In the Rose City, March Madness isn’t just about basketball — it’s when we celebrate our fervor for food with Portland Dining Month. For the month of March, chefs across the city invite diners to feast on special three-course meals for just $29. With more than 100 participating eateries touting cuisines from Mexican and Middle Eastern to seafood and Southern comfort, there are plenty of eats to enjoy. We spotlighted a few of our favorites from 2015:
Departure’s Gregory Gourdet and Imperial’s Doug Adams battled it out in the finals of this season’s Top Chef: Boston. Renowned for its stylish atmosphere, its breathtaking perch atop the Nines Hotel and its Asian fusion fare, Departure offered Dining Month dishes like shrimp dumplings and stir-fried rockfish. Pacific Northwest-inspired Imperial served pork braised in cola and Pabst Blue Ribbon — so Portland! — from its famous wood-fired grill.
You may recognize The Country Cat from the “Meat Lover’s Paradise” episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. You could find your own comfort food paradise here during Dining Month with a meal of baby back ribs, barbecue baked beans and lemon pound cake. Across town, meet another Top Chef darling, Jenn Lewis of Lincoln Restaurant. Lewis’s trifecta of treats included rustic delicacies like baked hen eggs, spaccatelli pasta and brutti ma buoni (“ugly but good”) cookies.
Dining Month Pros
Many Portland mainstays have participated in Dining Month since its debut in 2008. Named one of America’s Best Bars by Esquire, downtown hot spot Clyde Common provided another year of inventive eats like beet trio (featuring beet soup, poached beet and fried beet) and trout rice shrimp étouffée. Little Bird, sister restaurant to critically acclaimed Le Pigeon, prepared chicken-fried trout, cider-braised pork shoulder and chocolate mousse cake at its downtown French bistro. At Aviary, in the Alberta Arts District, the Dining Month meal of Asian fusion small plates included Dungeness crab chawanmushi custard and miso-braised short rib.
Each year Dining Month’s roster of menus keeps growing, and 2015 was no different, with a slew of exciting new entries. Levant showcased its French-Arabesque cuisine with dishes like Lebanese red lentil soup, pistachio milk custard and lamb three ways. The aptly named Autentica boasted traditional Mexican delicacies on its inaugural Dining Month menu, with options including fish ceviche, roasted pork leg in dark chili paste, goat’s milk caramel custard and fried potato and cotija cheese cakes.
Meat-centric Laurelhurst Market burst onto the Dining Month scene with roasted cauliflower arancini, 10-hour braised beef shoulder and honey panna cotta. And a perfect dessert is guaranteed at Pacific Pie Company, a one-time farmers’ market startup turned full-service restaurant with two locations. Both spots offered a choice between beer-braised beef short rib pie and creamy white bean, kale and mushroom pie, along with an appetizer and dessert (pie, naturally).