Happy Hour Quick Stop: The Brickhouse in Redmond

Manhattan Cocktail and Steamed Manilla Clams

A midwinter sunset is approaching and Testa Rossa says “I want a big Caesar salad for dinner, do we have the stuff to make one?”

“Nope, but we can go to the Brickhouse and have a great one.” I reply.

“Oooh, I like the way you think. Let’s go!”

Not looking for a full dinner service we drive over and beeline for the bar in the back. We’re blown away by the near full-house on a Tuesday night. Every table but one is full, and the bar is packed shoulder-to-shoulder. Thankfully the have a long “bar buddy table” between the bar and the last few two-person tables towards the back with several stools open. We grab our spot at the end of the table, and are warmly greeted by the staff.

I will admit to being a regular diner at the Brickhouse’s original Redmond location. Why? In an industry that sees likely the highest employee turnover in the USA, the serving staff at the Redmond Brickhouse has remained solid. Servers LJ & Leslie, and Bartender Brian have been there as long as I can remember (which is about eight years of eating here. Anyone remember the wooden menus?) They are true professionals and really make a visit to the Brickhouse something special. Even though we’re here for just a cocktail and a salad, they care for us the same as they would any other patron.

We order a couple of Brickhouse Manhattan cocktails, and I arm-twist Testa Rossa into an order of clams as a starter. She reminds me of our diet, so I request no bread on the side, which is a true hardship becasue the bread at the Brickhouse is sublime!

The cocktails are perfect expression of what a Manhattan should be: savory and tart, rather than sickly sweet. Perfect balance of flavors, and beautifully presented in a martini glass.

If you like steamer clams, then get yourself to the Brickhouse as quick as you can. I love them, having eaten them since I was a little kid. Having spent a large portion of my life in the Puget Sound region (“…Surrounded by Acres of Clams!”) I know good clams when I find them. These are DAMN good clams!

Small, tasty, and swimming in a wonderful white wine, garlic, and clam juice broth… we devour the clams swiftly, with half of them being gone before I can remember to snap a photo of them for you. They really should serve the clams with a spoon to allow you to slurp up all the clam broth, because that is the best part. Oh wait, that is what the bread is for… oh well. We make do with clam shells, and clean the bowl.

Despite her initial hankering, Testa Rossa orders a “Local Organic Greens” salad, while I stick to the initial mission profile and land a Caesar. Ever thoughtful our server LJ asks if I’d like some chicken with the salad, which I thankfully accept.  Our salads arrive just as we’ve put down the clam bowl for good. My Caesar is heavenly. Leafy and green, with just the right amount of dressing, with that slight essence of anchovies that makes it real… makes it tangy. The chicken is a perfect accompaniment.

We had to pass on their amazing dessert menu this time (try the cobbler!) but we will be back and I’ll prepare a full review. Their steaks and seafood are amazing, as is their wine cellar. If you are a wine nut like I am, you have to visit if only to see the wine cellar. Behind the bar it is a work of art, both of carpentry and of the vintners craft.
The Brickhouse locations:

412 SW 6th Street, Redmond, OR
541-526-1782

5 NW Minnesota Ave, Bend, OR
541-728-0334

 

 

Bend Burger Company in Bend

The best onion rings in Bend!

There are four categories of hamburger in American Cuisine:

  1. The one you make at home on the grille.
  2. The fast food burger.
  3. The pub-food burger.
  4. The local burger joint burger.

Bend Burger Company falls into the latter category, as it is the prototypical local burger joint. BBC has two locations in Bend: on Franklin just west of Drake on the corner of Wall & Franklin downtown; and a second location on 3rd Street between Thurston & Seward, right across from Rite-Aid. I’ve eaten many times at both locations. Oddly, I eat downtown when it is ski season and on 3rd when it is bicycle season. I think I’ve only parked a car at the BBC on 3rd once, but have biked there many times. Go figure.

Note: The 3rd Street location does land-office business on weekday lunches, so be prepared for a crowd, unless you arrive early!

This week we stopped at the Franklin location downtown for a dinner before a movie at McMenamins. While it may seem odd to have dinner before going to a movie theater that serves dinner, I will admit to having a strong hankering for a PARTICULAR burger at the Bend Burger Company all week prior to our date night, and since I was driving, BBC it was!

Main Menu
Sides Menu

We’re both on “low carb” diets at the moment and BBC offers two great bunless low-carb options:

  1. A Burger Salad
  2. Any burger served on a bowl of sautéed green beans

When you enter either BBC you order at the counter and they give you a number, delivering your meal when it is ready. BBC is NOT fast food, so set your expectations accordingly. It will be a while, as your meal is made to order and VERY fresh. Good things come to those who wait. Both locations plenty of seating (the downtown location is much smaller however) and have bright decor with large format photos of central Oregon scenery and action shots of climbing at Smith Rock. A large screen TV has an endless slide show of Central Oregon images.

