the lights
on so why not.
Ink: Do you have a certain crowd that keeps coming back?
Jay: Yeah we do find a lot of people are loyal, mostly people from the neighborhood.
It’s important to have those kinds of supportive, loyal clients in the restaurant business.
Adam: You see a whole bunch of new faces especially in the summer when people are moving in,
we’re here every day so it’s interesting to see people coming in and going out as the year goes by.
Ink: So I’m going to put you both on the spot and ask what makes Saison market so special and
why someone should come here instead of somewhere else.
Adam: cause we’re really nice… *laughs*
Jay: *laughs* that’s really part of it though in all honesty, we talked about a culture that we tried to create, a caring, considerate environment with good products. We also have a happy staff that enjoys what they do and they do a better job. That passes on to our clients and that kindness sets up a good environment. We also just have good stuff! The chicken’s delicious, the hamburger’s delicious. There’s a lot of attention to detail and a lot of careful consideration put into how everything’s done. There are a lot of places like that around town but I feel like Saison market just brings it all into a more laid back setting.
Ink: So Saison market is an extension of its parent restaurant Saison, when did you open up?
Adam: May of last year. The landlord of this building was just like…the lease is coming up, do you guys want it? And we were like sure. Guess we should take it now. *laughs*
Jay: We knew we didn’t want competition so close but we weren’t sure exactly what we were going to do. So we took on the lease and sort of came up with ideas as we were building it out.
Ink: So you guys just rolled with it.
Jay: Well, you notice what the neighborhood is lacking, you need services and amenities. For Jackson ward to be the rad place that I believe it is it just needed a few more touches to fill it in. Somewhere you can walk to, hang out, buy some beer late at night, things like that. We didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do but we thought, if we lived right here, what would we want?
Adam: We thought the market would be more of a beer focused restaurant but cocktails just took off, we were like damn, we still want to sell beer so we can drink it, so we just did both!
Jay: I think he’s hitting the head right on the nail, we do what we know. We did want a beer focus so we could have more beer ourselves, *laughs* it’s true!
Ink: That’s great! So what does the future hold for Saison market? You’ve already made all this a year ago but what else is on the horizon?
Jay: Well we definitely keep our eyes out for good projects if they’re available and make sense. I don’t think we want to grow too fast too soon, but I don’t think this is it.