New eatery hopes to herd business to downtown Gresham

Mooove over fast-food burger joints.

There's a new rodeo in town.

'Our beef comes from an organic ranch, and we make everything by hand every day,' said Dylan Hutter, co-owner of the Local Cow on Main Avenue. 'We had more than 400 followers on our Facebook page before we even opened, but we are still surprised that our sales numbers are double what we originally forecast. We've tried to build a place where it's not only fun to work, but fun for somebody who's only here for an hour.'

Hutter and business partner, Chris Rhyne, both 36, opened the Local Cow in mid-March. Longtime friends and graduates of David Douglas High School, the pair has taken a grassroots and green approach to their business, purchasing all their products locally and refurbishing the 1928 architecture in the space formerly occupied by an herb and vitamin shop.

They've created a stampede among burger-loving locals, but they're also aiming to herd business into the downtown area.

Hutter, an exhausting A-type personality, is no stranger to the restaurant business. He is an executive chef by trade who spent five years 'following the whales' from Mexico to Alaska opening restaurants for other people. The Local Cow was born, he said, from an opportunity to pursue his passion within his own stomping grounds.

'I got tired of driving to (Portland's) west side to find the kind of place and the kind of food I liked,' Hutter said. 'Especially for burgers. We talked about Hawthorne and other areas, but downtown Gresham was the only place that made sense.'

The soft-spoken Rhyne grew up in his family's painting company. He then spent several years building cellular telephone sites and doing IT work for a wireless company. But he was bored with his line of employment, and ripe for a change. Owning a restaurant wasn't really on his radar, he said, until Hutter made the suggestion.

'I had always been a picky eater, but about a year and a half ago, I just started trying new foods,' Rhyne said. 'Dylan had some good ideas, and I was looking for something new to do, so this has been an experience.'

Along with a commitment to use only local vendors and products, the pair reused and recycled the original architecture for the look of the eatery. They exposed the circa-1928 brick columns, polished the cement floor and created a mosaic using wood uncovered during the remodel. Tables, chairs and the small bar for counter seating were all made from salvaged materials discovered at the Mississippi Reclaim Center in North Portland.

'We spent a lot of time up-cycling and repurposing the materials that were in here,' Hutter said. 'We're real proud of that. That's the platform we built this place on.

The Local Cow offers a reasonably priced menu, which includes vegetarian and gluten-free options. Nothing is priced over $11, which the pair says dispels the notion that fresh ingredients cost more. Beef for the restaurant's signature burgers is organically grown on a ranch in Eugene, processed in Portland and delivered to the Local Cow three times a week. Hutter shops for produce daily and is nearly giddy waiting for the Gresham Farmer's Market to open in early May, so he can establish relationships with area farmers.

'I don't see the need to buy canned or processed food when you can get it fresh,' Hutter said. 'You won't hear a microwave ring in here, and nothing is frozen. We have a walk-in freezer, but the only thing in there right now is some ice cream. We make everything fresh. I wouldn't have it any other way.'

The restaurant isn't so much about organic food, Hutter said, as it is to complement the eclectic mix of merchants in the downtown area. The Local Cow's newly opened outside dining areas are meant to encourage diners to sit a spell and make the downtown core their home on the range.

'We believe that a variety of different eateries revitalizes an area and increases foot traffic for all the merchants,' Hutter said. 'We want to help create a district where people can walk around and spend a couple hours. I think there will be a lot more eateries and bars opening in the next two years. Some might call that competition, but I don't consider it that way. I think it's exactly what downtown Gresham needs - diversity of food and drink places.'

The Local Cow

What: Organically grown and hormone-free beef burgers, veggie and gluten-free options, hand-cut French Fries, Oregon beer and wine.

Where: 336 N. Main Ave., Gresham.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

More info: 503-489-5116.

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