‘Tis the season for running in frantic circles of holiday shopping and vacation planning and contemplating whether a Pop Tart counts as a balanced dinner.
Or is that just me?
I’m pretty sure it isn’t. In the spirit of ensuring all of us can find the perfect, nourishing, comfort food when we need it most, here’s my roundup of the best dining options in Bend this time of year.
Fast food with no pink slime
When you’re on the go, you need something you can order fast and eat even faster. But what’s a weary traveler to do if you don’t want to sacrifice your arteries, waistline, or foodie sensibilities?
One of my favorite options during an afternoon of shopping in Bend’s Old Mill District is Café Yumm. Their Yumm Bowls are created around the basic staples of rice and beans, and rounded out with delicious, nourishing additions. My favorite is the the Edamame Bowl, which is layered with organic brown rice, Yumm Sauce, and edamame, topped with nori (seaweed), shredded Tillamook cheddar cheese, diced tomato, fresh avocado, olives, and sour cream. The medium-sized Yumm Bowl is perfect for me, though small and large are good options, depending on your appetite. Order quickly at the counter, lick the bowl clean, and get right back on the shopping train.
Another good grab-and-go option is the classic burrito. Locally-owned Longboard Louie’s offers tons of great options, including dishes for vegetarians, vegans, and even gluten-free diners. They have locations on Bend’s Eastside and the Westside so you can swing by whether you’re doing a Costco run or en route to Downtown Bend.
Super soups to fill your belly
Few things are more comforting on a cold winter day than a big, warm bowl of soup. Luckily, Bend offers plenty of choices no matter which side of town you’re on when hunger hits.
One of my favorite picks when I’m feeling under-the-weather is Phở. Pronounced “phuh,” it’s a hot beef-noodle soup that’s a staple of Vietnamese cuisine and culture. There are several dozen variations to choose from at Phở Việt & Café on NE Third Street and Sweet Saigon in Downtown Bend. Be adventurous and order the special combination Phở that includes “tripe, tendon, well-done flank, lean and richesbrisket, tendon and beef meatballs” along with an assortment of bean sprouts, cilantro, rice noodles, onion, lime wedges, and the most delicious broth imaginable.
Another delicious Asian option is the Thai soup known as Tom Kah. Most variations are made with coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal root, mushrooms, and onion. Two great places to grab a bowl are Toomies Thai Cuisine and Noi Thai Cuisine, both located in Downtown Bend just a few blocks apart.
If you’re craving soup that’s more like grandma used to make, head to either Caldera Grille or D & D Bar and Grill (commonly known by locals as “The D.” Both have terrific homemade soups like Jalapeño Corn Chowder (Caldera) or to-die-for Chicken and Rice (The D). Order a big bowl with fries and half a sandwich, plus a bloody mary to take the holiday edge off.
Some of my favorite soup-n-salad options are offered in abundance at Croutons. With two locations in Bend, they offer a huge array of soups, salads, and sandwiches you can mix and match in endless combinations. Try a big bowl of their Roasted Tomato Basil soup with the Santa Fe Salad on the side.
Have dinner in bed!
Sometimes it’s romantic. Sometimes it’s just because it’s the warmest, coziest place in your Bend vacation home or Bend hotel. Whatever the reason, there are times there’s nothing more comforting than enjoying dinner while snuggled under the covers.
Sushi is one of my personal favorites for this dining option. Five Fusion has a terrific array of rolls and sides that package up nicely for easy eating in a non-traditional setting. The Shogun Roll is worth a $16 splurge, and made with escolar, asparagus, avocado, tempura fried, topped with spicy salmon, tobiko, and unagi sauce.
Another great sushi option is Kan Pai. They have an amazing sushi sampler for just $21, which features a selection of three nigiri, sashimi, and half orders of their California Roll and Spicy Tuna Roll. It’s a great choice for sharing or when you just can’t make up your mind.
Not a fan of sushi? Pizza makes another great choice for boudoir dining. Swing by one of three locations for Cibelli’s Pizza and grab a pie to go. Anything on their menu is made even tastier with a drizzle of their tasty pesto on top.
One of Bend’s most treasured hidden gems is the Taste of Thailand food cart. Tucked beside a lube shop on NE Greenwood, this is a cash-only spot with the friendliest customer service you’ll find anywhere. While you wait in your car, they’ll bring out an array of delicious samples and friendly smiles as you make your selection. If you see pumpkin curry on the day’s menu, get it. Then haul it back to your cozy Bend vacation rental, curl up with your blankie, and enjoy!
Feel-good meals worth putting on pants
Not in a huge hurry and willing to crawl out of bed? There are plenty of comfort food options in Bend that are worth taking the time to sit down at a table with real utensils.
One of my favorite recent additions to Bend’s culinary scene is Drake. They describe themselves as offering “creative and inspired comfort food,” which is pretty much what we’re all craving this time of year, right? My favorite item on their menu is Shrimp and Grits, which is served with roasted peppers, corn, caramelized onion, bacon, fresh herbs, and pan sauce. It’s a steal at $12, and you’ll likely end up with lunch leftovers.
Another cozy spot offering high-end comfort food is one of Bend’s oldest restaurants, the Pine Tavern. You know the place in Downtown Bend with two big pine trees sprouting up through the roof? That’s it. Their menu includes delectably frou-frou versions of comfort food staples like meatloaf and chicken pot pie, plus other scrumptious offerings like pasta and fish. But the best reason to go to Pine Tavern is to get your hands on a steaming hot basket of their homemade sourdough scones with honey butter. I’m not ashamed to say I have eaten my body weight in these and then asked for more.
If mac and cheese is your comfort food of choice, The Blacksmith offers the crème de la crème of cheesy goodness. Their regular menu offers three varieties, including smoked mac and cheese, bacon mac and cheese, and truffle mac and cheese. If you’re like me and can’t possibly choose between them, you don’t have to. During happy hour from 4-6 and 9-close, score a small portion of all three for just $6. Pair with one of their fabulous Caesar salads, order a couple glasses of wine, and share the whole thing with a pal. Bon appétit!