SAY WHAT? 5 unexpected spots to find amazing food and drinks in Bend, Oregon
But what about those unexpected dining hot-spots? Those hidden gems so unassuming, so unlikely, that you totally don’t expect to have them rock your culinary world.
I love finding treasures like that when I’m traveling, and it’s great to find them in my own town, too. Here are five such secrets in Bend that I guarantee will leave your taste buds swooning.
Scrumptious breakfast at a barbecue joint?
When I first heard Baldy’s BBQ was doing breakfast at their eastside location, I’ll admit I did a little grimace. Barbecue? For breakfast?
In a word, YES. Wait, I have a better word—YUM! If you haven’t had ribs and eggs as your first meal of the day, you haven’t lived. If you haven’t had them from Baldy’s (with fall-off-the-bone tender meat and a side of perfect house potatoes) you haven’t lived well.
If you still can’t wrap your brain around the barbecue thing at 8 a.m., don’t worry. They have plenty of other offerings like pancakes, chicken fried steak, cinnamon French toast, and traditional eggs benedict (though they also make one with pulled pork if you want a slight barbecue twist). There’s even a bacon-flecked waffle with bits of bacon cooked right into the batter. Genius! And so delicious.
And their $4 mimosas are the icing on the cake (or the sauce on the ribs. Whatevs). Check their website for hours and locations, but make sure this is on your list for your a.m. meal.
Mouthwatering, creative cuisine from a trailer?
You know how the food truck scene is kinda hot in cities like Portland and Eugene? Right. Well you know how it gets kinda cold in Bend in the wintertime?
In order to have a year-round food truck scene in Bend, we had to get creative, and that’s just what the founders of The Lot have done. Not just a collection of food trucks (though it’s also that), The Lot offers 16 taps, an open-air covered eating structure, built-in tables, fire pits, heaters, regular live music, and even booty-warming benches. Best of all, it’s got a hip, unique vibe that makes it a fab spot for people-watching or interacting with locals.
One of the appealing things about The Lot is that members of your party with differing culinary tastes don’t have to order from the same spot. Send your gluten-free mom over to Real Food Street Bistro for their scrumptious Sticky Chicken. Point the kids toward the Bleu Dragon for tasty sammies, or satisfy your craving for curry at the Thailandia trailer.
I’ll admit a special fondness for the unique tacos at A La Carte. The pork curry taco, for instance, features slow-cooked shredded pork, coconut milk curry, roasted peanuts, green onions, cilantro, radish, sesame seeds, cabbage and feta.
If you’re not counting calories (or if you’re kinda hung over) try the gorgonzola bacon fries cooked in peanut oil served with gorgonzola aioli, chopped bacon, green onions, Cajun seasoning, and fresh gorgonzola.
Once everyone’s got their grub, nab a seat in the covered area. The benches around the edges have warmers in them, while the central tables have overhead heaters that’ll keep you basking in a toasty glow. Or maybe that’s the beer?
Amazing beer and the best grilled cheese imaginable in an old auto transmission shop?
I love every stop along the Bend Ale Trail for different reasons, but if someone put a gun to my head and forced me to pick my favorite . . . well, first I’d call the police, because that’s seriously messed up.
But then I’d probably admit my great love of Crux Fermentation Project. It doesn’t look like much from a distance. Housed in a building that was first a lumber supply store, then a transmission shop, it has a rustic, unassuming flair that makes you feel cozy right off the bat.
But you’ll want to hold on tight to that battered wood bench, because you’re about to be blown away. Crux makes some of the best beers in town, from pilsner to saison to Scotch Ale to porter to IPA. They’ve got all the craft beer bases covered, so get a sampler and try more than one. You should also save room for their Grilled Cheesy, which features asiago-cheese crusted panini with mixed ricotta, pepper jack, and white cheddar with diced bacon and spicy pickles on Italian country spent grain bread from DiLusso Bakery.
Tables here can fill up fast, and sometimes you’ll have to wait a while to find a spot or place your order. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Killer cocktails in a basement?
As the name suggests, 10 Below Restaurant & Lounge is literally 10 feet below street level. But if the idea of dining and drinking in a basement seems seedy to you, think again.
10 Below has a swanky, hip vibe and the menu to go with it. It’s a good spot to go for happy hour, since that happens twice a day from 4-6 p.m. and again from 9-11 p.m. My personal faves from the happy hour drink menu include the Grapefruit Gem (vodka, orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and a splash of lime) or the Blackmaker Hard Rootbeer (spiced rootbeer liqueur created with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and sweet birch, then topped with sparkling water).
But straying from the happy hour menu to the regular cocktail menu opens up a mouthwatering realm of creative options. Try the Hip Hop Beer Cocktail (Bend Distillery Desert Juniper Gin, grapefruit juice, and passionfruit puree topped with Boneyard IPA, served on the rocks) or the Secret Garden (muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup served “press style.”)
With your drink in hand, peruse the tasty happy hour menu for a bite to eat. Their iceberg wedge salad is legendary, featuring a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with housemade 1000 Island dressing, sweet Oregon smoked bacon candy, garlic breadcrumbs, and fresh black pepper. Opt for calamari or truffle fries if you’re feeling nibbly, or go for something heartier with the pork belly tacos made with Carlton Farms pork belly braised with ancho peppers and topped with citrus slaw.
10 Below is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well, so make sure this one’s on your list no matter what time of day you can make it there.
Great gourmet dining in a gym?
“Hey, honey! What do you say we dress up nice and go out for a fancy dinner where people wear gym shorts and get sweaty?”
Okay, so this is probably not a conversation you’ve ever had, which means you’ve been sorely deprived of the opportunity to dine at Bistro 28. Yes, this dining hotspot is technically located within the Athletic Club of Bend, but dining there doesn’t require membership or a need to cross paths with anyone pumping iron.
If you’re familiar with uber-trendy, uber-tasty Zydeco restaurant in Downtown Bend, then you’ll recognize a number of items on the Bistro 28 menu. It’s the same owner, so you can expect the same creative, locally-sourced cuisine laced with ample zing and spice.
But the atmosphere at Bistro 28 feels a little homier. You can cozy up beside the fireplace, or hang out near the wood-fired oven to watch dinner being made. While this is an excellent spot to come for a scrumptious date-night meal, it also makes a great ladies’ night hangout (particularly if you’ve got some gluten-free diners in the mix).
For dinner, choose from options like steak, crab cakes, pork tenderloin, rack of lamb, grilled trout, and more. No matter what you choose for your entrée, make sure you pair it with an order of their crispy Brussel sprouts with bacon. You’ll also be impressed by their wine list, which features a good mix of Oregon varietals and imports.
Oh, and don’t forget dessert. The Godiva chocolate pana cotta and the s’mores tart are melt-in-your-mouth decadent, and worth saving room for.