Happy Hour Drive-by: Currents at the Riverhouse


A crisp and brisk autumn day consisting of a long list of to-dos completed, my companion suggested a happy hour stop at Currents, the lounge attached to the venerable Riverhouse hotel across from the mall. 

I remember back in the 80s when this was the very edge of Bend. I hadn’t even looked at the Riverhouse since not long after that. I figured, why not? 

What an amazing spot! The river dances over rocks just outside, and the inside is a flashback to an older, simpler time. It is hard to tell what percentage of the crowd are locals grabbing an after-work tipple or which are out of towners staying at the hotel. Some are already a few cheap happy hour drinks in, and getting a bit loud, but thankfully the lounge is arrayed along the east bank of the river and provides quiet nooks for those seeking a quieter spot. 

We sit at a table for two, and order some specialty cocktails. I go for a Manhattan, as I’ve been searching in vain for one that will match a mindblower served to me at a famous restaurant in Seattle last year. My companion tries their “Apple from the orchard” – an interesting cocktail for sure. (So good she orders another later.) 

We order some nibbles. Lamb meatballs for me. Some flatbread for her. (See photo above). Very tasty on both counts. 

The decor is what strikes me most about this place. It perfectly captures an “old Bend” zeitgeist. The Pacific Northwest vibe I recall from my youth. Looking around you can’t really tell if this building was built in the 1970s, or last year. It truly is a timeless design, very much at home here in our little mountain town. 

Our waitress is awesome and we’re not really ready to go, so we order the meat and cheese board, and another round. 

While the Manhattan was good, I switch to a Pinot Noir for the second course. My companion sticks with the delicious apple orchard cocktail, and scoots her chair around next to mine. Partially to be close to me, but primarily so we can hear each other better. The crowd is getting loud and the jazz ensemble is warming up for their evening performance. 

Overall great impressions. We will be back. 

More Burgers! Dandy’s Drive-in, Bend

Dandy’s Burger

After a recent late-season ski day, a burger was calling my name. The lifts were still turning but the snow has gone all sticky in the hot sunshine. Bend Burger Company is my usual apres-ski burger, but honestly I was in a hurry to get back home and back to work. I needed fast food, but not fast food, if you know what I mean. Dandy’s is nothing like BBC, or Pilot Butte, or Jody’s. It is a drive-in, and the food is fast and good. Think of it as a retro In-n-Out for Bend. Very limited menu, very fast and friendly service.

The wait staff are on roller skates. They are universally upbeat and friendly. If that doesn’t improve your mood, I don’t know what will.

I ordered something quick, just a simple burger and an order of onion rings. I had some cold drinks on me in a cooler that I bring to Bachelor on hot late-season days like this, so no shake or soda this time. Sorry I didn’t snap a photo of the rings, as I snarfed them down almost immediately. Quite tasty! The burger was very good. An honest fast-food burger. I was in and out pretty swiftly, and was completely satisfied with the experience. Far better than McD’s or BK for sure.

Dandy’s Drive In Menu

 

Jody’s Drive In, Redmond

Best Burger In Redmond

After our review of Bogey’s, who claim to have “The Best Burgers on Earth”, we wondered if they could even claim the best burgers in Redmond? To test that hypothesis COE made a lunch stop at Jody’s Drive in to run the experiment.

To quickly compare the two:

Menu:
Both are basically burger joints that offer sides and a few non-burger type foods. Bogey’s is pretty much a “build your own from the basic list” while Jody’s has an extensive list of specialty burgers and an option to BuildYO.

Ambiance: Bogey’s feel like a small place in a strip mall (becasue it is) and Jody’s feels like a shack next to a highway with a  few picnic tables (because it is.) I suspect that most folks phone in their orders to Jody’s and pick them up to eat at home.

Service: At Bogey’s the service is attentive, fast, and friendly. At Jody’s… well lets just say it is slow and indifferent.

But the burgers? Jody’s wins hands down.

