These Days, We Graze
The popularity of tapas-style, or small plate dining, has spread like wildfire through Portland. More and more restaurants are offering mix-and-match options portioned somewhere between an appetizer and an entrée so their patrons may “graze” on a wider variety of dishes. In the time-honored tradition of “keeping the customer satisfied” burgeoning restaurant owners are following the trend, while some established businesses are revising their bill of fare to suit this model.
Menus once organized with such headings as appetizers, soups and salads, and entrees, are now more likely to be categorized by labels such as their chief ingredient. You’re also likely to find more rotating menu items and few mainstays, as chefs experiment with flavors.
Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better
Why this meteoric rise in small plate popularity? For one thing, attitudes about what truly constitutes quality and value are changing. For decades, bigger was considered better. Restaurants touted the size of the portions they offered, and American obesity rates grew proportionately. Today’s diners are looking for healthier options and portion size has evolved into a key strategy for controlling caloric intake while still enjoying an excellent dining experience.
Not only are today’s restaurant patrons more health conscious, they are also more knowledgeable and discerning. Modern “Foodies” are well versed in food preparation and content and enjoy experimenting and customizing their meals. Restaurant owners have noticed this and responded by giving their patrons more choices.
Don’t Wait, Dig In!
If you’re going to become a small plate diner, the first thing you’re going to have to do is adjust your thoughts on timing. Instead of courses being carefully paced so that groups will eat their apps, main courses, and desserts together, tapas dining is typically more of a – free for all.
Your server is going to politely inform you as you place your order that food will come out as it’s ready, and in no particular order, so don’t wait, dig in, because the next dish could be placed on your table at any time.
There’s Always Room for Dessert
The trend benefits restaurants as well as patrons. A variety of small plate options allow them to expand their boundaries, show off their talents, try out some new dishes and — because they have so many new opportunities to use a variety of ingredients — cut down on waste.
And, most importantly, by lightly dining on a selection of dishes that you’re sharing with friends, you’re more likely to have a room to also sample and share desserts!
Portland boasts multiple establishments offering small plate options. There is a dining experience to suit every taste, whether your group decides to sample and share several dishes at one restaurant or food crawls, visiting several places in one night. It’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable dining experience than a stroll through our beautiful city, with stops at a variety of restaurants to partake of a wide range of sophisticated styles and ingredients, all at an equally palatable price.
A Few of Our Favorite Things
Small plate dining isn’t for everyone, and there are still plenty of restaurants in Portland offering the more traditional dining experience. But, if you haven’t tried small plate dining and would like to see what all the fuss is about, gather up a group of your foodie friends and check out this exciting trend in Portland dining experiences. Here’s a list with a few of our favorite small plate restaurants to get you started this winter.
575 Congress Street
Evo Kitchen + Bar
448 Fore Street
119 Exchange Street