Mushroom risotto is one of the Salem Dining Month options at Rafns', paired with soup or salad and glass of wine (Courtesy/Rafns' Restaurant)

Want to sample some Salem flavor?

Eighteen local restaurants are offering special three-course menus as part of Salem Dining Month, a year-old event encouraging residents to partake in some culinary exploration.

The event was the brainchild of Willamette Valley Vineyards director Christine Clair, who grew up in the region and wanted to showcase the variety of local restaurants, breweries and wineries that have sprung up in Salem.

Nicole Krill, who manages the project for the winery, said their hope is to make people more aware of Salem’s food scene.

“There’s a big mix of restaurants,” she said.

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At most participating restaurants, diners pay $30 for three courses, which could include appetizers, entrees and beverages.

Some have crafted special menu items for October.

Amadeus is serving homemade hummus or a salad and Oregon ravioli or bruschetta chicken with a glass of local wine. At Basil and Board, diners can try a seasonal hatch chili pizza.

Options range from fine dining to more casual. Beer fans can head to Gilgamesh, HopHeads Brew Pub or Salem Ale Works for a mix of local brews with food.

Last year’s event drew positive feedback from restaurant owners who enjoyed having a chance to try new menu items, Krill said.

The vineyard is also holding special wine tastings Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 at the Historic Grand Theatre before Enlightened Theatrics’ performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Playgoers can sample wine for free or buy a glass to take into the theater.

Grill said the vineyard encourages people to post photos of their dining experiences on social media using the hashtag #SalemDiningMonth.

“We love to see what people are trying, get them talking about it,” she said.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.