7 days of perfect lunch in Bend, Oregon
I ate a Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich at a food cart in Portland five days ago and I’m still thinking about it.
Why is this relevant on a blog about visiting Bend, Oregon? Because it got me thinking about lunch. Not just lunch, but those lunches that leave you feeling so satisfied, so blissfully happy, that you’re still patting your tummy a week later.
I can think of seven lunches I enjoy regularly in Bend that totally fit the bill, which means this blog post is essentially a field guide of what to eat every day for a week. May these delicious dishes give you even a fraction of the food fantasies they’ve provided for me over the years.
Day 1: Green curry with chicken from Toomies
Every time I crave Thai food, I call Toomies and ask what their discounted lunch special is that day. It doesn’t matter what the answer is, because nothing ever sounds as magical to me as their green curry with chicken. It’s what I’ve ordered nearly every time I’ve eaten there for 18+ years, and it’s probably what I’ll request as my last meal if I’m ever in prison on death row.
This flavor-packed curry is brimming with eggplant, bell pepper, and basil cooked in coconut milk. If you’re a vegetarian, you can skip the chicken altogether, or meat lovers might favor beef. The chicken is my personal fave, because they’re always quite generous with tasty hunks of breast meat. The balance of veggies and protein makes this the perfect all-in-one meal.
The lunch special is served with rice, Thai salad, and a side of their scrumptious phat Thai noodles. This glorious abundance of food is part of what makes it such a perfect lunch. When I order the green curry lunch to go, I can usually manage to gobble up the salad, half the noodles, and half the green curry with rice before I’m stuffed. That means I get two lunches for the price of one (which is a pretty low price to start with at $7.95 or even cheaper if it does happen to be the day’s lunch special).
Of course, if this is your last meal in prison, you’ll probably want to snarf it in one sitting. Just sayin’.
Day 2: The Recession Buster Burrito at Longboard Louie’s
You won’t find this one on the regular menu, so listen up and take notes.
First, head to either the Westside or Eastside location of Longboard Louie’s in Bend. Walk up to the counter and tell ‘em you want the Recession Buster Burrito. You’ll immediately be pegged as a local, so just go with the flow.
Next, ask to add a few things. The Recession Buster itself is a simple bean and cheese burrito for $3, so you can afford to snazz it up a bit. For another $1.50, you can add your choice of chicken, shredded beef, or pork. Why stop there though? The menu is packed with oodles of tasty 50-cent add-ons like rice, sour cream, fajita veggies, or fresh pico de gallo.
The fajita veggies are a must have, both for the nutritional value and the flavor. I’ll leave the rest up to you, but don’t forget to hit their incredible fresh salsa bar for an extra punch of flavor. Options range from black bean and corn to roasted tomatillo lime to a tasty tropical salsa.
You can see from the photo that this bad boy is HUGE, so make sure you’re extra hungry on the day you hit this lunch stop. Oh, and grab extra napkins. You’ll thank me later.
Day 3: The Edamame Bowl at Café Yumm
I know it’s a franchise, and some folks can be particular about that. But you know what’s great about established chain restaurants? You know what you’re getting, and you get to enjoy it in different locales. In this case, there are two Café Yumm locations in Bend, so you can put this on your list whether you’re strolling the Old Mill District or heading east to stock your vacation rental with supplies from Costco or to hike around the Oregon Badlands Wilderness.
So back to Café Yumm. My personal favorite here is the Edamame Bowl. It’s layered with organic brown rice, Yumm Sauce, and edamame, topped with nori (seaweed), shredded Tillamook cheddar, diced tomatoes, fresh avocado, olives, and sour cream. The medium is the perfect-sized lunch for me, though there are oodles of other options and various Yumm bowls for vegetarians, vegans, or even folks who prefer sandwiches or salads.
But the nourishing bowls of yummy goodness are the real treat here, so put this on your list for a day you’re craving healthy comfort food.
Day 4: Sally’s Super Salad at Barrio
Well, they won out for other reasons, too. There’s something about Sally’s Super Salad that makes me feel simultaneously healthy and indulgent, plus it puts a little extra zing in my day thanks to the masterful blending of flavors and textures in this seemingly simple dish.
Sally’s Super Salad is a mix of quinoa, black beans, romaine, greens, avocado, pepitas, citrus, cojito, and jalapeño vinaigrette. Each bite of this delicious salad offers a little bit of everything—tartness, crunch, spice, creaminess, and an earthy, nutty flavor. Melded together, it’s the perfect blend of deliciousness.
The salad alone is huge, but if you like a little variety, consider getting a half order and pairing it with one of their seasonal soups. Don’t miss the watermelon gazpacho in the summer months, or opt for their luscious squash soup if you spot it on the menu during chillier seasons.
Day 5: The Grilled Cheesy at Crux Fermentation Project
I’ve mentioned Crux’s amazing Grilled Cheesy sandwich so many times on this blog, it should probably have its own category.
But in case you’ve missed me waxing poetic about this sandwich the other 2,398 times, allow me to swoon a bit. The Grilled Cheesy 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. I know, the pickles threw me the first time, too. But don’t leave them off! They add a perfect dash of zing and crunch to this decadent, crispy sandwich filled with all the right textures and flavors.
Pair it with a side salad and a pint of one of Crux’s amazing brews, and don’t forget to ask for a stamp in your Bend Ale Trail passport. Cheers to another great lunch!
Day 6: The Santa Fe Salad and Granny Smith Flatini at Croutons
The first time you walk into this little soup/salad/sandwich joint, it can be a little overwhelming. So many options to choose from! Do you want a soup and sandwich combo, or are you better off with a great big salad?
There are endless combinations at Croutons, but the one that always leaves me happiest is a pairing of half a Santa Fe Salad (romaine and spring mix with apple, corn, red onion, smoked gouda, toasted walnuts, cornbread croutons and fiesta ranch dressing) served with a Granny Smith Chicken Salad Flatini (their version of a panini, stuffed with the most divine chicken salad you’ll ever taste, complete with walnuts, cheddar cheese, tart Granny Smith apples, and moist chicken breast).
Ask ‘em to add cilantro to the salad if they happen to have it, and don’t forget there are two Croutons locations in Bend, so this is another great choice if you’re exploring different parts of town.
Day 7: The Bombay Bomburrito Wrap at Parilla Grill
While I’ve tried other wraps at this cozy little dining spot on 14th, I always come back to the same favorite at Parilla Grill.
The Bombay Bomburrito starts out with a smear of their luscious ginger banana chutney on a soft flour wrap (though you can request gluten-free if you need it). Next, they pile it with cilantro lime rice, purple cabbage, and bamboo shoots with your choice of protein (I’m partial to chicken). For a little extra nutrition, ask for a handful of spinach at this stage.
Next, they smother it in a green curry sauce and top it with wasabi vinaigrette, gorgonzola, and their chili corn salsa. They wrap the whole thing up tight to make the perfect, portable meal.
If you’re dining with kids or have a slightly smaller appetite, ask for a bambino size and save a buck. Plus it’s tons of fun to say Bambino Bombay Bomburrito in public, so there’s that.
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