January 19th, 2024

What’s on the Menu at Hayward

Diners sit at warmly lit tables in a restaurant.  A server cracks pepper onto the plates of their guests.
An early evening crowd. Photos by Kate Knapp.

A converted shoe grease factory isn’t the first place you might think of when considering one of the best restaurants in the Willamette Valley, but then you haven’t met Hayward. Stylishly designed to fit within a corner of the redesigned Mac Market space, this sophisticated yet playful restaurant opened in 2023 and provides a welcoming spot to enjoy the culinary prowess of Chef Kari Kihara. Her ability to transform local and humble ingredients with unexpected flavors and unique techniques is an art form not to be missed.  

Two people with aprons talk to each other from behind the open kitchen bar.  A retro gold lamp is between them.

The wizardry of the kitchen is on display from the dining room, and diners can watch as Kihara, Jon Inonueri, and Søren Kalbfleisch make pasta, grill meat, chop pickled vegetables, drizzle sauces, toss greens, artfully plate dishes, and so much more. One might even overhear the taste-chasing trio excitedly collaborating on new menu items. “We are always looking to push ourselves into something new, while staying super true to our ethos of sourcing. Our goal is to surprise you but also make you feel at home at the same time,” said Kihara.  

Salt Baked Root Vegetables with Grilled Pork.

Kihara is committed to working with local farmers to source the highest quality ingredients to create dishes that are “hyper seasonal while intertwined with ingredients preserved from seasons past.” The menu is developed by considering not only what to use that is currently in the ground or water, but also how to utilize every shred of an animal butchered on-site and incorporating fermented or pickled ingredients. There is very little that isn’t used or experimented with in the Hayward kitchen, and this alone sets it apart from other restaurants.

Fried Sole and Grits.

The fearless use of flavor is another reason. Kihara and her team are masters of using unexpected flavors and expert techniques to transform familiar Pacific Northwest fare. Kihara believes the menu offers “the best of both worlds between a city and a small town. The caliber of our food, sourcing, attention to detail, and our style of cooking represent our backgrounds in city restaurants well. We push flavors that you would not commonly see in a small town, but we are sourcing from the small farmers and purveyors close to us. Those people are our community, our friends, and are regulars.”

Chef Kari.

For insight into the most memorable dishes so far, I turned to the team. Kalbfleisch was particularly proud of the Salmon Tartare Toast with Duck Bonito because it is nearly impossible to replicate at home; Inonueri loved the Chicory Wakame Salad because “the chicories were not too bitter but balanced against the squash and the seaweed, which is local to the Oregon coast;” Matthea Brown raved about the Carrot Cavatelli; Marcos Romero still dreams about the Braised Hen Dumplings; and Kihara was unable to choose just one “favorite child.”

Crispy Smoked Potatoes.

There is always something new to try at Hayward because the menu “changes all the time. Sometimes we change multiple dishes a day, sometimes it can be once a week. Permanent items are always [freshly baked] focaccia, [in-house] pickles, and a small fried seafood bite. Within that, however, we rotate the flavor of focaccia, the pickles change daily, and the type of seafood may be different—although right now we are really enjoying the clams,” said Kihara.

The restaurant likes to offer a bit of whimsy and excitement to dishes, as well. Starting in February, for example, Hayward will be offering “TV Dinners,” in which the team will create a menu based on popular television shows, including the Sopranos (February 7-17), Tokyo Vice (February 21-March 2), and Twin Peaks (March 6-16). 

Pork and Chickpea Grits.

For those who want a true taste of everything Hayward has to offer, try the “Kickback.” It must be ordered for the entire table ($65/person) and includes three savory courses—with typically a few dishes per course—and one sweet course curated by Kihara. The kitchen is also happy to accommodate any dietary needs, so everyone can enjoy the meal.

Hayward has recently added a “Little Lunch” menu—served from 11:00AM-2:00PM from Wednesday to Sunday—which includes a rotating salad, protein, soup, focaccia, and a cookie. Order individually or opt for the whole lunch. Lunch and dinner menus are also available at the bar, and to-go orders are always an option for those in a hurry to get home.

Rutabaga Dumplings.

The people who work at Hayward are clearly passionate about food and work really hard to “provide a great experience and showcase our community while keeping things fun and interesting and unique to the valley. We cook what we love to eat, and we hope you love it, too,” said Kihara.

Next time you step out for lunch or dinner, remember the enticing eatery in the old shoe grease factory that runs circles around most other restaurants. 

Kate H. Knapp (she/her) works as a writer, recipe tester, and editor in McMinnville. She loves nothing more than sharing the beauty of food with her little one and has been cooking since she herself was stove-high and whisk-strong.