When it comes to snacking, few things beat the power of popcorn. It’s tasty, it’s filling, and unless you’re popping it in bacon grease (okay, I’ve done that–yum!) it’s a pretty healthy treat.
While it’s unlikely you’ll visit Bend, Oregon solely for the purpose of sampling your way around the city’s best popcorn treats, here are a few things my fellow popcorn fans won’t want to miss in Bend.
Munch popcorn for free at Drake
Yep, you read that right—the popcorn is FREE at Drake in Downtown Bend. They serve it in lieu of a bread basket so you have something to nibble while you make your entrée selections and wait for your meal. It’s oil-popped, dairy-free, and tossed with a scrumptious blend of fresh herbs, spices, and olive oil.
I hesitate to tell you they offer unlimited refills, since the idea here is that you need to save room for other menu items. With that in mind, I highly recommend the shrimp & grits made with roasted peppers, caramelized onion, bacon, escarole, and tabasco pan sauce.
Pop your own and sprinkle goodies from Navidi’s
I eat popcorn five or six days a week, so I like to spice it up sometimes. One of my favorite spots for popcorn-enhancing goodies is Navidi’s in Downtown Bend. I’m a huge fan of their black truffle salt, which I sprinkle on my popcorn for an extra-decadent snack.
They have oodles of other fancy salts ranging from chipotle-flavored to Hawaiian black lava sea salt, and you can taste test all the varieties at their cozy downtown shop.
I’m also obsessed with the flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars at Navidi’s. I have a dozen varieties on my kitchen counter for cooking and salad prep, and I recently discovered the oils are pretty fabulous on popcorn, too. My personal fave is the fernleaf dill flavor, but basil, lime, and even blood orange are also divine when you drizzle it on your snack in lieu of butter.
The manager just gave me a tip I’m dying to try for “pizza popcorn” made by tossing ordinary popcorn with their sundried tomato salt, Tuscan herb olive oil, and parmesan. Yum!
Popcorn and a movie? Yes, please!
Nothing goes hand-in-hand quite like a bucket of popcorn and a good movie, and you can find both things at several spots around Bend. Catch all the latest releases at the Regal Old Mill Stadium and IMAX in Bend’s Old Mill District (which has the added bonus of offering tons of nearby restaurants for a scenic dinner afterward if the movie popcorn doesn’t fill you up).
If you’re partial to indie flicks, documentaries, shorts, local films, and old movies shown in a quainter venue, check out the Tin Pan Theater in Downtown Bend. They have a quirky vibe, a cozy 28-seat setting, and of course, popcorn! They take pride in popping theirs in only canola oil with a dash of salt. Then they drizzle it with freshly melted REAL Eberhards butter and turn you loose on their station of shakers filled with, parmesan, nutritional yeast, braggs, siracha, and other tasty toppings.
Toss it with tasty seasonings from Savory Spice Shop
While their Smoky Hills Cheese Powder is technically meant to be mixed with sour cream to make a dip, it’s phenomenal sprinkled on a great big bowl of butter-drizzled popcorn. Ditto for their savory Dill Dip (which becomes extra-special-tasty when you combine it with the aforementioned fernleaf dill olive oil from Navidi’s).
Even if you don’t intend to misuse their products to enhance your popcorn, this is a great place to browse when you’re shopping in Bend’s Old Mill District. If you’re really on a culinary kick, pop next door to Ginger’s Kitchenware for gifts, gadgets, and even cooking classes.
Sip Caramel Corn tea from Inspired Leaf
Inspired Leaf is a little Bend-based tea company makes some of the most unique blends you’ll ever encounter (Berkshire Apple Fig? Chocolate Strawberry Saffron? Coconut Truffle? Yum!)
But it’s their Caramel Popcorn blend that really rolls my socks up. If you look closely, it has little bits of popcorn in the blend, and you can taste it when you brew yourself a cup. The result is a nutty, toasty, delicious bit of flavor in your mug.
You won’t likely find the caramel popcorn flavor in restaurants around Bend (though you can order it online). If you’re looking to sample some of their other tea varieties while getting a great meal to boot, try Café Sintra or 5 Fusion. You can also purchase it at Newport Avenue Market in Northwest Bend (where they also stock a unique array of salts to dress up your popcorn).
Score kettle corn at Oregon Winterfest
A festival isn’t a festival without a food court that boasts a kettle corn booth wafting heavenly smells throughout the venue. Lucky for you, the 2015 Oregon Winterfest is happening February 13-15 in Bend, and they have plenty to offer besides kettle corn.
Oregon Winterfest is a massive annual celebration of the chilly season, featuring live music, a Wine Walk, ski and snowboard competitions, ice carving, a fire pit competition, motocross with Metal Mulisha, an OMSI kids’ tent, a 5k and 10k race, and much more. You can check out the schedule of events here and buy tickets at the gate when you arrive.
But let’s get back to the kettle corn, shall we? Famous Kettle Korn is providing this year’s booth, and they’ll be popping up several tasty varieties, including caramel corn and their famous lightly-salted, sweetened Kettle Korn. They’ll also have cotton candy if popcorn isn’t your thing, but if that’s the case, seriously—why are you still reading?