Main Menu at Jody’s
Sides & Shakes

This time I  tried a “Ragin’ Cajun” burger, which has grilled jalapenõs and pepperjack cheese. I opted for fried onions on top and a side of sweet potato fries. Since I’m not on a bike, I stayed away from the shakes, though if I’d have ridden there, I would opt for a chocolate malt! Maybe later this summer.

I’ve had many of their specialty burgers (Ortega Chile, Bacon & Bleu, etc) and have done the build-your-own thing often. Jody’s has never let me down in terms of a damn good burger.

 

Ambiance in the waiting area…

Don’t come to Jody’s with high expectations of fine dining, or a pampering atmosphere. They just make great burgers. Grab one, and go.

 

 

 

Jody’s Drive-In
8
07 SW 14th Street
Redmond, OR 97756
541-923-JODY (5639)

Note: Open 11am-4pm

Bogey’s Burgers in Redmond.

Bogey’s advertises itself as “The Best Burger On Earth”. That’s a pretty outrageous claim. There are some damn fine burgers to be found on this planet. Hell you can find some pretty awesome burgers just in Redmond alone. (Jody’s comes to mind…)

To test their claim, I’ve visited the Redmond location several times.

Ordering at Bogey’s. Menu is on the wall.

Bogey’s is a counter order sort of place, with about a dozen tables in the dining area and outside. It is a bit back off of the road, so the noise outside isn’t a big problem. They serve beer, and ice cream in addition to big or little burgers, chicken (in tenders, wings, salad, and sandwich form), hot dogs and grilled cheese. They’ll custom build your burger from a list of options. Sides are fries, waffle fries, or onion rings.

Bogey’s always seem to have a couple of specials, which are priced well, but are rigid, allowing no substitutions.

On my first visit I ordered a “little” bacon cheeseburger and a side of onions rings.  You can choose your cheese: Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Swiss, or Blue cheese.  All Bogey’s Burgers come with: Fry Sauce, Lettuce. Onion, Pickle, and Tomato. You can also add: Mayo, Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, Steak Sauce, Hot Sauce, Red Onion, Sautéed Onions, Sautéed Mushrooms, Jalapeños, or Pineapple.

I opted to swap the tomato out and add jalapeños into my burger, and added BBQ sauce…

Little Bacon Cheeseburger and Onion Rings

The rings were damn good, with a great onion-to-ring ratio. They were fresh out of the fryer so having the fry sauce was handy to cool them down.  You can also choose Ranch dressing for your sides dipping pleasure.

The burger was pretty good. Though hard to call it the best burger on earth certainly.

 

On subsequent visits I tried varying the size to “big” and trying the different sides and toppings.

Big Bacon Cheeseburger and waffle fries

Have to say that sautéeing the onions really improves the burger. Given that on this visit it was quite crowded and I had to wait a long while to make it through the queue and order, the extra time to sautée the onions didn’t seem to add any wait time for my lunch to get delivered.

The staff at Bogey’s are very friendly and pleasant. From taking your order, to delivering it to your table with a smile. Every time I visited they were very nice, and swiftly completed their tasks in a pleasant manner.

The burgers are pretty good, and the option to customize your condiments is excellent. The sides are great, and after trying them all I prefer the onion rings, which are damn near perfect.

Though I did find that once the stick is removed long-cut pickles make the perfect sliding surface for your bun.

long cut pickles make the perfect sliding surface for your bun.

On the downside, the layout of the dining room leads to crowding around the drink dispenser, extra condiments, napkins, and self-bussing station. Grab extra napkins there when you can, you’re going to need them and they’re not on the tables and they don’t come with your food. There are extra condiments at the tables, but they’re packed so tight I spilled salt every time I visited as I tried to pull the shakers out of the too-tight condiment holders.

