Visit Bend Blog

Category: Dining & Drinking

3 romantic dates for soaking, sipping, and supping

February 15th, 2018

Sometimes you crave something beyond the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date. A shared experience that combines relaxation with a touch of intimacy, capped off with drinks and a great meal.

Start off the Hop in the Spa Experience with beer and a pretzel.

Sound hard to find? It’s totally not! Here are three cool date ideas in Bend that combine soaking, sipping, and supping (a hat tip to the Old English verb for dining, not an acronym for standup paddleboarding). Ready? Let’s go!

 

Hop in the Spa and Tumalo Feed Company

It’s been more than two years since America’s first beer spa took the media by storm, resulting in gobs of buzz over this unique beer experience just 23 miles northwest of Bend.

Blogger Tawna soaking in one of the cedar tubs.

There’s a reason for the hype. A soak at Hop in the Spa in Sisters is one of the most unique couples’ experiences you can book in a beer-centric region like Central Oregon.

You start off in a relaxation room with your sweetie, where you sip craft beer from Deschutes Brewery and nosh a warm, soft pretzel if you’re so inclined. Next, you undress (or wear your bathing suit if you prefer) and slip into a solid cedar tub filled with hops, herbs, minerals, and oodles of other good-smelling things blended by herbalist and naturopathic practitioner Sally Champa.

Tasty steak and scallops at Tumalo Feed Company.

The hubby and I sat in separate tubs facing each other so we could talk, and even got to pick the music to accompany our soak. Couples have the room to themselves for ultimate relaxation and privacy, though you could easily enjoy it with a friend. Sipping a hoppy IPA while immersed in a warm bath filled with bobbing handfuls of hops goes down in my book as one of the coolest beer experiences I’ve had, and there’s a unique vibe that’s equal parts “luxury day spa” and “funky-cool Old West.”

Pro tip: Towel off well afterward, and wear underthings that won’t stain if there’s some hop residue left on your skin (sexy, right?)

Don’t forget the skillet cookie!

Now that you’re nice and relaxed, it’s time for dinner. Since you’re headed back to your Bend hotel and already feeling the old-timey Western vibe, stop off at Tumalo Feed Company for some down home cookin’. The building dates back to the early 1900s, and Tumalo Feed Company has been operating since 1991. It’s under new ownership since December 2017, but the menu is still the same homey fare fans have been enjoying for years.

Steaks are especially good here, and don’t forget to add their homemade onion rings for $1 more. Their tap list is solid, and gives you a chance to sample more local craft beer (Boneyard’s RPM is a safe bet for any fan of hoppy suds).

Don’t forget to save room for the skillet chocolate chip cookie, which takes 20 minutes to bake, so plan ahead. With your belly full, head back to Bend and dream of warm water and cold beer.

 

Float Central and a mellow meal at Currents

I’ve been dimly aware of Float Central for a couple years now, but it wasn’t until I set out to write this blog post that I tried it myself.

Float your cares away at Float Central (but ditch the bathing suit!)

Holy cow, you guys, can I just say this was one of the coolest things I’ve done in Bend?

For those who don’t know, floating is a wellness technique that involves slipping into a tank filled with about 11-inches of water saturated with Epsom salts. The buoyancy of the salt water keeps you afloat in water that’s heated to skin temperature, so you basically lose track of where your body ends and the water begins.

We started our experience with a glass of kefir water (on tap in the lobby) before moving to the float rooms. We got a detailed explanation about what’s involved, including our options for closing the tank door versus keeping it open, and the different options for earplugs if we wanted them. Then we retired to our separate rooms to shower and slip into our private float tanks.

(Sidenote: I will confess that my preconceived—and misguided—notions about floating led me to fear I’d be dunking myself in water filled some previous floater’s skin gunk. That couldn’t be further from reality. The entire volume of water within the tank is filtered and passed through a UV system after each use and treated with an environmentally friendly hydrogen peroxide solution. There’s a lot of other stuff on their website that put my mind at ease, plus stepping inside their super-tidy, calming space gives you a firsthand look at how tidy they keep things. No shoes allowed beyond the lobby, for starters, and showers are mandatory. In other words, germaphobes can rest easy).

Following your float, you can chill for a while in the meditation room at Float Central.

While my husband is one of those people who relaxes easily and zonks into deep sleep or meditative states, I soooooo don’t. I’m not good at shutting off my brain, so I wasn’t sure I could do a full 90 minutes in the tank.

Surprisingly, I did manage to zone out. I didn’t fall fast asleep the way my other half did, but there was something unbelievably relaxing about having no sounds, no sights, and no work required to keep my body afloat. Taking away those stressors left my mind to meander to greener pastures, like what I wanted for dinner and whether I’d somehow slipped through the cosmos and was floating in outer space.

It was way cool.

Speaking of dinner, you’ll want to plan ahead for the meal that follows your floating experience. Float Central provides everything you need to shower off afterward, but trust me when I say you won’t want to wreck your blissed-out buzz by revving a hair dryer or heading to some noisy bar.

Tasty food with a river view at Currents.

We opted for Currents at the Riverhouse, where we knew we could cozy up in the oversized chairs at one of their casual river-view tables. A glass of red wine was the perfect way to keep my mellow state going, and Currents has a wine list that includes several Oregon Pinot Noirs (the Elizabeth Chambers was especially awesome).

We ordered several dishes to share, including a baby kale and quinoa salad, prosciutto-wrapped dates, and the confit turkey leg with sweet and spicy ginger plum sauce (surprisingly huge, but sectioned so it’s easy to eat).

If you’d rather preserve your mellow post-float vibe by skipping the restaurant scene altogether, call ahead to one of Bend’s amazing sushi restaurants and order takeout to bring back to your Bend hotel.

If you’re staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen, you’ll find a well-stocked Safeway just a few steps from Float Central. Grab a couple lobster tails or steak, a bottle of wine, and some sides from their deli, and you’re all set for a dreamy, blissed-out, romantic dinner in the privacy of your room.

 

McMenamins for soaking and a fireside dinner

Want your soak-sip-sup experience to happen all in one location with the bonus of adding sleep in the same spot? A stay at McMenamins Old St. Francis School is a great option.

Escape to another world in the soaking pool at McMenamins.

McMenamins boasts a beautiful tile soaking pool surrounded by shimmering turquoise tile, luminous stained glass, breathtaking murals, and an open-air ceiling that lets you check out the night sky. It’s filled with soft, buoyant saltwater, which makes for an environmentally friendly soak.

Start by hitting the bar for a plastic cup of beer (glass isn’t allowed in the pool area).

Gather ’round the fire pits at O’Kanes following your soak, and don’t miss the Cajun tots.

Raspberry-infused Ruby is refreshingly light option that often appeals to folks who don’t love beer. Spend a relaxing hour or so soaking your bones, sipping your brew, and letting your worries slip away.

After you’re showered and dressed, head to one of McMenamins fabulous bars for dinner. There are several options, but the fireside area outside O’Kanes is a great choice for maintaining your chilled-out vibe. Nabbing a spot by one of the fire pits will keep you toasty even when it’s cold out, and an order of their famous Cajun tots will keep the fire going in your belly.

For dinner, order their Hammerhead Cheesesteak featuring chopped ribeye steak with yellow onions, mama lils peppers, and Hammerhead ale fondue sauce on a hoagie roll.

And another beer, of course.

Ready to head back to your room? If you’re staying in the Art House or Ed House, make sure to poke around for secret rooms and corridors. I won’t tell you the location of the secret Broom Closet Bar, but if you find it while wandering around, it makes a great spot for a nightcap.

 

 

 

4 fabulous, homey diners to try in Bend, Oregon

November 30th, 2017

If you want to find the pulse of a small town, look for its diners. Those little slices of Americana where you can belly-up to the counter and order a hearty breakfast with hot coffee poured by a smiling waitress who knows half the patrons on a first-name basis.

Get heaping forkfuls of Americana and Bend history (along with a tasty meal!) at Jake’s Diner.

There’s much debate about the difference between “diners” and “cafés” and “restaurants” and whether the terms are interchangeable or defined by operating hours, cuisine, regional preferences, or something else.

I define them by “something else.” It’s the unmistakable homey vibe that leaves you feeling like you’ve just stumbled into the cozy living room of any given city. That’s a “diner” to me, and here are my four favorites in Bend.