Both locations offer beer on-tap and wines by the glass. If your diet allows it (like my summertime 50+ mile bike days do!) order a milkshake. BBC shakes are delicious.

On this trip I order a Ponderosa Burger on Green Beans, and my date orders a Bend Burger Salad. I ask for a side of onion rings. Yeah, that’s a bit of a cheat on our diet, but since I am missing out on some of the best fries in Central Oregon, I want something to compensate with.


Our rings arrive first and rather than a small side, it is a huge basket of them! The BBC onion rings are amazing. Perfectly cooked with a crunchy outside and tender inside. My date proclaims them the best onion rings she has ever had. They are served with fry sauce, which I like to spice up with a few shots of the hot sauce they have on the table alongside the catsup and mustard.

About the time we’re licking our fingers after the last onion ring is gone, our burgers arrive:

The Ponderosa is covered in Pepper Jack cheese, onion straws, and to top it off another couple of onion rings!

The green beans are perfectly cooked and have a sauce that includes bacon and bits of ground beef. Some black pepper and a few shots from the hot sauce dispenser kicks up the heat a little.


The Bend Burger Salad is delivered with a bit of salad dressing of your choice. I would have picked Blue Cheese, but my date requests Ranch, on the side.

The entire meal is delicious. My date finishes her Burger Salad, but there is no way I can finish the bowl of beans. I’ve ordered this dish a few times and never been able to finish it in one sitting, but it makes for great leftovers so I get a “to-go” box and bring them home.

Leftover BBC Green Beans with eggs and bacon for breakfast

Bend Burger Company Locations:

718 NW Franklin Ave, Bend, OR
541-306-6166

1939 NW 3rd Street, Bend, OR
541-382-1914

 

 

Tim Garling’s Jackalope Grill in Bend

Adam Smith wasn’t an economist, he was, in the parlance of his day, a “Moral Philosopher.” He was an observer, thinker, teacher, and a writer. One of his postulates based on observation is the societal benefit of the division of labor. Rather than each of us having to do everything for ourselves in order to survive, we all specialize in something and contribute that specialty back to society. This give-and-take benefits us all and as Smith wryly observed, has allowed us to rise up from a primitive, difficult culture to a productive, comfortable one. On a macro scale it has produced truly amazing things such as transcontinental flight (which ironically we loathe as an inconvenience!) and portable currency. On a micro-scale it feeds us at restaurants with great ingredients from local producers.

As such I have always preached how it  pays to be a regular customer of any business, especially fine dining establishments. Eating after all, is the most basic of human needs, but fine cuisine has raised that most basic of things to high art of a most satisfying nature. We bring our currency, and the restaurant exchanges it for sustinence and service… win/win. To escalate that to a higher level, become a “regular.” Every businessperson knows that your best customers are the ones who keep coming back. Long ago, I ran a business and we knew precisely who our best revenue producing customers were, and I had every one of their contact details in my phone. I knew them on a first name basis. I also took my staff and customers frequntly to a sushi bar nearby for lunch quite often. We had an office tradition of “payday sushi”, meaning a trip to the sushi bar for lunch (almost) every payday.  The Owner/Sushi Chef at this place recognized our “regular” status, to the point that after a year or so, he would start making my order (Sushi Combo & Spicy Tuna Roll) as soon as I walked in the door. He never learned my name (he just called me “Boss”) but he knew who I was. My portions were bigger, I would get the best cuts and freshest fish. We treated each other well. Perfect Symbiosis.

I’ve been eating at The Jackalope Grill since the first month I moved to Central Oregon. Back then the Jackalope was in a strip mall south of Reed Market Road, a bit off Third street. It was hard to find and, to be honest, had near zero curb appeal. BUT… once inside, it was great. Fine food, a great wine list, and an excellent staff. It was through the wine list that I met Kathy Garling. Wine has been a passion of mine for a long time, and I have always enjoyed finding great wines at bargain prices. I recall seeing an obscure Chilean red wine on their list and ordered it. Kathy intercepted the order from our waiter and brought the bottle to our table herself. I recall that she remarked that I was the first person to ever order this wine, so she wanted to meet the oddball who picked it. We had a conversation about wines, and have been good acquaintances ever since.

The Jackalope Grill has since relocated to a far better space on Lava Rd in Downtown Bend, just north of the Oxford Hotel. This space is wonderful, and has a lovely courtyard filled with a vegetable/herb garden that makes a for fantastic alfresco dining in the warmer months. There is a cozy bar up front, and a warm, welcoming dining room.

