From March 1–31, Portland is once again celebrating its gastronomical greatness with Portland Dining Month; all month long, 125 restaurants around the city will be offering irresistible three-course meals for only $29. With deals this sweet, there’s no better time to sample the culinary creations of the city’s James Beard Award semifinalists and past winners.
Named one of America’s best food cities by the Washington Post, among many others, Portland is truly a paradise for foodies of all ages and palates. It should come has no surprise, then, that dozens of our local chefs and eateries have earned praise over the years from the prestigious James Beard Awards—the Oscars of the culinary world. With this year’s James Beard semifinalists announced, it’s time for a fresh tour of the local landscape. Read on, and eat up!
Portlander Ken Forkish knows his way around a bag of flour—the expert baker was nominated as an Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2011 and 2013, and won a James Beard award for his cookbook Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. This year, he’s a semifinalist in the Outstanding Baker category. Taste that award-winning dough recipe for yourself at Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Southeast Portland, where the Dining Month menu centers on a Pomodoro Royale pie: tomato sauce, basil, olive oil, and freshly grated pecorino romano.
A neighborhood cornerstone since 1999, classy Castagna centers on a nightly chef’s tasting menu packed with more than a dozen delicious modern courses—this year, chef Justin Woodward picked up a Best Chef: Northwest nod. Head next door to the more casual Café Castagna for a Dining Month prix fixe dinner featuring braised pork cheeks and chocolate-dipped cream puffs. The owner of both restaurants, Monique Siu, is a semifinalist this year in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.
For their second restaurant, Ox chefs Greg Denton and Gabi Quiñónez Denton (James Beard Best Chef: Northwest semifinalists) focus on creative microplates, aiming to create the perfect bite. But SuperBite also happens to nail a bright menu of well-balanced cocktails and perfectly grilled meats and veggies. For Portland Dining Month, you’ll find a creative menu boasting such gems as salmon crudo, chicken-fried quail, and a pineapple orange sorbet.
A tattoo-covered college dropout (and former weed dealer), Gabriel Rucker might be an unexpected James Beard Award honoree—and yet, the 35-year-old Portland chef won Rising Star Chef of the year in 2011 and Best Chef Northwest in 2013. Best known for his adventurous French restaurant Le Pigeon (a semifinalist this year), Rucker also founded downtown bistro Little Bird, where Dining Month eaters can choose between cedar plank cod with a crab cake and grilled lamb terrine with chickpea stew, among other offerings.
A 2017 James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program, Clyde Common may be best known for its bar manager, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who was named America’s Bartender of the Year at the 2016 Spirited Awards. The European-style tavern also boasts great eats, including a Filipino-inspired Dining Month Menu of pancit bihon (noodle stir-fry), pork adobo, and sponge cake with marshmallow fluff.
Established in 1995, this local institution takes its name from co-founder Vitaly Paley, a Belarus-born chef who immigrated to America in 1976. In addition to winning a Best Chef Northwest Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2005, Paley was nominated as an Outstanding Chef in both 2012 and 2013. Paley’s first restaurant, Paley’s Place, specializes in sustainably sourced Pacific Northwest fare. This year’s Dining Month menu, for example, features a spicy green salad, braised rabbit with red cabbage and potatoes, and orange buttermilk panna cotta with roasted rhubarb and honeycomb crumble.
Founded in 1994, Higgins paved the way for two of Portland’s biggest food trends: meatless meals and farm-to-table dining. Credit goes to eponymous chef Greg Higgins, who has been using locally sourced ingredients to craft delicious vegetarian dishes for more than two decades. (The Dining Month menu, for example, features a rapini risotto with preserved Goat Horn peppers and provolone, and an endive salad with port wine-poached pear.) In 2002, the James Beard Foundation honored Higgins’s trailblazing approach with a Best Chef Northwest award.
For a full list of Portland Dining Month menus and participating restaurants, visit portlanddiningmonth.com.