You know that feeling when someone goes the extra mile for you? Like you’ve swallowed a bowl of warm sunshine mixed with really good soup.
That was a weird simile, huh?
In the interest of full disclosure, I should also admit my original working title for this post was “Bend restaurants doing cool s**t,” which didn’t make the cut from a family-friendly standpoint, but does sum up the intent.
Bend’s lucky enough to have a handful of drinking and dining establishments where folks go above and beyond to give you something special, unique, or all-around awesome. Here are my faves.
The beer is fantastic, and the food is amazing. But what sets Worthy Brewing apart can be summed up simply by their motto: “Earth first, beer second.”
Lest you think it’s all a bunch of greenwashing, take a gander at some of what Worthy’s doing. They’re a solar-powered brewery with on-site gardens that generate summer produce, honey, herbs, and edible flowers. Before heading into the brewery for a tasty IPA and wood-fired pizza, take time to stroll the grounds and admire greenhouses, garden plots, and my personal highlight, CHICKENS! These feathered members of the Worthy team not only produce eggs, but provide fertilizer, pest control, and poultry-powered tilling of the topsoil.
Worthy Environmental is the thread that unifies their sustainable initiatives, from gardening education to a Native Plant Hub partnership with OSU Cascades and the National Park Service. The brewery itself has a variety of sustainability initiatives, including solar powered operations and the use of Salmon Safe hops cultivated using practices that protect watershed health. And if your interest in the Earth extends to its relationship with the rest of the solar system, pay a visit to their on-site Hopservatory to scan the galaxy through their high-powered telescopes. Cheers to tending the planet!
Built in 1936, Bend’s Pine Tavern deserves accolades for being one of Bend’s oldest eateries. But that’s not the only thing setting them apart.
The restaurant boasts a giant Ponderosa Pine growing smack dab in the middle of their cozy dining area. It’s visible from the outside, and even more impressive if you score a table close enough to enjoy the novelty of a living tree beside you in a charming, river-view dining room.
They also take pride in sourcing meats and produce locally, and their hot sourdough scones with honey butter are the stuff of legend. (No joke, I almost drooled on my keyboard thinking of them just now).
But circling back to the history, it’s also noteworthy that Pine Tavern was launched by two enterprising women (Maren Gribskov and Eleanor Beechen) as our country was pulling itself out of the Great Depression and at a time when women just didn’t do such things. While it’s changed hands a few times since then, Pine Tavern’s tasty food and unique space on the banks of the Deschutes River have stood the test of time.
Turtle Island Coffee
Besides making a darn fine cuppa joe, Turtle Island Coffee offers a safe space for both queer and indigenous individuals. It’s Bend’s only queer and two-spirit owned space that intentionally centers indigenous, brown, black, queer, trans, and non-binary people in all its endeavors.
From rainbow decor to their “Drink gay coffee” tagline, the owners of Turtle Island let their pride flag fly. Colorful art (created by a black, trans muralist) gives the space a homey, welcoming feel for anyone seeking tasty drinks, thoughtful eats, or just a cozy space where everyone can gather.
The shop’s indigenous roots are evident in their menu as well. Try a Forager Bowl made with bison, wild mushrooms, and huckleberry/balsamic reduction served over Native American wild rice or organic greens. Add a fresh, local egg for extra protein, or try their mouthwatering Chinook Bagel. It’s a Mimi’s Bagel slathered with cream cheese and topped with capers, microgreens, and smoked Columbia River Chinook Salmon (which the cashier proudly told me was caught by one of their own tribal members). Delish!
I love a good burger, as you might’ve guessed from this blog post spotlighting roughly eighty-gazillion of Bend’s best burgers.
But one spot that stood out to me earned my respect not just for their phenomenal burgers and tasty sides, but for their truly impressive Sustainability Mission. Recognizing that restaurants account for more than 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions, Mountain Burger embarked on a mission to focus on sustainable dining.
There’s the expected stuff about sourcing food locally, recycling, and using renewable energy, but their Climate Action Plan kicks things to the next level. Their goal is to reach net-zero emissions by 2025, with targets for things like transitioning from gas appliances and eventually offering electric vehicle charging stations and pellet patio heaters with timers. They’re not there yet, but they’re working on it and making their goals public, which is admirable.
So is the variety on their menu, including several vegan and vegetarian burger alternatives, plus their Build-a-Burger option that lets you customize size to avoid food waste. I’m not saying I dream of their waffle cut sweet potato fries with sage mayo, but I’m not saying I don’t. And you really haven’t lived until you’ve gobbled a Mountain Cheeseburger (house ground Oregon Natural grass-fed beef, Mountain Burger sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles) beside your vegetarian kid devouring a Crunchy Cauliflower Burger (cauliflower steak, feta, arugula, caramelized onion jam, pesto aioli). Scrumptiousness with a conscience for the win!
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dog-friendly town than Bend. And in this dog-friendly town, you’d have a tough time finding a restaurant more accommodating to four-legged companions than J-Dub in Downtown Bend.
Their pup menu offers meals designed especially for diners more likely to wag tails than say “please” and “thank you.” Options include items like a Grilled Chicken and Sweet Potato Mash Bowl, which offers plenty of protein and vitamin A (good for your dog’s eye health and immune system). There’s also a Beef Patty and Rice Bowl packed with vitamins, minerals, and pup-friendly carbohydrates, or hook Rover up with one of their house-made peanut butter and banana dog biscuits.
They even have a house-made dog “beer,” which is non-carbonated and non-alcoholic, made with beef, malt, and added glucosamine to tend your furry friend’s joints. Fido says he’d like two, please.
Playful Paws Cat Cafe
As a relatively new Bend business, Playful Paws Cat Cafe brings something quite new to Bend’s activity scene, with the chance to grab a snack and play with adoption-eligible felines. They’re lighter on the snacky side of “cafe,” though there’s plenty of chips, candy bars, and cold drinks like soda, kombucha, and iced coffee to keep you fueled for feline play. In the coming months, they’ll add wine and beer to the menu.
But what really makes Playful Paws special is the opportunity to hang in the world’s most amazing cat playground while petting, snuggling, and playing with kitties eager for scritches and love. While all feline guests are adoptable, there’s no pressure to take one home. You can go for a simple dose of furry affection if you’re visiting Bend and missing pets back home.
They also host special events, like the Cats on Mats yoga sesh I attended (so freakin’ fun!) Keep an eye on their event calendar, or schedule a regular private visit to get your cat fix.
Cascade Lakes Brewing
As Central Oregon’s first and only not-for-profit brewery, Cascade Lakes takes pride in putting “pints over profits,” as the tagline goes. What does that mean, exactly?
The Rhine family of Bend (which bought Cascade Lakes in 2018) distributes the brewery’s profits to a variety of nonprofits focused on stewardship, conservation, and animal welfare. They’ve also created a line of beers to support causes like BrightSide Animal Shelter and Street Dog Hero.
When Cascade Lakes first announced the switch a couple years ago, folks asked questions about whether the switch would impact the quality of their beer, and the answer was YES—but in a positive way. Instead of being driven by profits, the team can now focus more on innovation and quality of their products.
Here’s where I confess that while I always admired Cascade Lakes from a business standpoint, I was never a huge fan of their beer until quite recently. Coincidence? Unlikely. Their IPAs have been knocking my socks off on the regular, and the recently-opened pub on the southeast side of Bend makes it even simpler for me to get my hands on their tasty salads and chicken wings while supporting causes I admire. Cheers to that!