5 to Try: Chef-Owned Restaurants in Portland

In a city that grants local chefs celebrity status, it's not surprising that chef-owned restaurants are some of the hottest tables in town. These are the chefs you'll see shopping the farmers market, supporting small artisan producers and--freed from the corporate purse-strings-- trying new things like making their own cheese and serving a dish called The Whole Hog. Behold: the most memorable meals in Portland.

Updated: October 21, 2009

Chef Stations


Paley's Place

1204 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Well-heeled regulars and out-of-towners convene for a white-table cloth dining experience devoid of pretense at this established farm-to-table restaurant. Chef Vitaly Paley draws inspiration from local, seasonal ingredients for his Southern French and Northern Italian-influenced menu such that it's common to see standout dishes like rabbit ravioli and heirloom bean and vegetable cassoulet headlining the menu. Don't miss: the perfectly cooked Paley's Burger served on a brioche bun with housemade ketchup.


The Country Cat Dinner House and Bar

7937 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215

This quintessential neighborhood restaurant has become the reason to visit Montavilla, what with its easy-going retro diner ambience and updated classics like molasses and hickory smoked duck legs and potato Parmesan dumplings served with a seasonal vegetable ragout. Watch for Chef Adam Sappington to make the rounds in his trademark overalls, greeting guests like old friends. Don't miss: nostalgic desserts made by Adam's wife Jackie. If it's on the menu, order her apple crisp.


Nostrana

1401 Se Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214

Technically Chef Cathy Whims co-owns this spacious Eastside Italian restaurant but she's the definite force in the kitchen. This James Beard nominee turns out richly flavored dishes from the restaurant's pizza oven and rotisserie alongside rustic antipasti, pastas and mains. Don't miss: the refreshing Insalata Nostrana in which Whims spruces up radicchio with Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and sage croutons and a Caesar-style dressing.


Tanuki

413 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209

Northwest hipsters and globetrotters in search of an authentic Japanese meal squeeze into this shoebox-sized dining room to nosh on chef-owner Janis Martin's inspired rotation of small plates. Expect the unexpected which can encompass anything from natto (fermented soybean served over rice) to skewered duck hearts on any given night. Order plenty of the sticky pickled plum stuffed rice balls wrapped in yakinori. You won't want to share.


Higgins Restaurant and Bar

1239 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

This granddaddy on the farm-to-table restaurant scene sits in a historic building done up in earthy tones that give it it's upscale-casual appeal. Chef Greg Higgins mans the open kitchen, sending out housemade charcuterie, citrus crusted Alaskan halibut and his aptly titled Tuscan ?whole pig? plate to the after-work crowd and eat local denizens who frequent his established spot. To savor: Higgins? housemade cheeses including two styles of Muenster.