The Country Cat, the Montavilla meat icon, dropped a bombshell via Instagram this week: it will close on August 4, ending a 12 -year run that weathered Portland food trends, garnered national attention, and anchored a neighborhood.
Chef-co-owner Adam Sappington was one of the first people to bring nose-to-tail butchery to Portland during his 11-year run as chef at Northwest institution Wildwood. The Missouri native, along with co-owner/scratch-baker/wife Jackie Sappington, opened the Cat in 2007— a restaurant serving self-described “glorified gramma cuisine,” with bacon-wrapped trout, beef tallow-fried chicken, and a three-way ode to porky goodness called the “Whole Hog.” The late, great food writer Josh Ozersky considered the Cat one of the country’s last great bastions of Americana cooking.
Things changed dramatically in 2013 after a visit from Guy Fieri of Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Recalled Adam: “The episode aired on September 2nd, and by the next day, business had doubled. It hasn’t stopped since. People watch it on the airplane flying in to PDX! They land and bring their families from all over the United States: New York, Florida, freaking Minnesota. It is absolutely insane.”
The Sappingtons opened a location at the Portland airport in 2015, securing the Cat name as one of city’s most recognizable food-tourism destinations in the years that followed.
And, in 2018, without a whiff of irony, they purchased two of Portland’s plant-based mainstays: Harlow, a hippie-chic haunt for the veg-centric and gluten-free crowd, and Prasad, where yogis and rock climbers gather for healthy bowls and eye-catching smoothies.
When reached for comment, Adam Sappington declined to give further details on the closure. It’s not clear whether shuttering was a personal choice or a business-motivated decision. (If the Country Cat is struggling to maintain a profit, it’s a very bad sign for the city’s restaurant industry). Regardless, the Cat’s fans and regulars—many of them neighborhood locals—have been vocally despondent at the news.
The Country Cat name will live on at the airport location, where much of the original restaurant’s menu exists in some form, and inside the pages of Heartlandia, the restaurant’s cookbook, published in 2015. Keep an eye on the Country Cat’s Instagram feed for further updates.