There is a sign on the drink dispenser that says “ONLY ONE FREE REFILL” which contradicts the menu which says “Fountain Drinks (free refills) $1.95 … so which one is it? Mind you, I rarely refill my drink, but when all of your customer service posture is super-positive, this sign sort of feels school-marmy and finger waggy, which is a total turn-off to an otherwise great experience.

Bogey’s Burgers (Redmond Location)
655 NW Greenwood Ave
Redmond, OR 97756
541-316-1786

Also in Bend at:
2115 NE Hwy 20
Bend, OR 97701
541-316-1786

 

Missing Time, and catching up.

Apologies dear reader, life and work have kept me out of central Oregon for most of the past month. In the times I’ve been home, I have grabbed a few meals and taken some notes, so going forward we’ll return to the pace of at least one review per-week.

Thanks!

Happy Hour Quick Stop: El Rodeo in Bend


One of the best benefits of living in Central Oregon is skiing on Mt. Bachelor. In the springtime our ski season blends into summer sports and recreation, so that you can ski in the morning and play at some other pursuit in the afternoon. Additionally, during certain days and conditions, Bachelor will remain open into the evening for special events. 

On a recent Saturday Bachelor had a “Pine Party”, keeping the Pine Marten Express lift running until 7pm. I had been skiing since first chair. Completely worn out by 6pm, I came down the mountain with a mighty hunger. Having heard of the excellence of El Rodeo many times I thought it would be an opportune moment to try it out.

Looking for just a quick bite, I opt for the bar. I walk in and see several tables open, and pick one in front of a TV which is showing the NCAA ice hockey championship game. Service is swift. I am given a menu, along with chips and salsa along with a sort of light salad immediately. I order a Margarita and some Carne Asada. The waiter, looking at this gringo, asks “Flour, right?” 

“No, corn” I reply. 

Who eats Carne Asada with flour tortillas?


Very soon after, in fact even before my Margarita arrives, the Carne Asada lands on the table. I tentatively taste a small bit of the meat… mmm. Quite good. Cooked close to perfect, and just the right amount of marinade. The beans and rice are “fair” but given that I just skied for seven hours straight, I was hungry enough to shovel it down along with tortillas and beef. 

The highlight of the meal is the Guacamole! 

I usually don’t like guacamole unless I make it myself. I take a small taste of this guac, and it is damn good! 

Less than ten minutes after the photo above was taken, that plate was as clean as it could be short of going after it by licking. 

Looking forward to coming back with a dining companion and taking in some more of the menu. Stay tuned!

El Rodeo
758 SE 3rd Street,
Bend, OR
541-617-5952

Dinner and a Movie: McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend.

Captain Neon, your burger is here.

I love movies. I always have. Mostly I love their visual nature and how they allow you to immerse yourself in alternate realities; seeing things from literal and figurative unusual perspectives. There is part of me that regrets not pursuing cinemaphotography when I had the chance.

However, I rarely go to movies. The typical movie-going experience is pretty terrible. Uncomfortable seats. People talking. Cell phones going off. But most of all, the expense. Yeah, I like popcorn, but not enough to spend ten bucks for for a small portion drenched in fake butter. The number of movie theatres here in central Oregon seems to get smaller every year. For most of the past fifteen years or so I’ve chosen to pop my own corn, melt my own butter, and watch DVDs or lately, movies streamed online. I can sit in my comfy chair, drink an adult beverage, and watch in HD at home. The screen size doesn’t compare, but it suffices for most of my desires.

But sometimes you just need that immersive BIG SCREEN experience.

For that, I’ve largely stuck with McMenamins in Bend.

McMenamins is an Oregon institution, with hotels, bars, resturants, theatres, etc, scattered all over the state (and now in Washington as well.) They are consistently fun, funky, and prototypically Oregonian in expereince. I always suggest folks stay at McMenamins hotels if they visit our state. Their sole location in Central Oregon is The Old St. Francis School on Bond street in Bend, which opened in 2004. The sprawling campus is home to five pubs/bars/eateries, a hotel, live music venues, a brewery, and of course the theatre. It specializes in second-run movies a few weeks or months out of their box office peak.

