When you arrive for your Bend vacation, it’s tempting to spend the entire time lazing in an inner tube on the Deschutes River. But there are a few things worth a short journey beyond the city limits.
One of those things is Range Restaurant & Bar located at Brasada Ranch.
Just 16 miles northeast of Bend, Brasada Ranch may as well be another world. Horses graze in yawning pastures, rustic buildings blend beautifully into the high desert terrain, and the Cascade Mountain peaks sprawl so majestically across the horizon that you deplete your camera battery snapping photos.
Not that I’d know personally.
A couple things have changed since I visited Brasada Ranch last summer. First, Range Restaurant & Bar just hired a new executive chef. They successfully lured Ryan Sturmer from his post as executive chef at Urban Farmer (the award-winning restaurant at The Nines in Portland), and I can only assume both parties are heartily patting themselves on the back over that good fortune.
The second new thing at Range is the overall vibe. Where it once served as the classy, higher-end, restaurant at Brasada, it now has a more approachable feel. They still serve top-notch, locally-sourced food in an intimate, ranch-style space, but it’s now a bit more casual. There’s a new kids’ menu, and the Range lawn offers plenty of place for the young’uns to frolic. The restaurant has equal parts indoor and outdoor dining, and the heated patio means you can soak up the fresh air and breathtaking sunsets while you enjoy your meal.
And speaking of the meal, that’s another fine reason to make the drive from Bend. Open seasonally from late-May through late-October, Range Restaurant & Bar focuses on creative, ranch-style cuisine with spellbinding views.
The first thing that set me swooning on my recent visit was the salad. No really—the salad. You know a salad must be something special if every member of the dining party—all 11 of us—commented on it. This roasted beet and fennel creation features hearty chunks of colorful beet with thinly-sliced fennel, arugula, pears, hazelnuts, sheep’s feta, and a sherry vinaigrette that perfectly complements the flavors in the dish without overwhelming it. I seriously could have eaten five of these salads without batting an eyelash.
Luckily, I restrained myself, which meant I had room for the wild-caught Pacific salmon served with a quinoa griddle cake, basil, and heirloom tomato pan sauce. The combination of flavors and textures was outstanding, and the portions seemed heartier than what you often see when ordering salmon in a restaurant. Our server offered a nice selection of wine, including a crisp Pinot Grigio, a hearty Cabernet, and even some lovely Oregon Pinot Noir to complement the different entrée choices at our table.
I’m not ordinarily a dessert fan, but I’m glad our server suggested the almond berry mousse with berry compote. It was light and flavorful and paired perfectly with my mint tea. I also enjoyed a nibble of the organic chocolate decadence cake with raspberry coulis. It somehow managed to be dense and springy at the same time, which is a feat unto itself. It was still delicious the next day after I distracted my co-workers and loaded everyone’s leftovers into my personal takeout box brought a small sample home to enjoy later.
Let’s just pretend for a moment the only thing on the menu at Range Restaurant & Bar is fried earthworms and moldy grapes on a plate of stale Doritos. It would still be worth the drive to Brasada Ranch just for the spectacular views. The 1,800 acre grounds are dotted with several massive outdoor fire pits, which offer the perfect spot to cozy up and watch the glorious sunsets give way to breathtaking views of the stars. Feeling chilly? Your server will happily offer you a blanket and the chance to roast marshmallows for s’mores.
While it’s my job to lure you to Bend and to suggest you spend every penny with local lodging establishments, restaurants, and tour companies, save a few pennies and a gallon of gas for an evening drive to Brasada Ranch.
And snap an extra picture of the mountains for me, okay?