 

Jake’s Diner

A Bend landmark since 1987, Jake’s Diner is one of Bend’s most recognizable and beloved diners. Those of us who’ve been in town a couple decades remember when it was out on south 3rd Street, and those who love it cheerfully followed when they moved to their Eastside location in 2005.

Since I fit into both categories, I visit Jake’s regularly and always feel like I’m showing up to a family reunion even when I don’t know a soul in the place.

Mmmmm…..waffles! So tasty at Jake’s.

The walls are lined with historical memorabilia and classic diner décor, while the menu is filled with hearty fare that will stick to your ribs on cold winter days.

You’ll see all the usual diner offerings like waffles and omelets, but it’s the extra touches that make Jake’s special. For instance, you’ll find menu items named for longtime Bend locals (The Central Oregon Classic is dubbed “Bob Shotwell’s favorite,” and features four large scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and sour cream, along with bacon, sausage, or kielbasa.) Jake’s is also well-known in the community for charitable work and community service.

Order a classic like the eggs benedict or the chicken fried steak and you’ll find they’re not only generous with the portions, but with hefty ladles of hollandaise or gravy. And whatever you order, make sure to add a side of their famous cheddar bacon cheese grits.

Tasty cinnamon bun French toast at Black Bear Diner.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a fridge in your Bend hotel or vacation rental, score! The hearty portions at Jake’s ensures you’ll have leftovers, and I have it on good authority (mine) that their chow makes for excellent midnight snacking (especially those cheese grits!)

 

Black Bear Diner

I know there are Black Bear Diner locations all over the Northwest, but there’s something about Bend’s Black Bear Diner that makes it seem like a one-of-a-kind treat.

Maybe it’s the unique bear-themed décor peppered around the inside and outside of the building. Maybe it’s the contagious friendliness of the servers, or the fact that they always go the extra mile to refill your coffee, coordinate a special order, or answer questions about the menu items.

Or maybe none of that matters because the food is so tasty and hearty and that’s what counts.

Chicken fried steak at Black Bear Diner.

Black Bear Diner is a family favorite when the kids are with us, since there’s something on the menu to thrill every palate. From their unique cinnamon roll French toast, to the scrumptious chicken apple sausage with eggs and a side of home-fried potatoes, everyone gets exactly what they’re craving when they come here.

They even offer a section of the menu filled with lighter fare for those counting calories or wanting something that’s not quite so heavy.

Check out their awesome on-site gift shop on your way out for a set of bear paw slippers or boxer shorts. You can even grab a pie to take home!

 

Sargent’s Café

Here’s where I confess that I considered omitting Sargent’s Café, not because their name technically says “café,” instead of “diner,” but because I want to keep this quiet treasure all to myself.

The Cougar Special and the perfect diner vibe at Sargent’s Cafe.

But Sargent’s is too good not to share, and despite the name, it really does offer the quintessential diner experience. You’ll spy a lineup of longtime locals at the counter bar from breakfast through lunch, and one look at the menu tells you this place is a Bend landmark with a finger on the pulse of the community.

There’s the Lava Bear special (a hat-tip to the Bend High mascot) which is meatloaf and a fried egg on an English muffin, smothered with sausage gravy and hash browns.

Or choose the Cougar Special (named for Mountain View High’s mascot) featuring ground beef, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and Swiss cheese, all scrambled together with eggs and topped with sour cream and a side of hash browns. The last time I ordered it, I swapped out the mushrooms for green pepper and then spent the rest of the day telling my husband, “My tummy feels so happy.” I think he wanted to stuff me in the trunk after an hour.

But it would be worth it because the food is seriously sooooo tasty and comforting.

Bonus for Sargent’s: Their prices are by far the lowest on this list, so it makes a great stop for those pinching pennies or looking to feed a large family.

 

Palmer’s Café

This is another longtime Bend staple that’s technically a café, but offers such a classic diner experience that it’s impossible not to include them on the list.

 

The potatoes at Palmer’s Café are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Trust me here.

Palmer’s Café has been a Bend landmark for more than 30 years, and stepping inside this Midtown rambler leaves you feeling like you’ve just walked into grandma’s living room.

The portions are huge and hearty, and the menu offers enough variety to make this a diner stop that will pass muster with even the snobbiest foodie palate. They’re most famous for unique dishes like their blueberry banana nut French toast or lunchtime favorites like Harry’s Homemade Potato Salad.

But for me, it’s all about the eggs benedict. There’s nothing fancy about it, but everything’s in perfect proportion—the large English muffin, the thick ham, the well-poached eggs, and the exact right amount of hollandaise. Just enough hollandaise, in fact, to leave a little extra for dipping their housemade potatoes, which are super swoon-worthy. They’re like an odd hybrid of potato chunks smooshed and fried like hash browns, and I often find myself enjoying them as much as the main meal.

While wait times can sometimes be longer at this locals’ hotspot, they make up for it by offering a big carafe of coffee for customers waiting around for tables. It’s a great way to hang out and chat with Bend locals about what they like to see and do in Bend.

What’s happening in Bend, Oregon for Thanksgiving 2017?

November 21st, 2017

If your Thanksgiving fantasies involve a delicious mix of skiing and mountain biking, blended up with some of the best shopping and dining around, you’re in for a treat during your Bend Thanksgiving vacation.

Wondering what’s happening Thanksgiving week in Bend? Gobs of stuff! Here’s what’s in store for everyone who plans to be in Bend, Oregon for Thanksgiving 2017.

 

Gobble up some good grub

First things first. Let’s talk about where you want to have your main meal on November 23 this year.

How about some pumpkin cheesecake at Pine Tavern?

For some, the thought of preparing your own feast in the kitchen of your Bend vacation rental has the homey sorta vibe you’re craving. If that’s the case, go here to scope out a variety of vacation homes and condos with ovens waiting to welcome that big, juicy bird.

If you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, you have plenty of options to pick from. Check out this list for a roundup of restaurants ready to make your holiday meal extra special. The Thanksgiving buffet at McMenamins Old St. Francis is one of the most popular offerings in town, with mealtimes offered from noon to 6 p.m. Reservations are required, and the roundup of food will include fresh-carved turkey, fireside port cranberry relish, roasted pork loin with Edgefield cider jus, poached salmon, tortellini salad, garlic green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey gravy, along with a wide array of fresh fruit, salads, and desserts.

Other hotspots include 10 Below, Awbrey Glen Golf Club Restaurant, Black Butte Ranch, Brasada Ranch, Currents at the Riverhouse, Pronghorn Resort, Pine Tavern, Tetherow, Jackalope Grill, Sunriver Resort, Suttle Lake Lodge, Phoenix Restaurant, and oodles more. Be sure to check the list for a complete roundup of options!

Not in the mood to eat in a restaurant, but still don’t want to do the cooking? Not a problem! 10 Below, Bowtie Catering, Bistro 28, Tate & Tate, and Country Catering all offer meals for pickup (though depending on when you read this post, it may be too late to book for Turkey Day 2017). But now’s a good time to book for Christmas, or to start thinking ahead to next Thanksgiving.

 

Burn off those Turkey Day calories

Feeling guilty about that sixth helping of mashed potatoes? Never fear, Central Oregon has a variety of Thanksgiving-themed runs and walks to help burn off those extra calories.

Run off those Turkey Day calories in one of the running events held around Central Oregon.

The I Like Pie Thanksgiving day walk/run kicks off at 9 a.m. in Bend. There will be a timed 5k and 10k run, along with an untimed 5k, 10k, and 1-mile run. The race starts and finishes on Powerhouse Drive adjacent to the Century Plaza of the Old Mill District.

If you feel like trying something new, head a few miles north to Redmond where they’re holding their own Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. This is an inaugural 5k and 10k event that will cruise along the Radlands trail in Redmond, offering views of Smith Rock. Participants can enter to win lift tickets for Hoodoo Resort.

The day after Thanksgiving, the annual Turkey Trot is taking place at 10 a.m. in Sunriver. This is an annual 5k fun run/walk with proceeds supporting the Neighborhood Impact program. Costumes are encouraged, with a prize for the most decked-out individuals.

To learn more about these races or other running events in Bend, check out our Event Calendar.

 

Who’s ready to ski?

Ski and snowboard fans got two early chances to carve some turns at Mt. Bachelor when they opened the weekend of September 23 and again the weekend of November 18.

Who’s ready to carve some turns?

Weather permitting, the plan is for the mountain to open again on Friday, November 24, and to stay open for the duration of the season.

