Best Bets for Portland Dining Month

The tastiest-looking menus for the city’s budget-friendly dining month.

By Benjamin Tepler February 24, 2015

Cafe Castagna's grilled artichoke, chicken liver mousse, fried and pickled cauliflower, and bay shrimp salad.

In March, Portland’s month-long version of restaurant week kicks off with 100+ restaurants offering three courses for $29. It’s an awesome deal at the city’s finer dining establishments, where usually you could have spend the same amount on a single lavish entrée. It’s also a great opportunity for Portland chefs to strut their stuff with creative, out-of-the-box flavors. Below, our five top prospects for the best month in Portland dining.

The Restaurant: The Country Cat

1st: Salad of English peas, goat cheese, mint and cucumber

2nd: Hickory-smoked baby back ribs with barbecue baked beans and fennel slaw

3rd: Lemon pound cake with lemon cream and cherry compote

Why it’s special: After seeing what he can do with the rest of the animal, sampling baby back ribs from pork-god Adam Sappington is reason enough to nab a seat. 

The Restaurant:

1st: Octopus ceviche with mango, tomato, and herbs on squid ink tortillas

2nd: Chicken cooked in a black, burnt-chile seasoning with egg, avocado, and orange-pickled red onions

3rd: Mindy's carrot cake with canela-crema frosting, piloncillo sugar brittle, and raisin liqueur

Why it’s special: You had us at octopus ceviche with squid ink tortillas and chicken in burnt-chile. Plus, we can’t wait to try pastry chef Mindy Keith’s Mexican take on carrot cake. 

The Restaurant: Imperial

1st: Salad of marinated citrus

2nd: Cola and Pabst Blue Ribbon-braised pork

3rd: Almond and rhubarb financier

Why it’s special: Here’s your chance to taste Top Chef finalist Doug Adams’ food on a budget. His cola and PBR-braised pork won him Episode 7: Restaurant Wars. Try it yourself and see if it stacks up to the buzz. 

The Restaurant: Aviary

1st: Dungeness crab chawanmushi with bone marrow, sea urchin, Asian pear, snap peas, and truffle vinaigrette OR warm vegetable salad with romanesco, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, lime-pickle vinaigrette, and black garlic

2nd: Miso-braised beef short rib with taro root, Asian pear, yuzu kosho slaw OR pan-seared salmon with cauliflower, saffron, green apple, trout roe, and American caviar

3rd: Chocolate tart with banana ice cream and cocoa nibs OR baked meringue with huckleberries and Meyer lemon sorbet

Why it’s special: Most of the menu looks like the typical Asian-fusion bill of fare, but the first course, a Dungeness crab Japanese egg custard with marrow, uni, and truffle vinaigrette, looks like the luxury dish of the year.

The Restaurant: Café Castagna

1st: Fried kibbeh, tahini panissa, harissa, and kohlrabi salad with yogurt

2nd: Roasted Brussels sprouts, preserved lemon, charred beets, tahini and grilled trout with chicken brodo

3rd: Halva and chocolate

Why it’s special: Last summer, Café Castagna’s reliably good but stagnant kitchen got fresh blood in the form of Wesley Johnson, a recruit from Philly’s famed Zahav. Now’s the time to dip in to Café Castagna’s totally revamped Mid-East menu, with grilled trout in tahini and charred beets and the unbeatable combination of sesame halva and chocolate. 

For the full list of Portland Dining Month participants, visit Travel Portland's website

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