It is one of those wet/cold days. Visibility mid-mountain is near zero. You pick your way along the cross-overs one neon green lollipop at a time. A drop down the headwall of Snapshot is a vertigo-inducing lesson of skiing-by-Braille. You kick yourself with a ski tail and whack your helmet with your pole for stupidly leaving your goggle squeegee in the garage back home as the sleet renders your eyewear into literal frosted glass. You see the clock at the top of NWX and note that it is after ten. Screw this, we need a hot meal!
There are a handful of restaurants in Central Oregon that I have frequented enough to write a review off the top of my head. By a long margin however, I have darkened the door of The Clearing Rock more than any other, by an order of magnitude, despite it being open less than half the year.
But here I am, sitting in my usual seat at the bar, on a Tuesday warming my toes and drying my outerwear. Yes, I am a “regular.” I have seen staff come and go, and every season by January they know my name and my habits. On very cold days like today I order a Faceplant. On hot late season days I have an iced tea and a shot of bourbon. But most days I have a glass of red wine. Seasons past it was “Notebook Red Blend”. This season it is Charles & Charles.
The food is often the best on the mountain. I suspect this is just due to scale, as it is the smallest venue (other than the Sun Bar at Sunrise, which only serves Chili). If you are here with a group, just go for the nachos. They are YUGE! A literal mountain of tortilla chips, meat, cheese, and tasty bits. Tough for two people to finish. In fact I’ve seen groups of four vanquished by the nacho mountain. The sandwiches are excellent; Pulled Pork or BLT (on Jalapeño Cornbread!) The pizzas are great, though small. The salads are great. My traditional go-to is the butter leaf wedge salad, which comes with a generous portion of bacon and bleu cheese dressing.
But best of all are the soups. The Mt. Bachelor Chili is a good stand-by. But the smart folks ask about the soup of he day.
Today it is Roasted Poblano and White Cheddar. It is spec. tac. u. lar.
One of those soups that is both hot and spicy. Hot where it hurts your mouth, but so savory and spicy that you keep shoveling it in despite the pain. Earthy Poblano chile. Some onions. Cheddar. Spices. Oh. So. Good.
I’ve enjoyed other great soups here too. A red pepper bisque. Italian sausage and kale. Broccoli cheddar. Yum.
If you like spicy Bloody Mary’s you will be among your people here. Try the Mazama Mary. Delish!
On the happy hour menu I suggest the Jalapeño Grilled Cheese.
The only items on the no-fly list here are the Cheddar-Ale Fondue and more than one Faceplant. The former is just not good. The fondue itself is mealy and flavorless. As far as the latter goes, you won’t be able to ski, much less drive down the mountain after two heavy pours of 151 Rum. Ask me how I know.
I’m solar-averse, due to my Northern European genetics, but the new expanded deck space will be a boon to sun worshippers come spring ski season. Me? I’ll still be here at my usual barstool.