Make sure you check the online condition reports and follow Mt. Bachelor’s Facebook page for up-to-the-minute info about hours of operation.

 

Shop ‘til you drop

For those who favor indoorsy pursuits over outdoorsy ones (or for those who simply love a good bargain), don’t miss the Black Friday shopping deals around town.

There are plenty of places to shop ’til you drop in Bend for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Bend’s Old Mill District features stores like Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Bath & Body Works, Zumiez, Hello Sunshine, and more. Check out their Black Friday Specials page for info on who’s opening at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 7 a.m., and other more sane hours.

Fans of outlet shopping will want to check out the Bend Factory Stores for big bargains. Shops include spots like the Coach Factory Outlet, Nike Outlet, Eddie Bauer, Columbia Outlet, and much more.

For deals at places like Best Buy and Cost Plus World Market, head north to the Cascade Village Shopping Center. And if big-box stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and T.J.Maxx are on your agenda, be sure to hit the Bend River Promenade in the middle of town. While you’re on the north end of town, pop into Pomegranate Home & Garden, a locally-owned shop in a historic farm house, for some really unique gifts.

To help you spread things out a bit, many shops in Downtown Bend are participating in Small Business Saturday Passport Event. Check out their page for details about shops and specials, including deals at great local boutiques like Hot Box Betty, Local Joe, and Clementine Urban Mercantile. You’ll also have a chance to win prizes valued at up to $2,000.

 

Christmas already?

Before we’ve even stashed the Thanksgiving leftovers, a lot of us are gearing up for the next major holiday. If you want to get a jump on Christmas, check out the Old Mill District’s Holiday Happenings page for a roundup of what’s going down. Santa will arrive via helicopter around 10:15 a.m. on Friday, November 24, to begin his tour of duty at Santaland. There will also be oodles of other Christmassy offerings like free carriage rides, carolers, kids’ activities, and more. Go here to see what’s in the lineup.

Get ready to watch Santa arrive by helicopter in the Old Mill District.

Downtown Bend is another festive place to be, with bright strings of lights and decorations adorning streets and shops. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting is slated for December 1 this year, so don’t miss that if you’re planning to stick around. The live tree is located at the top of Drake Park near Mirror Pond Plaza, and guests get to sing carols and watch Santa light the tree. Festivities get underway at 6 p.m., but you’d be smart to arrive at least half an hour before that to find a spot.

Hang around one more day for the annual Bend Christmas Parade kicking off at noon on Saturday, December 2 in Downtown Bend.

 

Only in Bend

Yes, I acknowledge there are Black Friday sales and Christmas tree lightings happening in most towns around America this time of year. While I encourage you to enjoy those activities, here are a few only-in-Bend things to add to your holiday agenda:

How about a moonlight snowshoe outing with Wanderlust Tours?

  • Snowshoe with Wanderlust Tours. Let the naturalist guides at Wanderlust lead you into the wilderness to traipse through pristine fields of pillowy snow. Tours include all gear and transportation, not to mention snacks and warm drinks. They offer daytime or starlight outings, and kids are welcome, too.
  • Visit the High Desert Museum. Bend’s popular High Desert Museum offers fascinating exhibits, cool animals, and tons of opportunities to learn more about the culture and history of the high desert. Check out their website to learn more about the schedule of special events and exhibits at the museum.
  • Special programs at the Tower Theatre. Even if they weren’t having any shows at all, Bend’s historic Tower Theatre would be worth checking out just for the beauty of it. But during Thanksgiving week, you’ll have the chance to see the popular holiday film Christmas Vacation on the big screen. The show starts at 7 p.m. on November 24, and you can get tickets here. You can also catch special performances of The Nutcracker and A Charlie Brown Christmas later in the week, so check the schedule for times and ticket info.

 

Get ready for Bend Ale Trail Month 2017!

October 12th, 2017

While beer fans can tackle the legendary Bend Ale Trail any month of the year, there’s something extra special about doing it in November.

The brand new Bend Ale Trail Month trophy for 2017.

Make that several somethings. November is Bend Ale Trail Month, and 2017 marks the fourth time we’ve enjoyed this month-long celebration of Bend’s craft beer scene.

What’s all the fuss about? Read on to learn what’s awesome about planning your Bend beerventure in November 2017.

 

What’s this about a trophy?

You can hit the Bend Ale Trail all year long and earn prizes for gathering passport stamps at the breweries. December through October, you earn a Silipint pint glass for racking up 10 passport stamps, and an additional bottle opener for hitting all 16.

But in November, that all changes. Yeah, you still get the Silipint and the bottle opener for accomplishing the aforementioned feat, but guess what else you get?

A freakin’ trophy, that’s what!

To earn it, just bring your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. between November 1 and November 30. Ten passport stamps get you the trophy AND the Silipint, or hit all 16 to earn the bottle opener, too.

Oh, and just because you have a trophy from a previous season doesn’t mean you don’t want this one. We’ve released a brand new (and in my opinion, even cooler) trophy this year, so it’s a great chance to add to your collection.

 

Can I score more free stuff?

While the trophies are clearly the top prize during Bend Ale Trail Month, there’s plenty more schwag to go around in November.

There’s plenty more schwag you can win for taking part in Bend Ale Trail Month.

The breweries are extra generous with prizes for Bend Ale Trail month, filling our conference room with all manner of goodies for us to give away. Hats, shirts, stickers, gift cards, Hydro Flasks, Silipints, and so much more can be yours with just a few taps of your phone screen.

Just snap a pic of your beerventure and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #bendaletrailmonth. We’ll randomly select winners to receive schwag throughout the month. Easy peasy!

 

What else can I win?

What, the trophy and the schwag aren’t enough for you?

Okay, how about a free Bend vacation!

Bring your stamped passport to the Bend Visitor Center and fill out a quick survey for a shot at winning a Bend vacation.

Everyone who brings a completed Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Bend Visitor Center and completes a quick survey (you’ve gotta do both!) will be entered to win a Bend beercation that includes two nights of lodging at Wall Street Suites, gift certificates for two awesome adventures with Wanderlust Tours, and a Brew it Yourself beermaking session at Immersion Brewing.

 

Er, what if I can’t drink all that beer?

If you want to spend your Bend Ale Trail adventure sipping your way through creamy porters and hoppy IPAs, rock on with your bad self.

You don’t have to drink a drop to complete the Bend Ale Trail, and many breweries (like Deschutes!) have tasty non-alcoholic options for those choosing to abstain.

But you’re not required to drink a single drop of beer. You do have to show up in person at each brewery to get your passport stamped, of course. But eating, drinking, or buying anything at all is optional. This is good news for teetotalers and designated drivers.

And while kids under 21 aren’t allowed to participate in the Bend Ale Trail program, they’ll find plenty of non-alcoholic selections along the trail. My personal fave: The root beer and ginger beer brewed up fresh at Deschutes Brewery.

If you’re a fan of adult beverages but just not beer, flip your Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Drinkable Diversions page. That’s where you’ll find a roundup of awesome distilleries, cideries, wineries, and kombucha brewers who’d be happy to hook you up with locally-made craft beverages of a different sort.

 

What else do I need to know?

If you do plan to swill beer during your Bend Ale Trail journey, it’s important to be smart about consumption. A few quick tips:

  • Tote your Hydroflask along to make sure you stay well-hydrated on your beerventure.

    Eat a hearty meal before you set out, and plan to nosh at a couple breweries along the way.

  • Take frequent water breaks. Tote your own Hydro Flask, or ask your server to set you up with a big glass of ice water.
  • Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints of beer, or stick with samples.
  • Share a taster tray with a pack of friends so everyone can try a wide variety of beer without overindulging.
  • Don’t try to hit all the breweries in one weekend. Take it nice and slow!
  • Make a plan before you set out, including how many breweries you plan to hit and how you’ll get safely back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.

 

And speaking of being responsible…

Don’t even think of drinking and driving. Seriously.

There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:

 

Let the Bend Brew Bus be your designated driver.

I’m kinda worried about those beer calories…

Planning to visit Bend for Bend Ale Trail month, but fretting about your belt getting too tight? Never fear! Sign up for the Bend Ale Run on November 11 and fit in a little cardio with your fellow beer-lovers.

There’s a half-marathon and a 10k, plus an option to pedal the course for cyclists. You can even opt to walk it with a generous 5-hour time slot for completion.

