Have you heard of Portland Dining Month? If not, I would really like to tell you about it. Portland does this month long event called dining month, where nearly 100 restaurants create a three-course menu for $29. Yes. It is fantastic. Now, some restaurants will have a strict 3 course menu, and others will allow you to pick from a few options, or even their entire menu. It’s really fantastic. It’s a perfect way to (affordably) try some really amazing restaurants, and you don’t have to try to make it there before the end of happy hour (another great way to try restaurants).
Needless to say, I am always excited when dining month rolls around, and I try to make it to at least one restaurant, if not many. So when Portland Bloggers teamed up with Watershed Communications to supply a few lucky bloggers with gift certificates to some participating restaurants for dining month, I knew I wanted to enter the drawing, and I was lucky enough to get a gift certificate to Paragon Restaurant in the mail a week later!
I’d heard of Paragon before, but had never been. Nestled in the Pearl district on 13th and Hoyt, it was definitely a welcome, cozy, warm atmosphere, as it was pouring outside when we visited last night. The bar space is really cool with an old blinking bingo sign on the wall, and some beautiful light fixtures over the dining room. It has a modern industrial feel while still being very inviting. After being seated, Jonah and I decided we’d start with cocktails – I went with the house Manhattan, and Jonah went with a house drink similar to a gin martini served with olives stuffed with bleu cheese.
I liked the Paragon Dining Month menu because there were options. For the first course, a choice of the daily gazpacho or an asparagus and poached egg salad. The gazpacho sounded interesting – a red grape base with cream and basil oil – so I decided to try that, and Jonah went with the asparagus salad. And of course, we shared. The soup was good, if a little sweet for a soup starter. The asparagus salad was delicious, served on a bed of frisée and topped with some gremolata. Between these two dishes, the asparagus salad was the favorite.
For the next course, there were three entrées to choose from: sweet potato gnocchi with poached pears and gorgonzola cream, braised short rib with green chile grits and kale, and salt-cured true cod with gigantic bean ragout. Our server, Jamie (who was so lovely and made us feel right at home), recommended the gnocchi, and we both wanted to try the short rib. Both entrées were fantastic – full of flavor, and all of the elements really worked well together. The short rib was cooked to perfection and fell apart at the nudge of a fork. The green chile grits were unique, and went nicely with the meat. The gnocchi was soft and pillowy, the little pieces of poached pear added a nice fruity freshness, and the dish was topped with some chopped hazelnuts, which lent a great crunch. We also ordered a glass of wine with dinner, and I loved that all of their glasses are very reasonably priced, and they have more than a few options.
For dessert, Jonah got the lemon curd with macerated rhubarb (where are they getting rhubarb this time of year and can they please tell me about this secret source?), and I went with the butterscotch pudding topped with whipped cream and peanut brittle. While the lemon curd was good, we both wished it had been a little thicker and more custard like. The butterscotch putting was lovely and nutty and sweet, and I once again loved the crunch that the peanut brittle contributed.
Now you know what Paragon is serving for their Portland Dining Month menu. You can read the list of participating restaurants and their menus here. Below are some other places I would recommend taking advantage of the three courses for $29! Let me know in the comments which restaurants you’ve tried or are dying to go to for dining month!