I was invited by Dishcrawl Portland organizer Mary Soule to check out the August event that took place this past Tuesday. For those not familiar with the event, Dishcrawl Portland is the local affiliate of a national series of events built around sampling restaurants by attending a handful in one night. Here in Portland you pay a cover charge of $45 dollars and get brought to four restaurants, where owners and chefs present a sampling from their menus and talk a bit about the history of the establishment and notes on preparation.
The August event featured Little Tap House, Taco Escobar, Nosh and Wannawaf, all of which the attendee is led to without knowing what the next location will be. I will be clear that I attended only three of the four locations. A couple of drinks in I found myself lubricated and feeling particularly social so I stuck around Nosh to engage in conversation with owner Jason Loring, with whom I am friendly. This is unfortunate (though it was great to catch up with Jason), as after a steady stream of bourbon I certainly could have used some waffles to soak it all up. You live, you learn, I suppose, though as a prolific drinker and eater one would imagine I would have learned this by now. This is a perfect place to note that unless an establishment is packaging drinks with their samplings, you are on your own when it comes to buying booze, though this feels understandable considering the low price tag.
Well, “low” might be debatable, I suppose. At first glance, $45 seems a little steep for what appears to amount to 4 small plates, but both Little Tap House and Taco Escobar piled the food on and so by the time I got to Nosh I was already quite satiated. Again, I wish I held out for the waffle as a nightcap of sugar and carbs certainly would have justified the price, but I didn’t need it, really. Further, the point isn’t that you end up full [you will], but to have a low-key, intimate guided tour of Portland restaurants. In this way, the mission of the event ultimately attracts folks who are curious about food though might not be comfortable identifying as in-the-know, as it were. On Tuesday night I was in the company of about 20 of these folks, stuffing my face with food and booze, and it was delightful.
I met a couple of nurses, and one super lovely guy from Bangor who was really into Renaissance and blade culture, and we had a nice chat to start the evening off. I talked with Soule’s parents who were [adorably] in attendance. There were a few handfuls of women in their early middle age, a young couple, and a single guy and a single gal. Speaking of this, I feel as though no matter where your preferences lie, Dishcrawl could become a great event for meeting single folks. (Or couples or groups if that’s your thing.) Get a beer, eat a slider, make a love connection. As the evening progressed, folks appeared to become less divvied into silos and found themselves engaging with fellow Dishcrawlers, and this feels like another value add. For any social event, food and mystery are pretty great elements around which to commune.
And so Dishcrawl is new and it still feels a bit like it is being figured out, but I like that in an event. It might not be for folks who consider themselves super in the know with regard to what’s what in the local food scene, but I can imagine there will one day be different sorts of events for folks with varying levels of knowledge and expectation. In its present state, it is a fun experience for folks who are curious. And because it is sometimes fun to see your own city through the eyes of a tour guide, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest Dishcrawl is for one community over another. It should, however, be considered very appealing to those with a touch of daring and a bit of a social appetite who want to try something new, but don’t necessarily know where to start.
I would happily make the crawl again.