Pic or it didn’t happen.

To learn more and to register, go here.

Is there an app for that?

Not in the mood to pack the Bend Ale Trail atlas with you everywhere you go? No problem!

Save trees and keep everything tucked neatly in your pocket when you check in at all your stops using the handy Bend Ale Trail app.

It’s free to download for iPhone and Android devices, and you can gather virtual stamps right there in the app (not to mention plotting your route, reading up on each brewery, and finding a place to stay). Download the app here.

6 super-cool restaurant bathrooms in Bend

October 5th, 2017

You pick a Bend restaurant for its awesome food. Or maybe you choose based on great service or a deliciously-unique cocktail.

Whatever factors into your selection of a Bend restaurant, bathrooms probably don’t play a role. But maybe they should.

The super-chic ladies room at 10below.

Here are six Bend eateries whose awesomely-original privies will have you taking extra potty breaks.

 

10below Restaurant & Lounge

10below is the spot that first sparked my intrigue for uber-special restaurant bathrooms when the Oxford Hotel opened back in 2010.

The ladies room features brightly-colored doors, funky chandeliers, cool art on the walls, and a long, sloped sink that spans half the room and will tempt you to spend hours washing your hands.

I will confess I’ve had dinner dates where I’ve intentionally made two trips to the restroom just to spend more time in this surprisingly luxurious space.

Luckily, there’s more to enjoy at 10below than just the bathroom. Their happy hour is one of the best in town, with both early and late-night options to be had. Try the house-smoked pacific salmon spread or the flat iron roasted cauliflower and crispy brussels with hazelnut gremolata and tahini.

Mmmm…Draper Valley crispy chicken with Dungeness crab, braised spinach, asparagus, rice pilaf, and sauce hollandaise.

If it’s dinner you’re after, go for the Draper Valley crispy chicken with Dungeness crab, braised spinach, asparagus, rice pilaf, and sauce hollandaise. Pair it with something from their killer wine list, or opt for a selection from their awesome cocktail menu, like the Secret Garden with muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup.

Bonus: An extra drink gives you one more excuse to visit the restroom. You’re welcome.

 

Immersion Brewing

Is this the coolest sink you’ve ever seen or what?

A relative newcomer to the Bend Ale Trail, beautifully-built Immersion Brewing is also one of the newest breweries in Bend. If you’re out there trekking Bend’s trail of beer, plan a potty stop here to scope out their amazing industrial-modern restrooms.

Seriously, the sink? Awesome. Everything about it from the water pressure gauges to the flat stone top (angled back oh-so-very-slightly to let water drain) is a work of art.

Tasty tasty Crème brûlée .

The beer here is pretty awesome as well, with their “Beer Box” taster tray offering you the best option to sample several of their yummy brews. If you’re ordering just one pint, pick “Get Along Little Hoppies,” a limited-time, seasonal fresh hop beer with proceeds going to the Herd U Needed a Home herding dog rescue organization in Bend.

And even though I’m not normally a dessert fanatic, their Crème brûlée seriously made me swoon.

Extra credit: Since Immersion Brewing is just a short walk from Crux Fermentation Project, you may as well meander that direction for another delicious pint and the chance to scope out their restrooms wallpapered entirely in pages from vintage brewing guides.

 

Anthony’s Home Port

TV in the men’s room at Anthony’s.

I love the ladies room layout at Anthony’s Home Port in the Old Mill District almost as much as I love their ahi nachos, which is saying a lot.

Each bathroom stall has its own private sink and mirror behind a locked door, which adds a nice level of privacy and luxury to your bathroom experience.

When I emailed a marketing colleague in the Old Mill District and told him about my love of the Anthony’s restrooms, he generously offered to snap a pic. What I didn’t anticipate (but probably should have) is that he’d give me a glimpse of the men’s room.

Don’t miss the ahi nachos at Anthony’s.

While the menfolk at Anthony’s may not get individual sinks in each stall and pretty-smelling soap, they do get televisions—yes, individual television sets!—above each urinal. How cool is that?

When you’re not hanging out in the bathroom watching TV or washing your hands at your own private sink, try the aforementioned ahi machos with one of their stellar wine flights.

If you don’t mind eating a bit early, their weekday Sunset Dinner Specials offered until 6 p.m. are one of the best deals in town and include an appetizer, chowder or soup, your entrée, and a dessert for one super-low price.

 

McMenamins Old St. Francis School

If you’re feeling nostalgic for elementary school, journey back in time with dinner and a bathroom break at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.

Located in Downtown Bend, this former 1930s Catholic schoolhouse underwent a transformation in 2004, morphing into a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, multiple pubs, a brewery, movie theater, event space, and an amazing saltwater soaking pool.

Kickin’ it old skool in the restroom at McMenamins.

It’s a great place to explore, taking in artwork and memorabilia that pays homage to the history of the school. You’ll find that in the restrooms as well, where vintage sinks, urinals, and décor take you right back to your grade school days.

Enjoy the soaking pool when you’re at McMenamins (but save the peeing for the restroom).

Staying at McMenamins is a fabulous idea, but if you’re not doing that, at least make time to grab a beer at one of the pubs (O’Kanes is my personal fave) and plan a soak in the pool. No visit to McMenamins is complete without an order of their Cajun tots, so make sure to add those to your pub order, along with a pint of Ruby.

 

10 Barrel’s Eastside Pub

Bend visitors who stick to the city’s popular Westside might never realize there’s a burgeoning dining scene on the quieter east end of the city.

Case in point, 10 Barrel Brewing’s Eastside Pub, which opened at the start of summer 2017. The space boasts plentiful outdoor seating, fire pits, an impressive tap list, incredible food, and a super-cool rustic/industrial vibe.

Rustic-looking wood and a sleek sink are part of the appeal at 10 Barrel Eastside.

That vibe extends to the bathrooms, with sleek-looking stone sinks and stalls constructed from what looks like repurposed barn wood. Note: Don’t rub against the stalls, as they’re a bit splintery. But if you’re in the habit of rubbing body parts on bathroom walls, you have bigger issues than I can address in this blog post.

10 Barrel’s selection of pizzas changes regularly to take advantage of what’s seasonal. My current fave (and likely to disappear soon as we shift into fall) is the Summer Pie, featuring an avocado cream base, roasted poblano, zucchini, squash, smoked corn, and cherry tomato. I add pancetta to appease my carnivorous instincts.

Quench your thirst between trips to the potty.

My stepdaughter is obsessed with the Jaca, which has garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pulled pork, sausage, pineapple, and jalapenos. You’ll also find an awesome array of salads, wraps, and appetizers among the pub fare. Whatever you order, make sure to pair it with something from their beer menu, or treat yourself to the ten-sample taster tray.

 

Bonus round: Newport Avenue Market

Okay, technically this isn’t a restaurant. But it may as well be, considering Newport Avenue Market offers a staggering array of foodie-friendly culinary treats, ranging from freshly-made sushi and deli items, to artisan cheeses, locally-raised meats, produce, and gourmet goodies.

The restroom at Newport Avenue Market feels like rays of sunshine while you attend to business.

In other words, this is where you want to go for picnic supplies or to stock the kitchen in your Bend vacation rental.

Grocery store bathrooms are often a little odd, requiring a trek through stockrooms or employee breakrooms to reach a space that always feels a bit like you’re not supposed to be there. While the journey to reach the Newport Market restroom is no different, the space itself is a delightfully-surprising oasis of happy.

The space features brightly-colored tile work, flowers on the counter, and walls lined with photos of employees’ pets. Spend a few moments getting your zen on in the bathroom (or whatever else you do in there). Then wash your hands, grab a shopping cart, and stock up on French bread, gourmet cheese, artisan meats, a few grapes or pears, and a killer bottle of wine. Voila! Instant picnic, and you’re already in your happy space to enjoy it.

 

5 creative cocktails you’ve gotta try in Bend

September 14th, 2017

Anyone who’s spent time on the Bend Ale Trail knows Bend has a reputation as a beer town.

But if you’ve tackled Drinkable Diversions or done the Local Pour with Wanderlust Tours, you also know the city’s cocktail culture gives sudsy brew a run for its money.

Creative cocktails are popping up everywhere in Bend, not just in distillery tasting rooms like Oregon Spirit Distillers’ Barrel Thief Lounge and Bend Distillery’s new Crater Lake Spirits Downtown Tasting Room (though those are both excellent spots to get your drink on). You’ll find them in unique places like Worthy Brewing, which not only boasts awesome beer, but the mix master who won the 2017 Bartender’s Brawl.

