The Clearing Rock Bar at Mt. Bachelor

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!

Above: regular menu

Above: Happy Hour Menu

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.


Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill, Bend

Back in the day, I used to host many business dinners and Greg’s Grill in the Old Mill was an easy choice because it:

  1. Is huge, and can usually accommodate a large party on short notice.
  2. Has a great setting. High ceilings in a very pleasant dining room, phenomenal view of the river, Snob Hill and Mount Bachelor above it all.
  3. Produces god quality fare swiftly and at a reasonable price.

However in recent years I haven’t had a reason to visit Greg’s, until today that is. Testa Rossa (my redheaded S.O.) and I are at the Old Mill to pick up something for her at a nearby store and I suggest lunch.

We are seated immediately and I order a glass of Merlot. Testa Rossa order a Moscow Mule. They arrive in a flash.

The wine list is simple and utilitarian, with an emphasis on domestic vintages. A good section of beer taps and custom cocktails round out the drink selection.

Above: Custom Cocktail Menu
Above: Starters & Salads

Above: Lunch Menu

For lunch Testa Rossa orders a Salmon Caesar salad, and I take the Chicken Club sandwich. As with the drinks, they arrive almost instantly.

Above: Our lunch. Salmon Caesar and Chicken Club sandwich with side salad.

Testa Rossa reports quite favorably on the Caesar… “Tangy dressing!” “Great salmon!” She shares a few forks of it with me, and I concur.  Quite good. I have a weakness for a Caesar salad and it is rare to find a REALLY good one.

I opt for a side salad for my sandwich, and in hindsight should have requested a Caesar, as it is much better than my green salad. It has an overload of diced cucumbers. The dressing (blue cheese in my case) comes on the side, something I guess most folks want, but I did not request it that way. The sandwich itself is quite good. It is not a traditional triple-decker Club, but instead a bun containing the usual Club ingredients plus the California-standard avocado slice. I’m not a huge fan of the avocado normally but in this case it is complemented by the buttery roll that Greg’s calls a “Stadium Brioche.”

I finish my sandwich easily, but end up leaving the majority of the side salad. Maybe next time I’ll damn my waistline and opt for the fries.

As for the rest of the experience, the service is excellent. The host allowed us to opt for a shady booth away from a window (it is a very bright sunny mid-winter day.) Our server is prompt, but unobtrusive. She arrives at the right moments and takes care of us very well.

She offers the dessert menu, and as tempted as all of the items appeared, we reluctantly demur…

Above: Dessert Menu.

Overall, Greg’s is an excellent choice in Bend for a good value meal in the mid-high price range. They execute well, consistently serve good food and provide great service.