The theatre is small, with seating for maybe a bit over 100 people, mostly on comfy love seats, couches, chairs, etc. Seating is first-come, first -served, but they do allow e-ticket holders into the theatre first, so if you want a prime spot, buy online. Prices are $4 most nights, with $3 Tuesdays, and a $10 Pizza & Pint option on Wednesdays. Online tickets have a $1 extra charge.

I attended the final showing of “Rogue One” on a Thursday night at 8:30pm. The theatre had hosted a special event beforehand so our entry into the theatre was delayed until about fifteen minutes before showtime. But as it was the final showing the crowd was light and I didn’t even bother staking claim to a comfy seat, but instead went straight to the bar to submit my order.

Theatre Menu

I’ve had some great meals at various McMenamins around the state, including a few that blew my mind (most notably at Cafe Zeus in the Crystal Hotel in PDX), but I have to be honest about our local outlet… their food is mediocre at best, and terrible most of the time. I must be insane as I keep going in with hopes held high, and they keep disappointing me.

The last time I had a burger at a McMenamins it was at the Broadway Pub in NE Portland. I ordered the Captain Neon (Blue Cheese & Bacon Burger) and it was awesome. Big, juicy, lots of flavor, and with an excellent bun.

Looking to reprise that experience, I ordered one, with sweet potato fries, and a glass… then went to find a comfy seat, glass in-hand. My burger arrived right before the previews started rolling.

How was the Captain Neon burger this time at St. Francis Theatre in Bend? It was overcooked to the point of being dry. (I ordered “medium-rare”) I coudn’t taste the blue cheese, and also couldn’t check if it was there in the dark. The bun tasted like some week-old deep-discount buns from the Safeway on 27th. The fries were good, but not enough to redeem the terrible burger.

I should have learned my lesson from last time I saw a movie here… I ate nearby at Bend Burger Company beforehand, and just stuck to drinks from McMenamins.

As a movie-going experience, I heartily recommend the McMenamins Old St. Francis School Theatre, but I can’t really endorse the dining experience at all.

Old St. Francis Theater
At Old St. Francis School
700 N.W. Bond Street, Bend, OR 97703
(541) 330-8562

Club Pioneer in Prineville 

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…

Different, but tasty!

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:

Black & Bleu 10oz Top Sirloin.
Whiskey Chicken

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.

1851 NE 3rd St, Prineville, OR 97754

The Breakfast Club in Bend

I’ve driven by this place on Greenwood for years, but have never stopped in, until today. I have an hour to kill and haven’t eaten breakfast, so here we are!

Small pseudo art-deco style building sits on the northwest corner of Greenwood and NE 4th street just east of the big intersection of 3rd & Greenwood. Scant parking out back, and apparently the neighboring businesses will be quick to call the tow truck if you spill over into their spots. 

You walk in and see an “L” shaped old-school diner with a counter on the long axis and booths wrapping around the outside windows. You wait to be seated, but in my case the server just told me to sit wherever I pleased. 

The menu

My usual go-to when trying a breakfast at a place I’ve never eaten is Eggs Benedict. Like a Chile Relleno at a Mexican restaurant, Benedicts tell you what level of skill and freshness the kitchen operates. Unlike traditional breakfast items like scrambled eggs, pancakes, etc. Eggs Benedict required some finesse. I also order a side of bacon. 

Service is quick and my bennies arrive:

Eggs Benedict, pepper & hot sauce added by yours truly

The eggs are cooked perfectly! Done throughout but still a tad runny in the yolks. The ham is a super-thin sliced stack, like you would expect in a sandwich. The Hollandaise sauce is OK, but not noteworthy. The English muffin is a bit tough. 

Now hash browns are a matter of personal taste. Everyone likes them their own way. How The Breakfast Club makes them is not my style. These are well-cooked only on one side, and once past the crusty top one finds basically mashed potatoes. I like mine either shoestringed and well cooked on both sides, or more country-fried with peppers and onions cooked in. 

