Every March, over 100 Portland restaurants participate in Portland Dining Month and serve 3-course dinner menus for $33. This annual event is part of Travel Portland’s initiatives to encourage out of town visitors and Portlanders alike to explore what our local food scene has to offer.
There are 30 restaurants listed when you select the “vegan” checkbox on the official Portland Dining Month 2019 directory, but if you peek at the menus, you’ll notice that not all of the restaurants listed offer a vegan option for every course. The following Portland Dining Month restaurants are confirmed (either by myself or trusted vegan friends) to have 3-course vegan menus: 23 Hoyt, Aviv, Blossoming Lotus, Departure, Ecliptic Brewing, Hoda, Sauce Box, Farmhouse Kitchen, Tiffin Asha, Verde Cocina, and Yakuza. If you know of any others, please let me know.
This is my third Portland Dining Month, and I decided to hit up my top picks within the first week so I could share my experiences with you while these special menus are still available. I recently collaborated with Travel Portland on an Instagram giveaway, but all the Portland Dining Month meals featured below were all paid for out of my own pocket. If I visit any other restaurants for Portland Dining Month, I’ll add them to the collection below.
You can always count on Gregory Gourdet and his team for an incredible meal. Served family style, Departure vegan menu for Portland Dining Month is as beautiful as it is delicious. The appetizer is a crunchy shaved collards and roots slaw with sesame dressing, seed furikake, and nori. The entree is a fragrant vegetable green curry. Last, but not least, the toasted chocolate custard with chocolate coconut milk ice cream and ginger nibs was a magical finale to the meal. Considering how Departure can make your wallet weep even during happy hour, I recommend grabbing this $33 Portland Dining Month meal while you still can.
This year, I’m happy to see more than one fully vegan restaurant participating in Portland Dining Month. Chef Tal Caspi is serving quite a feast of plant-based Israeli inspired dishes. As always a meal at Aviv begins with Gonzo Hummus and warm pita. (They were out of the eggplant salad that goes with the hummus, so they let us pick which topping we wanted. I opted for the seasonal mushrooms.) The second course features roasted root veggies with cashew labneh (yum!), chipotle aioli, dried cranberries, and fennel fronds. The entree was just what I needed in this chilly weather: a hearty and spicy stew of tomato, peppers, and mushrooms topped with an abalone mushroom filet and served with a roll. Show up extra hungry or plan to take leftovers home because this is a lot of food.
Since Chef Cameron Lee Dunlap took over the kitchen, 23 Hoyt has started to offer more vegan options. As always, feedback is helpful as restaurants refine their vegan offerings, so don’t hesitant to speak up when asked about your meal. For Portland Dining Month, the vegan starter is a tasty beet tartare with sweet potato chips, roasted garlic, and a spicy cashew aioli. The entree is a hearty farro stuffed delicata squash with red kale and balsamic kale. I tried a previous version of this squash entree a few months ago, and I enjoyed the changes they’ve made to this dish. The dessert is a hazelnut milk panna cotta with blueberry compote and pastry nibs. (Last I heard, the kitchen has been reworking the dessert.)
As much as I enjoy their live nachos, some of my past experiences at Blossoming Lotus have been rather underwhelming. That said, I’m definitely a fan of what Blossoming Lotus is doing for Portland Dining Month. What a coincidence that the Portland Dining Month menu here is similar to the menu at 23 Hoyt: beets, squash, panna cotta. Blossoming Lotus’ beet and avocado ceviche is served with radishes and house made corn chips. The entree features kabocha and delicata squash in vadouvan butter, black beluga lentils (yum!), spinach, caramelized fennels, golden raisin chutnet, and cilantro onion cream. The white chocolate panna cotta with dulce de leche, blood orange, streusel, and rhubarb is all kinds of fabulous.
For Portland Dining Month, Farmhouse Kitchen included an extra course of tom kha soup and more than one vegan item to choose from for each course. (What do you mean, I have to make a decision?!) I opted for the vegan fresh roll and samosa combo, the crunchy vegan chicken in tamarind pineapple glaze, and the blue coconut pudding. I recommend ordering off the regular menu instead unless you have your heart set on the tasting menu experience. The vegan fresh rolls, herbal rice salad, and curries are some of my favorite dishes on the regular lunch/dinner menu. I also strongly recommend making a reservation to Farmhouse Kitchen as they are always packed for dinner.
At Hoda’s Middle Eastern Cuisine, the Portland Dining Month menu begins with house hummus with toasted pine nuts, pickled turnips, and tabouleh salad. The fried cauliflower with spicy tahini is tasty with a glass of rose or chardonnay. Makloubeh, the vegan entree, translates literally to “upside down”, and features lentils with jasmine rice layered with fried eggplant, caramelized onions, pickled turnips, and tahini sauce. At Hoda’s, they really know how to cook eggplant well. I recommend sharing one Portland Dining Month menu and ordering several other dishes for a full tasting of Hoda’s vegan offerings. We shared the falafel plate, baba ghanoush (delicious!), and stuffed grape leaves (I’d skip this one).
I did not visit Tiffin Asha during Portland Dining Month, but I attended a media event in February where I sampled two of the dishes that they are offering on the vegan Portland Dining Month menu. The kokum curry with mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, curry leaves, and string hoppers (hand-pressed, steamed rice noodles) is one of the best things I’ve eaten in 2019. The coconut ladoo served with scented plant-based milk and rose petals is a lovely end to the meal.