The Smoked Manhattan at Bos Taurus.

So where else can you find super-creative and inspired cocktails in Bend? Here are five of the most unique offerings you’ll find around town!

 

The Smoked Bos Manhattan at Bos Taurus

A relative newcomer to Bend’s drinking and dining scene, Bos Taurus is a boutique downtown steakhouse that boasts a custom cast-iron slab designed for the perfect sear on all their meats.

But it’s the Smoked Bos Manhattan that sets them apart on the cocktail side of the equation.

The drink features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke.

In a nutshell, it looks freakin’ cool.

Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. Cheers!

 

The Duck Fat Sazarac at Drake

Yes, you read that right. A Sazerac made with duck fat. Well, there’s more to it than that.

The delicious Duck Fat Sazerac at Drake.

Order this unique concoction at Drake and you’ll be treated to a mind-blowing cocktail made from a blend of duck fat-infused rye bourbon, absinthe, sugar, and bitters with a twist.

To answer the question, yes, you really can taste a difference between this and a standard Sazarac. The duck fat adds a unique richness of flavor and an oh-so-subtle texture that had me grabbing it back from my husband several times and saying, “let me try that again.” He declared it one of the most unique cocktails he’s ever had.

For those who want a backup drink that’s unique but not as bold, try the Drakeside made with Earl Grey-infused gin, mint, and lime. Be sure to order some nibbles here, too, since the culinary offerings are out-of-this world. Their shrimp and grits are my favorite, or try the tasty salt-roasted marrow bones with carrot jam, salsa verde, and toast if you’re on a roll with sampling something new.

 

 

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2

If Bo Taurus hits it out of the park with a drink that features smoke, Level 2 nails it with one that’s actually on fire.

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2, along with the runner up Bubblegum Lemon Drop.

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop features 11 vodka, strawberry puree, fresh lemon juice, triple sec, limoncello, and a flaming float of 151 rum. It’s sort of like a normal strawberry lemon drop, but with flames. Did I mention fire?

(Here’s where a cooler blogger would insert a gif of Beavis and Butthead saying, “fire’s cool.” You’ll have to imagine it, okay?)

Going back to the drinks, I’ll confess that my original plan was to spotlight the Bubblegum Lemon Drop at Level 2, since they make their own house-infused bubblegum vodka (Double Bubble gum, in case you’re wondering) with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a sugared rim. It’s definitely unique, and tastes just like a mouthful of Bazooka Bubble Gum. A little sweet for my taste, but worth a try if that’s your jam.

Order the Ahi Tuna Poke (served with sticky rice, sesame soy vinaigrette, wasabi cream, macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple, and crispy wontons) to give you something to nibble.

 

The Red Mosquito at Rockin’ Dave’s Backstage Lounge

The unique cocktails at Rockin’ Daves Backstage Lounge take on a more subtle quality with unique twists on classic cocktails and housemade infusions.

The Red Mosquito and the Yellow Ledbetter at Rockin’ Dave’s.

The Red Mosquito is a play off a traditional Old Fashioned, but it’s made with Dave’s house-infused hot cherry bourbon in place of regular bourbon, then mixed with sugar, bitters, orange, and a cocktail cherry.

Another great option is the Yellow Ledbetter, made with their own house-infused spicy cucumber gin mixed with dry vermouth and an orange twist.

Bonus points here for the intimate location outside the hustle and bustle of Downtown or the Old Mill, plus their happy hour and nightly specials kick some serious butt. Order the deviled egg trio or a half-pound of their bacon wings with Jamaican habanero sauce to make your tummy happy.

 

Uh . . . pretty much anything at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin

I know this is kind of cheating, but there’s virtually nothing you could order off the menu at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin without your taste buds perking up and saying, “oh my—what was that?”

The Shiso Thirsty at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.

For the first year this funky, urban cocktail lounge was open, I made it my mission to sample everything on their uber-creative cocktail menu. I soon learned this was impossible without (a) destroying my liver, and (b) having to start all over again because they’re always adding new and unique drinks.

But a few of my faves include:

The Beetnik: Beet-infused vodka with ginger and lemon served up. This one’s for you, fans of earthy-tasting infusions.

Mr. Pink: Pink peppercorn-infused vodka (yes, you really, really do taste those peppercorns and they’re fabulous!) with peach, peach bitters, and cava, served on the rocks.

Shiso Thirsty: Sake, pickled soybeans, and shiso leaf (it’s a little like mint, but more grassy and herbal. A unique flavor for sure!)

The Herban cowboy: Black pepper-infused bourbon, Fernet Branca, pomegranate, molasses, black licorice, and orange peel. If that’s not a flavor explosion, I don’t know what is.

They’ve got a pretty rockin’ happy hour from 5-7 daily with drinks and snacks at 25% off, so order a round of their crispy Brussels sprouts and a plate of surf-n-turf tacos and plan on sampling a couple cocktails.

Pro tip: Go with friends and make everyone order something different so you can all try sips of several different cocktails.

 

 

11 spots for great sushi in Bend, Oregon

June 1st, 2017

For some, it’s weird to imagine finding good sushi in a landlocked city nearly 200 miles from the nearest ocean.

But you don’t just find good sushi in Bend—you find AMAZING sushi in at least 11 different places around town. And I made it my mission to dine at every single one to ensure I’m giving you a fair and balanced overview. (Related: My job does not suck).

Here—listed from north to south—are 11 fab places to find sushi in Bend, Oregon.

 

Shinsei Sushi

Since I’m a longtime resident of northeast Bend, Shinsei Sushi is my go-to spot for quick takeout on my end of town. They have an impressive selection of not just sushi, but also yakisoba, stir fries, lunch specials, and more.

Blogger Tawna enjoys takeout sushi from Shinsei while her thieving cat lurks nearby.

But it’s the sushi that pulls me in, and I almost always pick from the day’s selection of specials. There are typically three, and it’s a great way to try something new and so-fresh-it’s-still-flopping.

The Bachelor Roll is my personal fave, made with real crab, avocado, and cucumber, then topped with fresh tuna, fresh salmon, and unagi sauce. Their spicy tuna rolls are also excellent.

The sushi chefs here offer the warmest greeting in town, with shouted hellos as you enter and a cheerful chorus of thank yous as you depart.

Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar

This restaurant on the edge of the Deschutes River made my list of 11 great spots for river view dining in Bend, so there’s more than just great sushi to be had at Chi Chinese and Sushi Bar.

Enjoy cocktails and sushi with a river view at Chi.

The happy hour here is one of the best in town, and their creative cocktail menu makes it tough to choose just one (so don’t pick—order both The Emperor and Mr. Chu and share with me!)

Not just a sushi joint, Chi offers traditional Chinese fare with a gourmet flair. They also have some pretty cool river views from the outdoor patio. If the weather isn’t great, their indoor dining room is also quite lovely (and for some reason I’m especially fond of the bar seating).

My favorite roll is the Last Samarai, which is made with tempura jalapeño, unagi, asparagus, butterfish tempura fried, then topped with spicy salmon poke, soy infused tobiko, and unagi sauce. Yum!

 

5 Fusion & Sushi Bar

There’s a reason Chef Joe Kim of 5 Fusion has racked up multiple James Beard nominations (sorta like the Oscars of the culinary world). Actually, there are many reasons, and many of them can be found on the sushi menu.

The cool overhead water feature at 5 Fusion is one of many reasons to make sure this hip dining spot is on your list.

5 Fusion offers an eclectic mix of creative fusion dishes, mouthwatering sushi rolls, and plates that will appeal to non-fish-loving members of your party (order them the filet mignon lollipops for your sushi-skeptic uncle and watch him start to drool).

Besides amazing food, 5 Fusion boasts a stunningly beautiful dining room space with a unique water feature on the ceiling. They also have an incredible happy hour, which makes this a great spot to get your evening started before you spend a night strolling Downtown Bend.

Enjoy more tastiness from chef Joe Kim with a noodle bowl from Ajii.

Keep an eye out for their regular charity dinners, which are a great way to score a fabulous multi-course meal while supporting great local causes.

