Adventures in Dining, Brews & the Outdoors in Bend
By Brian E. Clark
My oldest son, Matt – who lives 2,000 miles away from me – and I try to get together at least twice a year to ski, raft, hash out life’s vagaries and toast life with a drink.
Twice in the past six years, we’ve met in the central Oregon town of Bend. I’m thinking, though, that connecting in this burg should be an annual affair.
And for good reason: Bend and its surrounding environs offer hiking, biking, climbing, canoeing, rafting, cycling, skiing and other recreational opportunities galore, to say nothing of being home to a thriving craft beer and food scene.
In September, Matt flew in from Seattle and I decamped from my home in Madison, Wisconsin. We met at the airport in neighboring Redmond and before heading to Bend, made the short drive to the Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., a hometown favorite at 855 SW 7th St., for an early afternoon meal.
My son had a Watkins fresh hop pale ale and – because I like apples – I had a Chapman cider. We also shared brewhouse salad, nachos and a chicken fajita burrito while chatting up our server and getting some advice about visitng Smith Rock State Park, a sport climbing Mecca with basalt cliffs that rise 600 feet above the Crooked River.
We saved a trip to the park for later in our visit and headed for our digs in downtown Bend at the Oxford Hotel, 10 NW Minnesota Ave., a four-diamond, “eco-chic” boutique hotel with 59 guest rooms that puts an emphasis on sustainability and luxury. It didn’t disappoint.
While my 33-year-old son worked, I strolled off to Drake Park, one of my favorite parts of the city. This 13-acre greensward runs for nearly one half mile along Mirror Pond and is a popular downtown community gathering space with a bridge that spans the stream, numerous ducks, public art, acres of open lawn and an outdoor stage.
Located in the Old Bend section of Bend on the east side of the river, it’s just one of the city’s 80 public parks that include 2,600 acres of open space, sports fields and small neighborhood playgrounds.
That evening, we had dinner at Oxford Hotel’s Roam Restaurant, which is headed by executive chef Bryant Kryck, a graduate of the Cordon Blue culinary school. I had a delicious arugula peach salad, while my son was served crispy Brussels sprouts. For our main course, we enjoyed local salmon and a 16-ounce ribeye, respectively.
After a good night’s sleep, I showed Matt around Drake Park before we headed to the Lemon Tree restaurant at 718 NW Franklin St., which is run by Mac and Betsy McDonald and Jaclyn Perez, who met while cooking on mega-yachts and touring the globe. Locals say it’s one of the best places in Bend to have breakfast, brunch or lunch.
We had delicious blueberry scones with coffee for a starter. Then, because I like North African food, I chose the tasty Shakshuka dish, a Tunisian offering with a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions simmered with Maghreb spices and served with poached eggs and grilled striate bread. Matt chose smoked salmon Benedict.
Then, to work off our breakfast, we drove to the east side of town to Pilot Butte, which features more than seven miles of trails that wind around an extinct, 500-foot-tall volcano that is one of Bend’s most prominent landmarks.
We took the mile-long and moderately steep trail that ascends to the top of the butte, where we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the snow-capped Cascade mountains to the west, including the Three Sisters, Broken Top and Mount Bachelor. The high desert stretched out to the east and the city of Bend was all around us below the summit of the 114-acre park.
For lunch, we went to Bevel Brewing , 911 SE Armour Road, also on the east side of town. Like the Lemon tree, Bevel – which is known for its hop-centric IPAs – has a great backstory. It’s run by disc golfing luminaries Nate and Valerie Doss, who have combined to win two junior world championship crowns and seven world championship titles in their sport.
They even took the bevel – the sloped edge of a throwing disc – for the name of their brewery. We got some tasty sandwiches and pickles from the Nosh Street Food cart at Bevel and washed them down with a flight of IPAs.
That afternoon, we connected a friendly guide from Wanderlust Tours and drove up in the mountains past the Mount Bachelor to Elk Lake for a Brews and Views canoe outing. With smoke from a forest fire to the south rising above the horizon – and alarming us a wee bit – we paddled around the lake to a beach where we sampled a few more craft beers. (Hey, we were in Central Oregon.)
The wind shifted and blew the smoke away from Bend on our drive back down. We strolled around town some more and alighted at the Sunriver brewpub, 1005 NW Galveston Ave., just a few blocks to the west of the Deschutes River.
Hungry from our paddling adventure, we had a bowl of General Tso Fried Cauliflower served with a sweet garlic ginger and sesame seed sauce. I topped that off with a grilled chicken wrap and Matt had a Pub Burger with natural beef, smoked gouda, pepper bacon, baby arugula and roasted garlic aoili. For our adult libations, I had a Fuzztail Hefeweisen, while Matt had a Cocoa Cow, a chocolate milk stout.
Breakfast the next morning was at Bo’s Falafels Bar 1366 NW Galveston Ave., where we had some yummy bagels with homemade cream cheese and other fixins’.
Later that morning, we picked up a pair of standup paddle boards at Tumalo Creek, 805 Industrial Way, which also offers lessons and guided trips. We set out from a dock steps from the outfitter’s front door on the slow-moving Deschutes River and stroked our way upstream past three bridges and numerous ducks.
For lunch, we stopped in at Monkless Brasserie, 803 Industrial Way, a short stroll from Tumalo Creek and specializes in Belgian ales. We dined on an outdoor terrace and met up with Dick Linford, an old whitewater rafting friend and author. Matt and I both ordered the Restitution, a fruity and light-bodied ale, to go with our roasted Brussel sprouts, Belgo burger, Chipotle BBQ chicken sandwich and a salad with with barbecued cantelope chunks.
Later that afternoon, we drove out to the dramatic Smith Rock State Park near the village of Terrebonne to hike. We considered trudging up and over Misery Ridge, a steep, switchback trail that would have taken us to the park’s summit and back down the far side.
The sun was sinking, however, so we trekked for several miles out and back along the aptly named Crooked River and watched sport climbers work their way up steep rock faces on walls with names like Marsupials, Diehedrals and Monkey Face.
For dinner, we eschewed the brewpub scene and made our way to the Yoli Restaurant. It’s the creation of award-winning chef Joe Kim, who serves elevated Korean cuisine with the flavors of Korea intertwined with his modern and unique style. The menu includes traditional items such as Kalbi, Bulgogi and Bibimbap, as well experimental dishes.
I had Gaji, an eggplant dish with spicy rice gnocchi, mushroom, onion, scallions, while Matt ate Yeon Eo, a doenjang glazed king salmon with roasted kimchi puree and Korean black bean spinach. We shared sesame cakes and ice cream for desert.
But our moveable feast wasn’t done quite yet. Before we headed home the final morning, we said goodbye to Drake Park and the Deschutes River before heading to Lone Pine Coffee Roasters, where we had waffles, muffins, coffee and orange juice for breakfast.
Alas, we didn’t make it to any of the lava tubes near Bend, nor did we go rafting, mountain biking or horse back riding. And I haven’t skied at Mount Bachelor in more than a decade. So, no doubt about it, we’ll be back.
For more information on things to see and do in central Oregon, see visitcentraloregon.com.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.