Regular Menu

We stayed home for Valentine’s Day Dinner, mostly because we are practical people, and know what a circus V-Day can be at any restaurant. But we chose to celebrate the night after (2/15) with a dinner at The Jackalope. The dining room is not quite full, but you can tell the people who are in attendance have a similar cut to their jibs… Smart folks.

Usually I’ll order their amazing Grilled Romaine Salad as a starter. It is delicious! My date does order it, and confirms my diagnosis. As for mains, I’ve always had a rough time selecting between the astounding Rack of Lamb, or one of the steaks. Tonight however, the choices off the specials were too tempting to pass up:

Specials Menu

For my starter I order the “Burrata, Prosciutto, and Leeks on Grilled Country Bread.”

It is amazing.

I’ve actually never eaten anything like it before. The fresh mozzarella is creamy soft, and the flavor combination it makes with the leeks, prosciutto, and bread is wonderful! Just one of those savory treats that just satisfies your soul.

For dinner my date chooses the Ragu alla Bolognese, and I select the Paleron de Boeuf au Vin Rouge, which is described as:

“A warming wintertime classic of French country cooking. The Paleron is a very beefy, hardy cut from the shoulder perfect for braising in red wine. Served with mashed potatoes, oven-dried tomato and natural sauce.”

It arrives in a large bowl and includes roasted vegetables, and a modest amount of mashed potatoes at the bottom of the bowl. I like the nod to healthier eating and leaving out the mountain of potatoes! The vegetables are a nice winter mix of carrots, turnips, green beans, etc. The beef is heavenly! Tender and tasty, with a crackling thin crust of a wine reduction. It is perfectly seasoned… so much that I never even touch the salt & pepper on the table. The sauce is spectacular! Wonderfully French. The photo I take just doesn’t do it justice:

Dinner. Top: Ragu alla Bolognese. Bottom: Paleron de Boeuf au Vin Rouge.
 For the two of us this is not only a Valentines celebration, but something of a “Mardis Gras” as we’re going on diets the next day to look our best for an upcoming event. As such, we must have dessert!
Having tasted my way through their dessert menu I opt for the Creme Brulée. The Jackalope Grill makes one of the best Creme Brulée in the world. Nothing fancy, just straight forward, traditional French-style CB. The creme is soft, and not mealy/cold like you find in so many places. Bereft of the usual attempts to make it fancy with lemon, or cheese-cake style textures… Tim Garling’s Creme Brulée is perfect, and traditional. Served with a raspberry, atop a perfectly carmelized crunchy top.
Half eaten Creme Brulée
We are truly blessed to have Tim & Kathy Garling here in Central Oregon to take the fresh ingredients of the region and transform them through skill and labor into some amazing cuisine. I honestly rank The Jackalope Grill atop my list of favorite restaurants in the region. If you haven’t visited yet, what’s stopping you?
750 NW Lava Rd #139, Bend, OR 97701

Rigoberto’s Taco Shop, Redmond. 

Above: Drive-through menu

I’m not a big fan of fast food. I prefer sit-down dining and fresh stuff. But sometimes eating has to take a back seat to more pressing concerns. Yesterday I had to drive to Portland for a funeral. As I’m heading out of Central Oregon I stop to fill up the tank at Freddie’s in Redmond and my tummy was growling. Where should I go? Heading north my choices are a few Burger places (Sno-cap, Bogey’s), Sonic, and a couple of sub sandwich places. Then I recall a great Carne Asada combo plate I enjoyed at Rigoberto’s on Antler and 5th last summer. I decide to swing by and grab a burrito to go. 

There is an art to rolling a burrito so well that it can be eaten one-handed. I can recall a burrito shop I frequented back in the early 90s that could wrap a football-sized one so well it would maintain cohesion down to the last grain of rice. I figured it would be a good test for Rigaberto’s. 


Above: The Burrito, in hand. 

The service is quick, I have my burrito in hand and am underway in minutes. It is a chicken burrito. Heavy, and well-wrapped. The paper wrapping is easy to partially undo to facilitate eating. The tortilla wrap is perfectly constructed. The filling is a wonderful concoction of an earthy red sauce, chicken, rice & beans. 


Above: Deee-licious!

Honestly it is one of the best chicken burritos I have ever eaten. 

So much better than a fast-food hamburger to be honest. I wolf it down before I arrive in Terrebonne. True to form, it maintained its shape as I ate it. No “burruption” risk at all. 

Tummy satisfied, I drive non-stop to PDX and on arrival I note that in the bag are some sauce samples:


The burrito of course is long gone, but I open one of the green ones and have a taste. So good I down the whole container! Again, a spicy/earthy/savory delight. 

Try Rigoberto’s. Let me know what you think. 

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.