Sidenote: Though not a sushi spot, it’s worth mentioning the brand new Ajii Asian Kitchen in Bend. It’s owned by 5 Fusion’s Joe Kim, but offers a much more casual dining experience than 5 Fusion. Noodle and rice bowls abound, and prices are super-affordable. The food is hearty, nourishing, and delicious, and it’s a great lunch stop for families who love the simplicity of a one-dish meal.

 

Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar

When my sushi-loving sister-in-law visits from Seattle, Kanpai Sushi & Sake Bar is always on her shortlist of restaurants to hit.

Yummy sushi at Kanpai.

Small and cozy with a sunny outdoor patio, the sushi is always super-fresh, and the sake is plentiful. Sushi superfans will find plenty to choose from here, and they boast an impressive wine list to boot.

If you’re a sushi newbie who’s not super-adventurous just yet, try ordering their sushi combo that includes three nigari, sashimi, half a California roll, and a spicy tuna roll. It’s a great way to get your feet wet if you can’t decide what to order.

Personally, I adore the Orgasm Roll (and not just for the name). It’s made with tempura unagi, crab, and cucumber topped with avocado, creamy scallops, tobiko, and sweet soy reduction. So tasty!

 

Sora Sushi Restaurant

The newest newcomer to Bend’s sushi scene, Sora Sushi Restaurant has the added bonus of offering our city’s only sushi train (ie. the sushi conveyor belt that provides a rotating roundup of delectable sushi you can grab as it goes by).

Checking out the sushi train at newcomer Sora Sushi.

The visual appeal of the conveyor belt makes this a great place to bring kids, and my stepdaughter loves seeing her options roll past so she can snag what looks yummy. The prices are good, too, with a handy pricing structure that lists the price of the dish according to the color of the plate.

There’s a regular menu, too, plus a popular happy hour seven days a week. But if you’re in a hurry, sit at the conveyor belt and grab what catches your eye. Save a little room for one of the tasty tiny dessert bites you’ll see rolling past.

 

Juno Japanese Sushi Garden

Another sushi newcomer in Bend, Juno Japanese Sushi Garden is the smallest, coziest restaurant in the roundup. But don’t let the size fool you (and don’t let the “reservation only” signs on the door scare you. While it’s true you’ll need one on busy nights, there’s a good chance you can stroll in and make a reservation on the spot if you show up on a slower night).

Enjoying fresh, flavorful sushi in the dining room at Juno.

The restaurant is the baby of Michi Nakanishi, a native of Kyoto, Japan who moved to Bend at 17 and worked in three different sushi spots around town before starting her own. Focusing on “true Japanese food,” the menu is small but mighty (tasty).

Everything they offer tastes unbelievably fresh, and the interesting addition of mild jalapeño peppers gives many of the rolls a refreshingly bright pop. The El Sancho roll was my personal favorite, with soft shell crab, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, and lettuce. Also outstanding was the Ninshi Jin (a “non-everyday special” made with seared albacore, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, mango, avocado, and cucumber).

And if you’re looking for a unique appetizer, try the Cream Corn Korroke, which is a deep fried potato and corn croquette covered in panko bread and served with the most delectable sauce imaginable. Top it off with a small carafe of sake, and you’re good to go!

 

Mio Sushi

Located in the Old Mill District, Mio Sushi is one of my favorite spots to drop by with my stepdaughter for a kid-friendly sushi lunch. She loves the mango iced tea, and I love the fact that the menu spells out very clearly what’s in each roll (and what non-sushi options are available if she isn’t in the mood—she swoons for the tempura!)

Blogger Tawna at Mio Sushi with stepdaughter Violet.

This is also home to one of my favorite sushi rolls in town, the Bubble Bubble. Made with avocado, tobiko, salmon, and ikura, it’s topped with the thinnest, most scrumptious slices of fresh lemon you can imagine. Trust me when I say the lemon adds a whole new dimension to the dish that’ll have you ordering it again and again (and possibly commanding your husband to swing by on his way home from work to grab a double order—what, that’s just me?)

Bonus: Coming here will give you a great excuse to stroll the Deschutes riverfront and check out the cool shops in the Old Mill District. Not that you need an excuse.

 

Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi

I made my first visit to Okawa Japanese Steak House & Sushi quite recently, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The former home of Outback Steakhouse, this expansive restaurant is much more than a sushi joint. It’s a hibachi grill where the entertainment value from the chefs is every bit as awesome as the food.

Don’t miss the sushi at Okawa, but also make sure you order a hibachi meal cooked right at your table.

Make sure at least one member in your party orders a hibachi dish, and that you request a seat next to the grill. Be prepared for an acrobatic display of tool flipping and flames, not to mention a tasty and hearty dish. Also be prepared for leftovers, as these meals are HUGE.

If you’ve come for the sushi, you won’t be disappointed. The menu boasts some of the most creatively-named rolls in town, including the Stinky Roll (spicy crabmeat, asparagus, and avocado inside Cajun albacore and topped with garlic ponzu sauce), and the One Night Stand roll (spicy tuna, asparagus, and avocado, topped with seared salmon and served with basil sauce).

Expect to see a few rowdy groups of birthday parties or girls’ night gatherings. Better yet, schedule your own.

 

Tomo Sushi

A locals’ favorite on the south end of town, Tomo Sushi is best known for offering half-priced sushi on Mondays from 4 to close (sorry, no to-go orders, and wait times can be long).

But paying full price won’t break the bank here anyway, as the sushi and non-sushi dishes are all reasonably priced and plentiful. The ambiance is surprisingly cool and funky, and the cocktail menu is impressive.

This is also another kid-friendly spot where you won’t get dirty looks for bringing in youngsters who haven’t fully mastered chopsticks.

Try the Back in Black roll with tempura shrimp, avocado, and spicy tuna, topped with blackened tuna, spicy aioli, unagi sauce, and spicy masago. And scope out their selection of local beers on draft, which make a nice accompaniment to many of the sushi rolls.

 

Grocery store sushi

I know, I know . . . there’s a stigma that comes with grocery store sushi, and it’s not great.

But trust me when I say there are two spots worth a second look, especially when you’re seeking an on-the-go sushi meal to take with you on a picnic or a day drive from Bend.

Customers survey the selection at Market of Choice on $4.99 Sushi Wednesdays.

The first is Newport Avenue Market, which is a local favorite for fresh, gourmet ingredients and unique grocery items you won’t find in other stores. Their sushi is made fresh daily, and ranges from tempura rolls to sashimi balls to specialty rolls. My favorite perk is the fact that you can always find rolls made with brown rice, which adds a nutty flavor and unique texture I find appealing.

Another good grocery store option is the new Market of Choice on Bend’s west side. They have an on-site sushi kitchen, and a surprisingly good (and well-priced!) variety of rolls to pick from in their deli case. But the best deal of all is their $4.99 Sushi Wednesday special, which offers up to 10 varieties for $4.99 all day each Wednesday. Just look for the special red Sushi Wednesday sticker.

6 things you must eat or drink in Bend, Oregon

May 11th, 2017

Visiting a new city always sends my inner foodie into a frenzy, a fact I rediscovered last week when traveling to Barcelona. It’s not enough to know that I must try paella. I must find the absolute perfect spot to enjoy the classic paella experience with views of the cathedral and maybe a flamenco guitarist serenading me while I eat.

Figuring out a region’s signature dishes and the best place to enjoy them can be exhausting, I’ll admit. So I’ve helped you get rid of the guesswork with these suggestions of dishes and drinks you absolutely must add to your Bend bucket list.

Grab a burger at Dandy’s or Pilot Butte Drive In

Bend is home to a zillion amazing hamburgers, and I blogged about 12 of them right here.

Dandy's-Bend-Oregon

Servers on roller skates have been delivering burgers right to your car at Dandy’s 1968.

But if you’re seeking the quintessential Bend burger experience, I suggest you try one of two places.

The first is Pilot Butte Drive In. Located next to Bend’s iconic Pilot Butte State Park, this cozy little diner has been a Bend landmark since 1983. You’ll find tasty goodies like homemade malts, scrumptious steak & eggs, and of course, a delicious variety of burgers.

My personal fave is the Ortega Cheeseburger, piled with grilled mild green chilis and melted jack cheese with mayo, lettuce, and tomato. Go inside and grab a cozy booth by the fire, or park and order from your car for a true drive-in diner experience.

And speaking of the drive-in experience, that’s the specialty at Dandy’s Drive-In. This nostalgic little burger joint has operated in Bend since 1968, with servers who arrive on roller skates to take your order through the car window. Don’t expect a lot of frou-frou condiments and crazy toppings here, but do expect a darn good traditional burger.

