Where to Eat During Portland Dining Month

Which of the city’s 120-plus restaurants will you explore during our frugal, creative dining month? We’ve got a few ideas….

By Sarah Hopwood March 14, 2016

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Biwa in 2011

Image: Karen Brooks

Portland Dining Month is in now in full swing. If you’ve already begun your thrifty eating tour, good on you. For everyone else, here’s the scoop: every year dining establishments across the city offer up their most creative dishes in three courses for only $29. It’s an awesome deal for Portlanders who might otherwise be unwilling to fork over for such pricey entrees. And lucky for you, we’ve narrowed down the list of 120-plus participating restaurants to our top 10 choices. For the full list of restaurants, visit travelportland.com.

The Deal:
The beloved Southeast Portland Japanese drinking den is serving up normally spendy cuts of sashimi along with drinking bites, skewers, and miso soup in one affordable package.
The Grub: 
1st: Rotating daily sashimi, including ocean trout with Deschutes Black Butte Porter shoyu
2nd: Otsumami (drinking snacks) and kushiyaki (grilled skewers) 
3rd: Smoky miso vegetable soup

The Deal: 
Kurobata short ribs (the Wagyu equivalent of pork) and a whirlwind of modern Asian influence from James Beard Award semi-finalist Sarah Pliner make this upscale spot a top pick on NE Alberta Street. 
The Grub:
1st: Braised beef cheek dumplings with egg yolk, jicama, cucumber, and peanuts or prawn salad with snap peas, coconut, Cara Cara oranges, jalapeño, and taro root crisp 
2nd: Top-grade kurobuta pork short rib with rutabaga, enoki mushrooms, fish sauce, and pickled Thai chiles or pineapple curry with glazed skate wing, Manila clams, cranberry beans, maitake mushrooms, and sea beans 
3rd: Pistachio dacquoise with yogurt mousse and grapefruit sorbet or chocolate cremeux cake with passion fruit and crispy rice

Little Bird
The Deal:
With James Beard superstar Gabriel Rucker, Little Bird is flying higher than ever. Sample some of its white-tablecloth, American Nouveau plates on the cheap.
The Grub:
1st: Radicchio salad with orange-poppy seed dressing, pistachios, and aged gouda or grilled pork belly and chickpea blini with lentil hummus, mint, and carrot salad 
2nd: Cedar-planked cod with balsamic-roasted fennel, smoked chili fondue, and white bean salad or pork cognac plum stew with lentils, charred scallion, and Dijon vinaigrette
3rd: Lemon olive oil cake with whipped cream, lemon crumb, and rhubarb or ice cream and sorbet duo with a shortbread cookie

The Country Cat
The Deal:
You won’t find Guy Fieri’s favorite, finger-lickin’ fried chicken on Country Cat’s Dining Month menu, but you can still get a taste of Montavilla’s best Southern-inspired soul food. 
The Grub:
1st: Oregon wild mushrooms and Texas toast 
2nd: Poached wild-caught Gulf shrimp with an orange, fennel ,and avocado salad dressed in a creamy Meyer lemon vinaigrette 
3rd: Chocolate cupcake-in-a-jar with cream filling and fudgy icing 

The Deal:
Modernist, Michelin-level Spanish cooking for under $30? Hell yes. The Spanish classic, tortilla de patata served up using farm eggs and Spanish cured ham, is reason enough to check out the usually-pricey tapas and paella-focused restaurant. 
The Grub:
1st:  Spanish octopus carpaccio with sun-dried tomato, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts, and pickled onions
2nd: Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet) with cured ham, farm eggs, confit potatoes, and 4-year cured Ibérico ham 
3rd: Toasted noodles with calamari, squid ink, sofrito and harissa aioli 

The Feisty Lamb
The Deal:
If Portland Monthly’s review of the controversial restaurant discouraged you from visiting, consider this a low-cost way to sample the Feisty Lamb’s eclectic world food and make the call for yourself. 
The Grub:
1st: Lamb belly char siu with a pickled red onion, tarragon pancake, and hibiscus-ginger syrup
2nd: Minced, smoked lamb with an apple-mint chutney, spiced pomegranate splashes, and pecans with garam masala and local honey
3rd: Green Israeli IPA gelato with a hot pretzel made of Hawaiian pink salted-blonde brownie cookie dough and trifecta mustard-caramel

Laurelhurst Market
The Deal:
Normally a special-occasion steak dinner spot, Laurelhurst Market is suddenly within financial reach, with enough meaty firepower to satisfy the most ravenous carnivores.
The Grub:
1st: Sausage-stuffed crimini mushrooms, arugula, parmesan, and aged balsamic
2nd: Braised beef shoulder with horseradish creamed kale and fried onions
3rd: Chocolate-whiskey pudding with marshmallow and pretzel shortbread cookies 

St. Jack
The Deal:
Date night alert: this Lyonnaise bistro has been melting hearts for six years with wax candles, oysters, and blood sausage. If you’ve been waiting to make a reservation, now’s your chance. 
The Grub:

1st: Fried Brussels sprouts with buttermilk, anchovy, and dill 
2nd: Blanquette de porc (French pig in a blankets) with baby carrot, new potato, cognac, cream, and fresh herbs 
3rd: Chocolate pot de crème with walnut liqueur Chantilly and a sugar cookie

The Deal:
The upscale Division street eatery breaks from its usual hominy-filled pozoles and dark, stewed moles with a crazy creative menu that includes nettle tacos, ancho-stuffed chile rellenos, and a dessert version of elote, a grilled corn on the cob, traditionally served as a street snack.
The Grub
1st: Taco with spring lettuces from Gathering Together Farm, Portland Creamery feta, avocado and pickled red onion, dressed with cilantro-lime vinaigrette and served on a fresh, hot tortilla made with heirloom Abenaki corn
2nd: Ancho chili relleno, with sweet and spicy red chili, steeped in Mexican brown sugar (aka piloncillo) and stuffed with fresh Mexican cheese, ripe plantain, tomato and chicken. Topped with crema Oaxaquena (think sour cream, but better) and parsley leaves and served with toasted chicken broth rice, refried red beans and melted cheese
3rd: Sweet corn cake with vanilla custard and crème anglaise, mezcal, and anejo tequila

Paley’s Place
The Deal:
Perhaps this 21-year-old institution has always been too daunting to visit. Maybe you’re a Paley regular. Either way, now is the time to sample Vitaly Paley’s award-winning Pacific northwest cooking without breaking the bank.
The Grub:
1st: Butter lettuce and pear salad with chèvre, croutons, and fennel vinaigrette
2nd: Quail under a brick, root vegetable puree with wilted spinach and mushroom jus
3rd: Russian imperial stout cake, coffee cream, and burnt toffee

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