Over the past few years, a handful of Portland restaurateurs have invented a new kind of dining experience: deeply personal, obsessively ?crafted, and driven more by point of view than by what sells. They helped make local cuisine a driving force in Portland life and a magnet for the foodies of the world. Here are eight of the eateries that defined—and are still defining—a movement.
1204 NW 21st Ave; 503-243-2403?
Fifteen years ago, Kimberly and Vitaly Paley helped jump-start a new Oregon cuisine. Blending New York restaurant savvy and French schooling with casual Portland style, they set up camp in a Victorian house perched over a hair salon in Nob Hill and spent their money on farmers, not décor. Over the years, they’ve won a coveted James Beard Award, earned a reputation as the go-to spot for intimate fine dining, penned a coffee-table cookbook, ushered in packed houses nightly, and even showed up on Martha Stewart. The Paleys have reached a pinnacle that, for many restaurants, becomes a downwardly sloping plateau. Yet this kitchen is still giddy with energy. Hot-shot pastry chef Kristen Murray recently joined the team. And the new daily menu plays the house classics while improvising on inspirations dreamed up that morning. Want to see how the old dog still runs with the pups? Paley’s entry in the meat-craft wars—rosy American Kobe beef pastrami, slow-smoked over hazelnut shells, edged with blackened crispy bits of goodness—may be the dish of the year.
What’s next? The Paley’s are dreaming of—and even scouting new locations for—a raucous, large-scale seafood restaurant. But ideas are cheap, says Vitaly. “If someone steps up with money, we’ll talk.” ?
621 SE Morrison St; 503-477-9515
Tommy Habetz isn’t climbing culinary ladders or waiting for his spread in the New York Times. He’s the new face of a culinary world remaking itself amid economic recalibration and celebrity-chef fatigue. He blithely walked away from the white-tablecloth world (and jobs with New York’s then-rising superstars Mario Batali and Bobby Flay) and now lives his own dream: making dangerously good sandwiches in a gritty shop that shouts anti-pretentious. Yet fame found him anyway. Habetz—and his biscuits with rabbit gravy—recently turned up alongside the world’s great food minds in the lavishly photographed book Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. Meanwhile, his powerhouse pork belly Cubano is slated for the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. That title could ?apply to nearly everything Habetz and partner Nick Wood make. From a duck pâté bahn mi to roast beef with caramelized onions, they cook like great chefs—and then stick their creations between two pieces of bread.
?What’s new? Bunk Bar is already in full swing at SE Water Avenue and Taylor Street. Think basement with a touch of swank, loud (but well chosen) music, and a straight-up bar—a serious oasis for night owls. Most of Bunk’s signature dishes (served without actual dishes, on cafeteria trays) are on hand, plus some new finds, like a french-fry po’boy with duck gravy, courtesy of Habetz’s dream addition—a deep-fryer.