PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Vitaly and Kimberly Paley didn’t always know their eponymous restaurant would become a success story and a staple in Northwest Portland. But in the mid-1990s, they did know they were going to move from New York to Oregon and open a restaurant.
“We never looked back,” Vitaly said. “Oregon seemed to be the place where we have the beautiful wine industry was just kind of beginning to get known, the ocean full of seafood, the mountains full of foraged product.”
The doors to Paley’s Place opened in February 1995. It was a humble beginning.
“I think we invited about 30 people and it was nice and lively. It felt really great,” he said. “The next day, there was only two people in the dining room and they were Kimberly’s parents.”
“They were Table 3, two-top, that was it, in our whole restaurant,” Kimberly said.
Persistence with his cooking and her care paid off.
“I was always very gracious and very grateful for anyone walking through the door,” she said.
“But then the newspapers started coming in, giving us reviews, very, very favorable,” Vitaly said. “Business started to build.”
Then came the recognition on a whole other level.
“The James Beard Award we received in 2005 for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest,” Vital said. “Ten years of work just got reaffirmed that we were doing something right and we were being recognized by our peers for the work we’re doing for our region, which was very very special.”
He said that award reaffirmed their ideas, “gave us wings to keep going.”
Kimberly said it also helped to put Oregon on the food map.
“Besides all the bounty and beauty we have here, it became a dining destination,” she told KOIN 6 News. “People came to see Multnomah Falls and go to the coast and do that and they came to dine in Portland, and that was exciting to be part of that movement.”
Kimberly had her own pinnacle.
“Julia Child coming in. Julia Child! And she ducked through our front door a little. She’s a very tall woman. She had a cane. And she of course didn’t hit the top of the door but she had this little movement that I just will always remember,” she said. “That was amazing.”
It’s been an amazing 26 years for them, the people they’ve hired and mentored, as well as each person they’ve greeted and served. They’ve all made moments at Paley’s Place.
But just as their plans to start the restaurant were clear, so was their plan to say farewell to Paley’s Place.
“I woke up, very clear and very conscious that I wanted to stop,” Kimberly said. “I want to do Thanksgiving. I want to do that Friday, that Saturday, and shut down Paley’s and sell. And my voice was a little shaky. I was emotional. And he turned to me and he looked at me and he said, ‘So do I.'”
Paley’s Place will close the Saturday after Thanksgiving. All online reservations are taken but Kimberly said there’s a chance some people will cancel. She suggests to call early in the afternoon to see if there’s an opening.
It’s also possible you’ll run into Vitaly and Kimberly Paley in and around Portland. They are staying in the city they came to love.