Spring is starting to creep up, and it is getting me in the mood for a crunchy, refreshing bowl of vegetables. This is my favorite right now.
Brooke is back and I couldn’t be happier. I am loving following her adventures as she launches into her boat life, and I can’t wait to read more.
I just made this baked pasta from Smitten Kitchen to take to a friend with a new baby (because new babies mean no sleep means how do you even have the energy to feed yourself), and now I would like to make it for myself all the time please.
Now that I’m back, I’m hitting up all my favorite places and all the new places that have opened since we’ve been gone. Wares falls into both of those categories, and we went for brunch this morning. I was not mad about it. (GET THE FRIED KALE.)
The time has come. It’s March, which means I have combed through the dining month menus of 122 (!!!) restaurants in preparation for Portland Dining Month. This event is all about strategy – which places have you been itching to try, which places have multiple choices for each course, and which places give you the most bang for your buck. I’m here to help: below are my 14 picks for Portland Dining Month (in no particular order).
I also want to add that a donation to the Oregon Food Bank will be made for every reservation booked through the OpenTable links on the PDX Dining Month website! Sometimes we make our dining plans last minute, but I’m going to do my best to make reservations this year to make it count.
Aviary: This is one of my number one recommendations in Portland. I love the playfulness and creativity of the food here, plus the Asian influence doesn’t hurt. They’ve got two choices for every course, so you and your dinner partner can both get the dining month menu without ordering the same meal.
Clyde Common: I still haven’t made it into Clyde Common for dinner since chef Carlo Lasagna took over the kitchen, but I have heard fantastic things. Their dining month menu doesn’t look like anything crazy adventurous, but I bet it will be tasty.
Little Bird Bistro: Little Bird Bistro has a place in my heart – every meal I’ve had there has been pretty perfect, the space is romantic, and the service is great. They’ve got at least two options for each course on their dining month menu, and every single one looks like something I want to eat.
Paley’s Place: A Portland institution, Paley’s Place is reliably delicious. There’s only one option per course on their menu, but how can you go wrong with quail under a brick?!
Smallwares: Serving “inauthentic Asian cuisine,” I love the way Smallwares combines traditionally Asian ingredients in quasi-Asian dishes. For example, their dining month entree is Sichuan cauliflower or pork ragu, pine nuts, gochujang, tarragon and scallions. I mean come on.
Ned Ludd: Another memorable Portland dining month meal I had last year was at Ned Ludd. I love the food at this spot – all cooked in their wood oven, featuring great local ingredients, and with lots of creative flavor combinations. Again, only one option per course (except for a vegetarian option for the entree), but you can bet it will be good.
St. Jack: I’ll be honest, I’ll take any reason I can to make my way up to St. Jack. The space is beautiful, and the food and drink are lovely. For their dining month menu, they’re serving up a pork stew, with fried brussels sprouts to start and a chocolate pots-de-creme to finish.
Verdigris: I haven’t been to Verdigris yet, despite the fact that it’s only a few minutes walk from my house and that I’ve heard great things. Verdigris is offering up lots of options for dining month: 6 options for your started, 5 for your entree, and 2 for dessert, meaning lots of variation for you and your dining buddies.
Xico: Who can resist upscale Mexican food? Not me. While there’s only one option for each course on Xico’s dining month menu, each one looks GOOD.
Biwa: To be fair, it doesn’t look like you’ll necessarily be full after partaking in Biwa’s dining month menu. But their homestyle Japanese food is reliably delicious. So come with a buddy and share the dining month menu plus one or two other items, and I’m sure you’ll leave happy.
Ataula: Ataula remains one of the most fun nights out I’ve had in Portland. The food is something you don’t often find: traditional Spanish food, and the service and atmosphere are lively and fun. Plus, on their dining month menu you’ll find a mini version of one of their famous paellas.
Laurelhurst Market: Laurelhurst Market was my final dining month meal last year (and my last meal before getting my wisdom teeth out, which made it that much more special), and it was stellar. Start your meal with stuff mushrooms, then move to some braised beef shoulder (which is bound to be awesome), and then finish with a chocolate whiskey pudding. (Note: their cocktails are awesome, so I highly recommend getting one with your meal!)
Imperial: Located downtown and headed by two fantastic chefs (Vitaly Paley and Doug Adams), Imperial is my go to for brunch with guests staying downtown. Hit them up for dining month to get some grilled squash salad, braised pork, and a chocolate bouchon for dessert.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza: Is this the most exciting menu ever? No. Caesar salad, sausage pizza, and a brownie sundae for dessert. BUT IT WILL BE SO GOOD. This place has some of my favorite pizza in Portland, so take advantage of the price for the three courses and hit it up!
Where are you looking forward to going for Portland Dining month?
Wow, it’s almost March. Which translates to: wow, it’s almost Portland Dining Month! This event put on by Travel Portland is always a favorite of mine, a chance to get out and try multiple courses from some of the city’s awesome restaurants for just $29. So, where are you going to go? You can see my picks below, and you can read about all the restaurants participating and their menus here.
Here are some I’m itching to make it to:
23 Hoyt: I’ve always been a fan of 23 Hoyt’s happy hour, and this seems like an expanded version of that. With two choices for each course (all savory, no dessert), you’ll have plenty of options.
Aviary: One of my absolute favorite restaurants in Portland. Delicious northwest food with an Asian bent, plus the bonus of friendly awesome service. And two choices for every course!
Departure: Somehow, I still haven’t been to Departure. How? Maybe dining month is the time to start. Mango salad, shrimp dumplings, chicken tonkatsu, and carrot cake all get my tastebuds tingling.
Imperial: Come on, you know you want to try Doug Adams’ PBR braised pork…
Lincoln: Jenn Louis is releasing a cookbook all about making pasta. So get in here and try some from the master.
Little Bird Bistro: I’ve always really enjoyed this downtown spot, and they’ve got lots of options to choose from on their dining month menu. I’d pick the gnocchi, the trout, and… I’m still deciding on dessert.
Ned Ludd: I love Ned Ludd’s delicious food and comforting atmosphere. I’d lean towards the charred broccoli raab for my first and the chicken breast for the second (though the vegetable gratin sounds awesome too).
Paley’s Place: Of course this Portland institution is on my list. There aren’t vegetarian options, but everything looks very tasty for us meat eaters. Elk for dinner? Um, yes.
Smallwares: I love Smallwares’ spin on Asian food – a true, funky, fusion restaurant. We went a few months ago and the food was really on point (as were the cocktails, I might add).
Tabla: If you are in the mood for some seriously tasty fresh pasta, I recommend Tabla. A well-kept secret on the east side, they’ve got multiple options for each course. Duck tortellini, anyone?
Xico: Octopus ceviche? Chicken in black, burnt-chili seasoning? Gosh that sounds tasty. Plus a carrot cake from pastry chef Mindy Keith.
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!