Restaurants Find a Welcome Home in Boutique Hotels
Chef Vitaly Paley doesn’t get to pick when most of his restaurants open—that’s because three of his four restaurants are located in hotels.
His staff has to serve three meals per day, and holidays are often the busiest time. But for restaurateurs like him, the benefits that come with having a restaurant in a boutique hotel are often worth the requirements, particularly since they can establish a local following along with serving hotel guests. “There’s somewhat of a built-in business,” he says, “because if someone’s staying at the hotel, it’s inevitable that they’ll have a meal or two in the restaurant.”
It’s an advantageous partnership for hotel and restaurant alike: “A restaurant really is no longer just an amenity for the guests of the hotel; it needs to be a space that helps to energize the location and provides a viable business for the local community,” Chef Paley says. “Within a hotel, you have that extra level of support from the ownership of the hotel, and the public relations arm helps you spread the word that much better.”
Paley operates three restaurants in two hotels in Portland, Oregon, along with Paley’s Place—his 22-year-old flagship that is a standalone restaurant. “Paley’s Place is where it all began for us; it was the incubator of all ideas and still is, to some extent,” he says. “We began all our relationships there, and we’ve fostered them throughout 20 years and leveraged them, between the wine community and food community, with the places we currently have inside the hotels.”
At all of his restaurants, Oregon ingredients and the region’s seasonality influence the menu, whether it’s in varieties of salmon or the local maple and oak used in the wood-fired grilling. “People who are traveling from landlocked areas in the Midwest, for example, have never had salmon like this—and they never will unless they come to the Northwest,” Paley says.
The menu in each restaurant approaches its cuisine with a slightly different flair: Seafood takes center stage at Paley’s Headwaters—located in the historic Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland. At nearby Imperial—in Hotel Lucia, a renovated boutique hotel set in a building that dates back to 1909—Paley explores menu ideas with historic significance, often using the wood-fired grill and rotisserie. Also within Hotel Lucia is a cocktail-centric bar, The Crown, with New York–style pizzas and salads, which Paley says has already garnered a strong local following shortly after opening in late June.
“I would have to say that the restaurants rely on the support of local communities more than they rely on people staying at the hotel,” Paley says. “They have to, in order to be viable. The tourism is not equal throughout the year. There are slower periods, and the locals are the ones who keep you going year-round.”
While Paley’s Place often closes on major holidays, those can be some of the busiest times for the hotel-based Headwaters and Imperial, as Paley explains, “The Heathman is known for its wonderful holiday season. From Black Friday through January 1, it’s nonstop every single day.”