Chef's Tour: Jenn Louis's Portland, OR, in Five Meals
The chef and co-owner of two beloved Portland restaurants shares where she dines out in Rose City.
As the executive chef and co-owner of two lauded Portland restaurants, Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, Jenn Louis makes sure to get into her kitchen every day she's not traveling. “I don't ever want to become a clipboard chef—I want to keep my hands in it,” says the two-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Northwest. When she's on the road, like her recent trip to Newfoundland for a Northern Chefs Alliance event, she always chooses to collaborate.
“I love to work in other people's kitchens, and to learn from other chefs,” she says. Her cookbook, Pasta By Hand, is an Italian dumpling odyssey culled from her experiences traversing Italy and visiting with various cooks in their homes and restaurants. Louis is now at work on her second cookbook, which is focused on greens. When she's not testing recipes or working at her restaurant, she's dining at one. Here, she walks us through her favorite places to get a meal in PDX (and no, her favorite doughnut spot isn't the one with crazy toppings and pink boxes).
“Breakfast for me starts around noon every day,” she says. “I'm not a big breakfast eater, but I want my first meal to be light and filling at the same time, so I get dumpling soup with vegetables at Chen’s Good Taste in Chinatown. The dumplings are spectacular: pork and shrimp with Chinese mushrooms that give the interior of the dumpling a firm texture and very savory flavor. The broth is light and aromatic. After a long week working in a restaurant kitchen, it's a restorative meal.”
“My favorite Sunday brunch is Ocean City Seafood. I get a coffee and stand in line—there always is one, but it moves quickly,” she says. “I start with jasmine tea and a bunch of dumplings—simple shrimp, siu mai, peanut and shrimp—then move on to congee, leaves stuffed with rice, sausage and egg yolk. I always get sauteed pea greens or some sort of Chinese green, too.”
“When you walk into Tienda Santa Cruz, you may think it's just a store, but walk to the back for the cafeteria-style tables, and a counter where you can order street-style tacos. They're all flavorful, but my favorite is lengua. You're also super lucky if you happen upon a day they're doing pozole.”
“Irving Street Kitchen is the next generation of farm-to-table. The meals are seasonal, familiar, and well executed. It's always hard for me to choose what to order, because I want to eat everything, but I usually go with the chilled corn soup and a fish, either the Skuna Bay salmon gravlax or anchovy-butter seared halibut.”
“I'm a sucker for good old-fashioned buttermilk doughnuts that actually taste like buttermilk. Coco's doughnuts are fresh and there are no silly options—just all of the standards done really, really well. I usually opt for the chocolate old-fashioned, unless I buy a dozen to bring to work, so I can taste part of all of them.”
Sarah Z. Wexler is on the Oregon beat for Travel + Leisure. Based in Portland, you can follow her on Twitter at @SarahZWexler.