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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Northwest Portland
1204 NW 21st Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 243-2403
Paley’s Place
A superlative experience with no bells and whistles, just great food and vibes every time

Paley’s Place is considered by many to be the one that started it all, this Portland restaurant scene. Its James Beard-award-winning chef and owner raised the bar high, inspiring a generation of young chefs to open their own restaurants, each seeking the level of all-around excellence achieved by Paley’s.

Of course, this converted Victorian house is nearly always crowded with people who are very happy to be there, and there is the camaraderie between strangers at nearby tables that eating great food can bring. The menu uses local and organic ingredients, and dishes are consistently, reliably outstanding.

In fact, it’s not unusual for your meal to be so stunning that you and your tablemates fall silent for a few bites. Even simple salads are so gently dressed, with such fresh and vivid natural flavors, that they are enchanting. Poppyseed-crusted albacore with olive and chickpea purée is not over-the-top unusual, but it’s playfully coaxed into another place by Middle Eastern nuances. Roast marrow bones are sinfully delicious, and roasted sweet beets with horseradish cream is an exercise in restraint, contrast, and harmony. Meats are cooked beautifully, though some platings are less inspired than others. But rare is the flaw here, and a good time is always had.

For dessert, we’ve had an amazing tres leches cake with (seasonal) Oregon strawberry sauce. Even a simple crème brûlée is exemplary. A selection of well-made cheeses, both domestic and imported, is broad and inviting.

The wine list, like the food, takes few chances, but is appropriate and well chosen, with bottles from France and Oregon in an American-food-friendly range of varietals. Markups are reasonable, and the price range allows something good for every wallet size. Cocktails are of the nostalgic set, and expertly done. The nice selection of single-malt Scotches and digestifs is welcome and unusual for non-bar-scene restaurants in town.

Our quibbles with Paley’s are minor. The constantly ringing phone at the front gets annoying, and some servers can act a bit pretentious, but it hardly affects the great mood that a night here will put you in. It’s casual, but not a place you can probably afford to come very often. Save it for people you really care about, because there aren’t many better meals in Portland

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