The bacon is thin and very crispy. Service is great, but the food is just average. 

Bennies: $9.90, Bacon: $4.40

No wifi

The Breakfast Club, 378 NE Greenwood Ave, Bend, OR 

Black Bear Diner, Madras (also in Bend & Redmond)

The Cheeseburger Salad at Black Bear Diner

Road Food. That is what I think of when I think of the Black Bear Diner. I always associate eating there with road trips. I have some personal rules about road trips, but the ones I put highest in priority are:

  1. No Fast Food.
  2. No Drive-Throughs.
  3. No Eating In The Car.

I like to get off the road, sit down, and have somebody bring my food to me, enjoy some conversation with my traveling companions, and enjoy the respite from the road.

Black Bear Diners can be found in almost every mid-sized town down the west coast from here. I have made many a road trip down to California and back, and have likely eaten at every Black Bear Diner between here and the Bay Area. Why? Consistent good quality food and service. Sometimes I’ve eaten every meal in one day’s (slow) drive (with a truck and loaded trailer) at Black Bear Diners, with breakfast in Klamath Falls, lunch in Willows, and dinner in Tulare.Oddly, I have eaten at the locations in California far more often than I have the ones right here in Central Oregon. Mostly due to that “road food” association in my mind. The Madras location is my most often visited local stop, either as a breakfast, or dinner break on trips to and from the Portland area. Madras is a good stop for an early breakfast stop to gather ODOT pass condition data (All BBD’s seem to have free Wifi in my experience) before going over Mt. Hood. It also makes for a good stopping point on those late night runs home from Portland where you just want to get out of the car before that last hour of US 97 traffic to get you home. So the Road Food mentality rules again, even close to home.

The Menu

The menu at BBD is huge. It is presented as a newspaper, with the outside of the folio being a reproduction of that town’s newspaper from the past, complete with local ads. The ones I’ve seen range from the 1930s through the 1960s. It is a fun thing to read. The inside of the folio is the full B/L/D menu.

You’ll also find a laminated flip menu on your table with some amazing dessert choices. Black Bear Diner’s berry pies are amazeballs. The only pie I’d steer you away from is the coconut creme pie. I bought one from the Redmond location once to bring to a friend who loves coconut creme pie, and it was a bust. But their berry and other fruit pies are fantastic.

On a recent road trip we stopped and had a dinner after an exhausting day in the car. It was quite late on a weeknight, so the place was almost empty, with just one or two other parties finishing up their meals. In fact a hostess was running a vacuum over the floor when we walked in. She stopped immediately and seated us in a booth. As it was late we opted for a light meal and ordered two salads. My companion picked the “Cheeseburger Salad” and I chose a Chicken Caesar.

Chicken Caesar Salad

The meals arrived promptly, and were fresh and delicious. My companion didn’t like the bacon on her salad, as she said it wasn’t crunchy as she likes it. I happily took it off her salad and added it to mine, as I like bacon any way I can get it! Otherwise she loved the cheeseburger salad.

On other occasions/visits I’ve enjoyed their bacn & eggs, eggs benedict, several sandwiches, and even a steak dinner. All have been great values.

As a final test, I thought I’d test their hot sauces for you dear reader. Not having eggs at this dinner (even though they serve breakfast all day) I tried them on a spoon. Starting with the “Baby  Burn” and working up to the “Papa Burn”…

BBD Hot Sauces

They’re all quite good. None of them are “mild” by any stretch of the imagination, even the “Baby Burn” has some heat. All had some savory flavor to go with the heat. Try them yourself next time! Yum.

 

Black Bear Diner Locations in Central Oregon:

Madras:
237 SW 4th St. Madras, OR

Redmond:
29 NW Cedar Avenue, Redmond, OR

Bend:
1465 NE 3rd St, Bend, OR