The Dandy Deluxe is a standard burger with the addition of cheese, tomatoes, and special sauce. It’s deliciously drippy and extremely satisfying, especially when paired with an old fashioned Cherry Slice and an order of their to-die-for onion rings.

 

Eat the sourdough scones at Pine Tavern

One of the oldest restaurants in Bend, Pine Tavern has been operating since 1936. The name hails from the two ponderosa pine trees (one living, one not so much) that jut up through the center of the restaurant.

Bend’s iconic Pine Tavern is a great dining spot to have on your bucket list.

But even more than the trees, what Pine Tavern is best known for are its sourdough scones with honey butter. Fluffy and light and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, they’re paired with homemade honey butter that will leave you swooning at your table. Be forewarned that the scones are only available with dinner, so don’t show up at lunch expecting to order them.

But dinner is a great time of day to be there anyway, especially if you can nab a river-view table on their patio. Their meatloaf is especially tasty, as is their classic prime rib. Plan on taking home a doggie bag after you’ve filled up on those scones!

 

Grab a beer at Deschutes Brewery

Beer fans trekking the trail of suds along the Bend Ale Trail will debate furiously over which of the 15 breweries has the best beer.

Deschutes-Brewery

Grab a taster tray at Deschutes Brewery and discover where Bend’s beer revolution began.

But one thing that’s not up for debate is who started it all. Deschutes Brewery is the granddaddy of Bend’s beer scene, establishing the first Bend brewery in 1988 and eventually growing to become one of the nation’s largest craft breweries.

These days you can nab a table in the very same pub where the first beers were brewed, ordering a taster tray that includes originals like Black Butte Porter and Jubelale as well as seasonal selections and nitro brews available only in the pub. Pair your brew with a tray of tasty hot wings or one of their scrumptious salads to make it a lunch or dinner affair.

Honorable mention: While there’s no question Deschutes kicked off Bend’s beer scene, Bend Brewing Company wasn’t far behind when they opened their doors in 1995, making them the city’s second oldest brewery. It has the vibe of a friendly, cozy local watering hole and a darn fine meal menu. Order a pint of Ching Ching or Elk Lake IPA, along with their scrumptious sriracha seasoned cauliflower or a steak and spinach salad.

 

Devour a Nacho Mountain at Mt. Bachelor

If your visit to Bend includes a ski day at Mt. Bachelor, no trip to the mountain is complete without a Nacho Mountain at the Clearing Rock Bar.

The Bloody Marys at Mt. Bachelor are almost as legendary as their Nacho Mountain.

This legendary, culinary treat is made with your choice of chipotle chicken tinga, hearty beef chili, or smoked pork. That’s piled atop a hearty plate full of chips, cheddar-jack cheese, fresh tomato, olives, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, and red salsa.

Pair it with one of Mt. Bachelor’s famous bloody marys or a local brew for the ultimate après ski treat.

 

Savor an ice cream sundae at Goody’s

Goody’s Chocolates has been Central Oregon’s go-to sweet spot since 1984, and now boasts several locations that manufacture a whopping 20 tons of chocolate a year.

Belly up to the old-fashioned soda fountain at Goody’s for a taste of nostalgia with your ice cream treat.

But it’s their ice cream that holds the most nostalgic qualities for folks who’ve been vacationing in Bend and Sunriver for decades. Grab a waffle cone brimming with creamy Oreo cookie goodness to enjoy as you stroll to nearby Drake Park, or park yourself at the counter to share a banana split with your favorite family member.

They also have an old fashioned soda fountain serving up treats like phosphate sodas and egg creams, plus an impressive array of candy you can buy by the pound.

 

Salmon and steelhead and trout, oh my!

When people ask about local cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, my first thought always jumps to fish. Salmon, steelhead, and trout make appearances on plenty of local menus, each prepared in uniquely Central Oregon style. Three spots with the most Bend-esque flair for fish dishes include Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill District, 900 Wall in Downtown Bend, and Ariana Restaurant just outside the Downtown zone.

One of several great spots to feast on fish in Bend.

The latter (Ariana) gets an additional shout-out as a foodie’s paradise with oodles of critical acclaim. Named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by Open Table, they boast an impressive wine list and classic European dishes mixed with specialty Northwest cuisine. Try their rainbow trout with pan-roasted, smoked fingerlings, sauce gribiche, and dill oil, and prepare to be blown away.

 

5 places to dine outside when the weather’s chilly in Bend

March 9th, 2017

Outdoor dining in Bend is as common as craft beer, golden retrievers, puffy jackets, and Subarus loaded with bike gear.

In other words, no Bend vacation is complete without a few of those things.

While patio dining with a river views is a hallmark of summer, and noshing next to a fire pit is a quintessential winter experience, what about those in-between times when the weather is less-than-ideal?

No worries! Here are 5 places you can eat outdoors even when the weather outside is frightful.

 

McKay Cottage

One of Bend’s most popular breakfast spots, McKay Cottage is famous for its scrumptious hashes, delectable croissant-style French toast, and melt-in-your-mouth bacon.

Snuggle up in a blanket with a mini fire pit in the center of your table at McKay Cottage.

The aforementioned popularity means wait times on weekend mornings can be long, especially in mid-summer when everyone’s jockeying for spots in their sunny outdoor courtyard.

But in fall, winter, and spring when temps are chilly and outdoor dining isn’t at the top of most folks’ to-do list, you can skate right to the front of the waiting list by requesting one of those patio tables.

The tables boast gas fire pits in the center, and your server will cheerfully bring you a stash of blankets to help ward off the chill.

Bundled up in your blankie, you can order tasty belly-warming favorites like the Hoodoo Hash made with golden-brown sweet potatoes, all-natural prime beef brisket, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, Grafton Village smoked cheddar, poached eggs, and house-made hollandaise. It’s served with a homemade butter scone and fresh fruit and is huge enough to split or to package up for leftovers the next day.

 

Sunriver Brewing (Galveston Pub in Bend)

It’s a fact that craft beer tastes better outdoors, and few pleasures rival the experience of sipping a pint next to a fire pit at your favorite stop on the Bend Ale Trail.

Have you ever eaten dinner inside a covered bridge? You can do it at Sunriver Brewing’s Galveston Pub.

But for a truly unique outdoor dining experience at a brewery, check out the Sunriver Brewing Company’s Galveston Pub in Bend. Their indoor space has an industrial vibe and garage doors that open up in summer, while the outdoor space has a fab fire pit to keep you toasty.

But best of all is what’s adjacent to that fire pit. It’s an incredible replica of the Shevlin Covered Bridge, with a spacious row of tables inside. The space is kept toasty warm with heat lamps, and open to the elements on either end.

Bonus: On chilly nights, there’s usually a shorter wait-time for spots inside the bridge than there is for an indoor table.

Double-Bonus: The kids’ menu here is one of my faves, with entrees like mini hand-dipped corndogs, pulled pork sliders, mac & cheese, chicken strips, and more. Each comes with your choice from a list of sides that includes fresh fruit or cold veggies with ranch dip (a great way to make sure the young’uns are eating healthy).

Triple-Bonus: Pineapple poppers made with pepper bacon-wrapped pineapple, queso fresco, jalapeños, and burgundy reduction. Need I say more?

 

The Lot

For the crème de la crème of outdoor dining in Bend, look no further than The Lot.

So many tasty (and cozy!) dining options at The Lot.

This one-of-a-kind eatery offers a unique spin on the food cart pods you find in many cities. A cluster of culinary trailers surrounds an open-air seating area with built-in tables, heated seats, and overhead heaters that keep the space nice and toasty.

There’s a bar with 16 tap handles, and plenty of space for families, dogs, or a group of pals to hang out. They’re open seven days a week, rain or shine, and can keep you toasty even on the chilliest days.

The food carts themselves offer a huge variety to choose from.  A La Carte is my personal fave, with unique creations like their gorgonzola bacon fries, a mouthwatering array of tacos, and their famous mint lemonade. The winter months bring out their scrumptious lemongrass and coconut milk clam chowder, which is TO DIE FOR.

 

10 Barrel Brewing

As I said before, many of the stops on the Bend Ale Trail have fire pits, but the one at 10 Barrel takes the prize for size and flexible seating.

The massive fire pit is the centerpiece of the courtyard at 10 Barrel.

