My not-so-secret life as an author has me on the road a lot lately for book tours, which turns out to be a good thing for my life as Bend tourism promoter. It’s a great way to remember what it’s like to be a visitor to an unfamiliar town.

One of the biggest decisions when I’m on the road is where to eat. I’ve been known to grab locals and ask, “where’s your favorite spot for lunch?” or “where do you go when you splurge for a date-night dinner?” The answers always yield great tips (and great meals!) so I’m turning the questions on myself to aid your culinary decision-making in Bend.

Yummy breakfast at Rockin’ Daves!

Where do you like to go for breakfast?

I discovered Rockin’ Daves Bagel Bistro & Catering Company by accident a few months ago while looking for another business on NE Greenwood Avenue. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite places for a casual Sunday breakfast.

They have the most amazing breakfast burritos in town, but bagels are their true specialty. My favorite bagel sandwich is called The Clogger. It’s made on any bagel you pick (sesame is divine!) and comes with bacon, tomato, avocado, red onion, and cream cheese. The base price is $5.50, though I substitute egg for the cream cheese, which adds $1 extra.

If I’m splurging for a slightly more upscale breakfast, I head for one of two spots. Alpenglow Café has incredible made-from-scratch fare, and my go-to dish there is Zeus’s Favorite Frittata. It’s made with fresh oregano, kalamata olives, caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes, feta, cream cheese and scallions and served with a side of Alpenglow’s amazing home fries. You also get your choice of fruit, toast, or amazing coffee cake.

My other splurgy breakfast fave is Chow. Tucked in a cozy cottage on Newport Avenue, Chow is famous for its wide variety of ever-changing specials and a penchant for using locally-grown, locally-sourced ingredients. My favorite regular menu item is the Blackstone, which is made with poached eggs, corn-crusted tomatoes, spinach, and béarnaise sauce. For a side dish, you can choose between house potatoes, crispy fried tomatoes, or creamy polenta (I love the polenta!)

What’s your favorite lunch spot?

Every couple months I send a one-word email to a friend. Croutons? Her standard reply: Yes, please!

The tomato basil soup at Croutons is also to-die-for.

It’s our way of saying it’s been too long since we sat down for our favorite casual lunch at Croutons restaurant. Our orders never change. For me it’s a combo featuring half a Santa Fe salad and half a Granny Smith chicken salad flatini (a variation on a panini) for $7.75. The salad is made with romaine and spring mix with apple, corn, red onion, smoked gouda, toasted walnuts, cornbread croutons and fiesta ranch dressing. The flatini is stuffed with the most divine chicken salad you’ll ever taste, complete with walnuts, cheddar cheese, tart Granny Smith apples, and scrumptious chicken breast.

When I’m craving something more exotic, I hit the buffet at Taj Palace Indian restaurant in Downtown Bend. For $7.95, you can fill your plate again and again and again (and again!) with tasty Indian dishes ranging from creamy chicken masala to lamb curry to a variety of delicious veggie offerings. The buffet dishes can vary, but many of the staples stay the same, like their delicious nan bread with an array of flavorful dipping sauces.

Got a romantic date-night suggestion?

Bend has so many incredible restaurants I could easily do date-night every night if it weren’t for the pesky fact that I’m not a millionaire.

Amazing scallops at Ariana.

My gentleman friend and I are big fans of sushi, and we have two favorite go-to spots. The first is Five Fusion in Downtown Bend, which has one of the best happy hours in town. Their sushi is top notch, but I also love sampling their unique non-seafood treats like sesame crusted lamb with peppercorn sauce or filet mignon lollipops with marbled mash.

My other favorite sushi spot is Kanpai on Newport Avenue. Everything is always divinely fresh and beautifully made, and they have a great selection of sake. For a chance to sample a variety of dishes, order the sushi combo for $18. It comes with a chef’s selection of three nigiri, sashimi, and a half-order of California and spicy tuna rolls.

When it comes to super special occasions worth a splurge, two favorites come to mind. Trattoria Spandati offers melt-in-your-mouth, kick-yourself-in-the-face-in-case-you’re-dreaming Italian food in an intimate setting. Everything is made from scratch, from pillowy-soft pastas to mouthwatering sauces. Dinners can be pricey, but are well worth it. For the best deal around, sign up on their website to be notified of upcoming wine dinners, where a $50 prix fixe price gets you an incredible four-course meal with wine pairings.

Another great date spot is Ariana Restaurant. With an emphasis on seasonal, organic, and sustainable food, Ariana is housed in a craftsman bungalow with the ambiance of a European bistro. They have an awesome wine list, and daily specials guaranteed to leave you drooling in your napkin. Whatever you order, be sure to start with their roasted organic ruby and golden beets marinated in shallot vinaigrette with watercress and Cypress Grove Chèvre Sachet. I almost always order a seafood dish when I dine here, and have never been disappointed.

So that’s my roundup of favorite dining spots in Bend. For local diners or those who’ve visited before, what are your top dining spots?

And more importantly, when are you taking me there?

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