Jenn Louis – chef-owner of Sunshine Tavern, Lincoln Restaurant and catering company Culinary Artistry – is no doubt a Portland gem. Named one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs of 2012, Louis first got her start as a line cook at Wildwood Restaurant in the 90’s. The experience soon culminated into a successful catering company as well as two Portland restaurants, which are favorites among locals and visitors alike. Covered by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Conde Naste Traveler and Details Magazine, Louis’ restaurants all beg the same question – When are you migrating east Jenn? While we “subtly” try to get her to move East, she gives us some chef recommendations in the meantime…
What’s different about your food?
My food is casual and simple, but still special. I am not trying to reinvent anything; I draw on traditions, cooking methods and seasonality.
Are you constantly making changes? How so?
I make changes every single day, and we alter the menu a little each day. We have a few signature dishes that remain on the menu at all times, but [they] evolve. The menu is based on what our farms bring in and what proteins we choose to feature. I would say that most everything changes within a two-week period.
What’s special about Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern?
Our restaurants are very, very different. Lincoln is casual fine dining (no tablecloths) and Sunshine Tavern is a quintessential tavern. At Lincoln, we focus on ingredient-driven cuisine that takes it’s cues from the seasons. We make pastas, practice whole animal butchery, make charcuterie and cook the old school way: with a pot and spoon. At Sunshine, the cuisine is much simpler: burgers, pizza and fried chicken. The meat is all natural; the chicken is brined; we make our pizza dough in house and grind all the meat ourselves. What ties the two together is the notion of craftsmanship. Whether we are making a burger or malloreddus, each and every team member approaches the dishes with craft and dedication.
What experience do you want your customers to walk away with?
Hospitality is very important to us: food and service. We always aim to create an experience that allows our guests to leave any stress outside our doors and be well taken care of.
Can you share some menu favorites from both restaurants?
At Lincoln, I love the chicken, rabbit, octopus and pastas. Sunshine has me on the pizzas, fried chicken sandwich and the burger. I have been known to bring a quart of the slushy margarita home once in a while too.
If you’re going to eat in Portland (besides at your own restaurant) where do you go?
Salt and Straw ice cream. Yum!
What are some of your favorite cities to travel for food? Where do you go to there?
Rome: Anywhere on the eatRome app.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Interweb. Books. Travel. Anywhere.
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