You can fit a buttload of beer drinkers around it without feeling too crowded or giving up privacy. I’ve enjoyed countless romantic beer outings here with my hubby on the wide bench seats that allow us to snuggle up and tune out the other people around us.

Of course, if you feel like being social, it’s also a good place to chat up your fellow travelers or locals coming down from a long day on the slopes. There’s room enough for everyone!

Tip: Study the menu closely for their awesome suggestions on which beers pair best with each dish. Also, their pizzas here are OUTSTANDING.

 

Kebaba

Okay, so what if it’s really lousy outside? Like snowing sideways with winds gusting hard enough to make even semi-open-air dining impossible.

The outside of Kebaba’s enclosed sun porch.

What you really need is a way to dine in a clear plastic bubble, complete with heat lamps, heated benches, and beautiful views of the outdoors. But where would you find such a thing?

At Kebaba, of course!

This charming little Middle Eastern bistro features mouthwatering kebabs, babaganoush, gyros, schwarmas, and hands-down the best hummus I’ve ever eaten (seriously—I don’t even like most hummus, but I once drove across town in a snowstorm at rush hour just to get my hands on theirs).

Tasty lunch from inside the Kebaba bubble.

But back to the plastic bubble. The whole restaurant is situated in a charming craftsman bungalow, and the bubble is essentially a sun porch screened in with clear plastic panels. You still get the charm of outdoor dining and views of their pretty courtyard, but you stay nice and toasty and dry.

My favorite dish here is the karnabeet, which is a cauliflower dish that’s simply out-of-this-world. Their lunch plates are affordable and flavorful, or come for dinner and scope out plastic bubble dining with the magic of twinkle lights around you.

 

 

 

10 ways to make the most of Zwickelmania 2017

February 23rd, 2017

For as long as I can remember, Oregon’s statewide celebration of craft beer has taken place Presidents’ Day Weekend. But Central Oregon shook things up for Zwickelmania 2017.

Blogger Tawna in her Girl vs. Beer t-shirt (the unofficial uniform of Zwickelmania).

While Portland held the event as usual last weekend, Central Oregon is hosting Zwickelmania 2017 on February 25 instead.

While I’m personally bummed because I’ll be out of town, I’m professionally thrilled to bits. No more fighting holiday weekend crowds to get your beer, or splitting your time between Zwickelmania and Oregon Winterfest. Beer fans can devote a whole, luxurious afternoon to the one glorious day when breweries throw their doors wide open for tours, tastings, and more.

Planning to attend Zwickelmania 2017? Here are 10 tips to make the most of your experience!

 

Study up

There are oodles of online resources to help you achieve Zwicklemania nirvana, and it pays to study them before you’ve had a sip of beer.

Review the map to plot your best route between participating breweries.

Skim the online directory so you know what each brewery is offering in terms of beer samples, food, live music, tours, and other amenities.

Follow the Oregon Brewers’ Guild on Instagram and Twitter for up-to-the-minute info on Zwickelmania, and sign in on the Facebook event page so everyone knows you’re going.

It’s like cramming for a test, but soooooo much better.

 

Be selective

When it comes to completing a Bend Ale Trail passport, you can take years to do it.

The official 2017 Zwickelmania map.

But your time is limited when it comes to Zwickelmania 2017, so it’s okay to be choosy. With sixteen breweries participating from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s not physically possible to hit them all unless you plan to dash through the door, grab a beer, and pound it while sprinting to the next brewery.

I don’t recommend that.

What I do recommend is pinpointing a handful of breweries on the list that you really, truly want to visit. Maybe you’re dying to ask questions of the head brewer at McMenamins, or maybe it’s your life’s ambition to taste special brews straight from the Zwickel at Crux. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to see KC Flynn perform at Cascade Lakes Brewing, or maybe you really want to sample the cold-brew cocktails they’ll be doling out at Deschutes.

Bottom line: Pick what you most want to see/do/drink/eat and start there. Then work your way down the list.

 

Go with a full tummy

The event kickoff at 11 a.m. can throw you for a loop if you show up several hours post-breakfast and fail to get something substantial in your belly before you start guzzling beer. That’s why it’s key to grab a good snack before you set out.

Protein-rich foods like chicken or salmon take longer to digest, which will slow how fast your blood alcohol level goes up. Foods high on the glycemic index like pasta are also a good bet, since alcohol changes your body’s stores of glycogen (a quick energy source stored in the liver).

Depending on weather, many of the breweries serve up Zwickelmania suds outdoors.

It’s also smart to snack along the way so you’re filling your belly with something besides beer suds. Most breweries will be doling out free food, so take advantage of it!

 

Pay attention to location

While many breweries are hosting Zwickelmania 2017 festivities at their actual pub, some are throwing open the doors at the brewing facility itself. Sometimes that’s the same place, and sometimes it isn’t.

To be safe, make sure you consult the list before setting out.

 

Buddy up to a brewer

Besides the free beer and nibbles, one of the biggest things that separates Zwickelmania from a regular trek around the Bend Ale Trail is the chance to interact with a brewer.

Chatting with brewers and checking out the brewing equipment is one of the highlights of Zwickelmania.

At most participating breweries, the brewers themselves will be on hand to answer questions, talk about the brewing process, or even pour you a pint.

It’s a great opportunity to get the inside scoop about your favorite beer direct from the guy or gal who made it, so don’t be shy! If it helps, jot down a question or two before you go.

 

Drink plenty of water

Making sure your body fluid doesn’t become 100% beer over the course of an afternoon is crucial when you’re attending a beer-centric event like this. I always stuff a Hydro Flask full of ice water in my purse and refill often as I go.

 

Leave the driving to someone else when you book an outing with the Bend Brew Bus.

Don’t even THINK of drinking and driving

There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:

While Lyft and Uber aren’t yet in Bend, city officials are getting closer to making it happen (hopefully as soon as May).

But bottom line: There’s no excuse for driving while impaired. Ending up dead or in jail will put a serious damper on your Bend vacation.

 

Grab a memento

Zwicklemania is a big deal, and it’s fun to have a souvenir to commemorate it. Many participating breweries are offering deep discounts on schwag, so stock up while you can!

You definitely need this souvenir growler from Crux.

GoodLife Brewing’s Zwickelmania specials include sales on merchandise and packaged beer, while Cascade Lakes Brewing has schwag bags they’ll be handing out while supplies last.

Most others will have T-shirts and hats for sale, or pick up a logo’d growler to take home.

 

Know the secrets

Psst….want a few tidbits of insider info? Here you go:

  • Did you notice 10 Barrel Brewing isn’t listed in the lineup of participating breweries? I won’t go into the politics of why that is, but I will tell you they’re definitely still rolling out the red carpet for Zwickelmania. In fact, their Zwickelmania event is typically the first one I hit (and there have been years where I’ve just stayed there the whole day!) This year’s celebration features free Hawaiian style burgers and dogs from Mauna Kea Grill, pulled pork sliders and chicken tacos from Curb B Q, live music, and tons (literally, tons) of free beer. The event takes place at their brewing facility on NE 18th, though there’s a free shuttle from the pub that’ll run you out there and back.

    Mmmm….beer.

  • Not sure you want to spend precious Zwickelmania time driving all the way to Sisters for a visit to Three Creeks Brewing? Here’s something that’ll convince you: The brewery is hosting their annual Zwickelmania breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with breakfast snacks, breakfast beers, tours, zwickel tastes, and coffee. It’s a great chance to get an early start before the rest of Zwickelmania festivities even start.
  • While Zwickelmania technically ends at 4 p.m., festivities run a little later at Crux Fermentation Project. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., they’re offering behind-the-scenes tours, rare tastings from their BANISHED series (straight from the barrel!), and tons of great food including their Pork Parfait, Smoke-Aroni, and Rooster’s Kick-Ass Beef Jerky. If I were a betting woman, I’d say the food could run out earlier in the day, but it’s worth staying late anyway for great beer tasting and chats with the brewers.

 

Don’t forget your Bend Ale Trail passport

Zwicklemania is a great way to collect a whole lot of Bend Ale Trail passport stamps in one afternoon, so make sure you snag an atlas at the first brewery you visit or download the free Bend Ale Trail app.

Finished gathering stamps? The Bend Visitor Center is open seven days a week so you can collect your prize anytime. Stop by the corner of Lava and Oregon in Downtown Bend between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

 


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