ON WEDNESDAY nights, a small collection of food-world notables, families, and daters gathers in a dining room known for seasonal pizza. Stan Getz blows sweet jazz from a record player on an old armoire stacked with vintage vinyl. But everyone is focused on the aromas leaking from the hidden kitchen of Tastebud, the home base for farmers market wood-oven star Mark Doxtader.
Tastebud’s weekly Chicken Dinner Night has arrived, and with it come the most glorious birds you can remember eating: the running juices, heavenly skin, and utter goodness in every bite make you realize how rare it is to find a great chicken. Doxtader shows his grill-savvy here, getting a smoky char by placing the birds right over glowing coals, then transferring them to a hot, dry frying pan in the oven to get that luscious crispy skin. Three flavors turn up for each event, from gingery Thai to chile-powered diavolo, served in whopping half-bird portions for just $12. The package also includes beautifully bronzed biscuits courtesy of rising talent Kate McMillen, the baker behind Lauretta Jean’s pies.
To complement your bird, choose from a handful of changing companions, all simple but carefully conceived. The playlist includes creamy polenta, rough-smashed potatoes, gorgeous marinated beets, and sweet-roasted vegetables that look like they were just yanked from the ground.
With a nondescript look somewhere between a thrift store and a suburban bathroom, décor has been the one eyesore at Tastebud since it opened in 2008. With just a few simple moves, Doxtader, a former farmer, could create a better hangout, perhaps playing off his sweet, dust-bowl vibe. But his magic with fire needs no improvements. So lower your eyelids for now, and inhale one of Portland’s best-kept secrets. This is mighty good food that flat-out satisfies at sane prices.