Back in the day, my father and I used to travel to places in rural Canada a lot to participate in a hobby we shared. My father would say “being in Canada is like going back twenty years.”
He meant it as a compliment. Simpler times. Friendly people.
Driving to Prineville is a similar experience.
On a recent Sunday night we turned the clock back a decade or two and drove Highway 126 down the grade and through town to Club Pioneer at the far end of Prineville. My date, a Portland native but new to central Oregon, has never been to Prineville, so I insist we visit the town for our next dinner. Club Pioneer is a Prineville institution. Much like the town itself it is a simple place, with simple fare, but tries very hard with a great attitude. I’ve dined there many times over the past decade. I’ve seen them bend over backwards for a patron, like the time a friend ordered a single-malt Scotch. They didn’t have any at the bar, but ran to the liquor store in town to buy a bottle in order to fill his order.
On this Sunday evening we are early, and I expect the place to be near empty. Instead it is packed! The parking lot is nearly full. Seemed like half the town is there for their Sunday dinners too. They seat us right away, at a small table for two, likely the last open spot in the whole dining room. The decor is “homey” and includes plenty of images of old Prineville.
The service is very fast. We order cocktails and they appear within minutes. The waitress brings us bread, and in a new twist from my last visit it includes a cheese dip of some sort. My date and I dive in…
The menus disappear quickly, before I can snap a photo of them, but you can check them out on their Facebook page. We order the bacon-wrapped prawn appetizer… and it is just as good as I remember. Nice Thai sweet-chili dipping sauce and skewers of tasty prawns wrapped in crisp bacon. Yum! They also vanish before I can grab a photo!
My date orders the Whiskey Chicken, and I order the Black & Bleu Top Sirloin:
Club Pioneer gives you the option for choosing your side(s) and we both opt for veggies. But carb-lovers be aware they offer potatoes cooked in a myriad ways just for you.
Everything is tasty, cooked perfectly, and very satisfying. Oddly, as we’re halfway through our meal, the crowd starts to thin out. Clearly Prinevillians are early-to-bed, early-to-rise sorts and by 7pm the dining room is near empty. So tip for the out-of-towners: Arrive later for guaranteed seating.
As we’re finishing Jim, the owner, stops by and says hello. He recognizes me from previous visits, and asks us how our we liked our meal. Again, this is part of that “set your clock back XX years” thing… in a good way.
If you are looking for a great value in family dining, you can’t go wrong with Club Pioneer.