In a city like Portland, cuisine options never run out — and thanks to Portland Dining Month, budgets don’t have to either. Every year during the entire month of March, more than 100 of the city’s top restaurants offer three-course meals for just $33. Portland Dining Month (which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019) offers 31 whole days to chew through your restaurant bucket list — whether it’s revisiting a Portland classic or sampling something new.
Daydreaming of which restaurant to try next year? Here are some particularly delicious menus from 2019 to help guide your culinary journey.
Portland’s dining scene is constantly evolving, and each year brings a wave of talented new chefs. Dining Month’s lineup in 2019 featured a few of these buzzy newcomers, including Bullard, Arden and OK Omens, all of which debuted their first-ever Dining Month menus in 2019.
Named after its chef Doug Adams’ Texas hometown, Bullard (located inside Woodlark hotel in downtown Portland) unites southern hospitality with Oregon’s bounty of ingredients. Their dining month debut menu paid tribute to home-style cooking, with dishes like garlicky butter lettuce salad, mashed potato- and ketchup-topped smoked meatloaf, and lemon pudding cake topped with a honey anglaise.
Named after a forest in William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Arden opened in 2019 with a focus on seasonal ingredients from the Pacific Northwest, sourced only from small producers who employ respectful farming methods. Their Dining Month offerings included a winter chicory salad with sweet potato, shinko pear, bleu de laqueuille, maple and walnut; and a red trout crudo made with pickled apples, horseradish cream cheese and puffed quinoa.
Crafted by James Beard Award-nominated chef Justin Woodward, OK Omens specializes in natural and vintage wines, along with decadent riffs on junk food. Their Dining Month menu was fittingly fun, with a classic American cheeseburger with fries and all the usual toppings (even iceberg lettuce) and their take on a McDonalds McFlurry (made with vanilla ice cream, Butterfinger candy and chocolate).
During Portland Dining Month, globetrotting menus make it possible to travel the world, one forkful at a time. Here was our guide to experiencing a few of our favorites for international flavors in 2019.
We started at Spain-inspired Ataula for dishes like roasted beet tartare with piquillo pepper ketchup, egg yolk and farm salad; braised lamb neck canelons, with béchamel, manchego, crispy leeks and lamb jus; and xocolata tres leches spongecake with berries.
Kim Jong Smokehouse
The menu at Kim Jong Smokehouse transported us to Korea with a flights of kimchi followed by bibimbap, a Korean-barbecue staple consisting of crusted rice topped with sautéed vegetables, spices and flavorful meat, and, finally, a smoked chocolate pudding with gochujang (red chili paste with fermented soybeans) caramel.
We finished our culinary journey in Russia at Southeast Portland’s cozy Kachinka (formerly Kachka, which moved into larger digs a few blocks away in 2018 and is also participating in Dining Month.) Traditional Russian ingredients filled Kachinka’s Dining Month menu, with dishes like smoked beet salad with potatoes, pickled carrots and sauerkraut, hard fried onion and sunflower dressing; Belarusian pork belly machanka with pan gravy, blini and sea buckthorn berries; and hazelnut and chocolate water torte.
There’s a reason Portland’s most famous restaurants became — and remain — so noteworthy: Their innovative, constantly evolving and always delicious food make the city a year-round culinary destination. (Many acclaimed local favorites are in this year’s Dining Month lineup, including French-inspired St. Jack and Little Bird Bistro; rooftop restaurant Departure, chic Italian eatery Renata; and Pacific Northwest-focused Imperial, Paley’s Place and Clarklewis.)
Celebrity chef Chris Cosentino’s Portland venture Jackrabbit returned to Dining Month for the second time in 2019, featuring menu items like grilled spice lamb burger with black garlic barbecue, picked red onion, arugula and Boursin herb cheese; chilled spring pea soup with crème fraîche, mint and lemon oil; and bay leaf panna cotta with Meyer lemon conserva and black pepper shortbread.
Another second-timer was Bistro Agnes, a Parisian bistro in downtown Portland created by James Beard Award-winning chefs Greg and Gabi Denton (also of Kask and Ox). Its 2019 menu offered dishes like baguette topped with chicken liver mousse and Marionberry and nectarine preserves; and a house-made boudin blanc sausage with potato puree, roasted endive and Armagnac-soaked prunes.