One of the glorious herb gardens on the back patio outside Jackalope.
Lovely herb garden on the patio.

For seven years, Bend locals had a secret: Jackalope Grill, tucked in an odd strip mall location on the south end of town, served some of the most incredible cuisine in the region. Since it was off the beaten path, visitors didn’t just stumble upon it, leaving greedy locals to hoard it for ourselves.

That all changed last year when Jackalope Grill moved to Downtown Bend, bringing fine dining to an intimate space conveniently located near the parking garage on Lava Ave. Not that I’m complaining. The new spot is right next to my office, and I’m a firm believer that great food is meant to be shared.

The new space features an intimate 65-seat indoor dining area, but Jackalope also boasts a small outdoor courtyard. Since the patio is walled-in on all sides, I worried I might feel claustrophobic with no sweeping views or people-watching. On the contrary, the outdoor area is surprisingly bright and airy, dotted with adorable herb gardens and protected from the wind.

Baby kale salad with mint & peanut dressing.
Baby kale salad with mint & peanut dressing.

The Visit Bend team kicked off the meal by sampling a huge array of salads. I’m always smitten with kale, but I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, so I was surprised to hear rave reviews up and down our table. The baby kale salad with mint and peanut dressing features sliced almond and a slightly spicy dressing. It was the perfect blend of flavors and textures. I also loved the roasted organic candycane beets with burrata (a ball of fresh mozzarella filled with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream).

Next came the endless, scrumptious parade of appetizers. I thought a fist-fight might break out over the escargots baked in garlic-shallot butter, but there was enough to share. I especially loved the fried eggplant drizzled in honey and garnished with rosemary. The grilled prawns & chickpea panisse with romanesco sauce is a longtime favorite of mine, and it’s a hearty appetizer perfect to split with a pal if you’re just here for drinks and apps.

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Tasty grilled prawns & chickpea panisse.

But if you’re sticking around for dinner, you’re in for a huge treat. Let me state, for the record, that I’ve dined all over the world—Spain, Italy, Venezuela, France, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, not to mention restaurants around the U.S. from Los Angeles to New York City. I tell you that so you know it means something when I say the Pork Osso Bucco is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Made with all-natural pork from Oregon’s Cascade Farms in the Willamette Valley, the meat is slow braised in red wine, then served atop creamy sun-dried tomato polenta with citrus gremolada and natural sauce. The spices and flavors perfectly complement the most tender, succulent piece of meat you can imagine.

Amazing osso bucco.
Amazing osso bucco.

While I was busy swooning over that, several colleagues were declaring their intense love of the char-broiled ribeye. Jackalope Grill uses grass-fed Oregon beef cooked to perfection and topped with the perfect blend of gorgonzola butter and crispy onion rings. It’s served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and fresh veggies.

Other popular favorites at our table were the Bolognese (a meat sauce with slow-braised beef sirloin and pork) and the gnocchi with sun-dried tomato pesto.

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Save room for crème brûlée!

Most of our party was too stuffed to consider dessert, but we changed our minds at the sight of the crème brûlée. My personal favorite dessert was the panacotta with its perfect, smooth simplicity and lemony flavor. The wine selection is especially good at Jackalope, with a great array of cocktails and beer for those who prefer something else. The Moscow mule is particularly tasty, and served in an awesome copper mug.

Overall, I’d say Jackalope Grill has become my new favorite date-night spot, and I’m already plotting to ensure I’m taken there for my birthday in six weeks. That osso bucco would look great with a candle in it.

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