Being smack-dab in the middle of the state of Oregon and on the cold side of the mountains, Bend Oregon is not known for it’s culinary scene. Skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking or fishing? Yes, world class all around! But the restaurant scene can be quite hit or miss. With so many visitors to Bend and with so many of my photography client’s asking where they should eat, I decided to write down a few of my favorite restaurants to help out. I’m fairly particular about my food so I feel that all these are safe choices with quality foods and creative menus.

Breakfast
Bend, like Portland, is ripe with fantastic breakfast and brunch restaurants! However, if you aren’t there early (before 8 on weekends) you had better expect to wait. In the warm months this is a great chance to chat and have a coffee or mimosa but in mid winter you better bring a heavy coat! You probably shouldn’t bother with any of these three on a weekend if you have a group of 6 or more as they are all tiny little places that can’t accommodate large groups.

McKay Cottage Everything these guys do is great but the Benedict are superb! Expect fruit and vegetable sides to be fresh, bacon to be tasty and their Smoking’ Olive Bloody Mary to be spicy and not too over the top. Wait times can be pretty heavy and they have limited space to wait so be there early. No matter what you get, order a side of the hollandaise sauce for dipping, it’s that good. Great burgers for lunch too.

Victorian Cafe  I believe that the Victorian Cafe has won best breakfast in our local paper 10 or so times in a row, and for good reason! Plenty of outdoor seating and a cozy cottage feel inside combined with excellent eats makes Victorian Cafe my personal go-to when friends are in town. Of the three (excellent) breakfast choices, “The Vic” has my personal favorite bloody mary with just the right combination of quality vodka and fresh vegetables. Every meal I’ve had there has been great with seasonal fresh fruit and perfectly prepared sides. Their omelets are especially tasty and their coffee drinks are pretty good (I’m a total coffee snob, more on in another review!).

Chow  Yet another excellent breakfast and lunch choice, Chow specializes in Farm-to-table eating with many items grown and/or made locally. Smaller portions but still plenty to satisfy, Chow keeps dishes simple and fresh with many gluten-free and Vegan options available. The House Hash with Two Eggs is one of my personal favorites, so good I might have to go in tomorrow just thinking about it!

Casual Dining

There are a multitude of great casual dining lunch and dinner locations around Bend. Brew pubs are extremely popular in Bend year round catering to the beer-centric nature of tourists and local alike. Here are a few of my favorite casual dining spots:

The Lot Food Trucks and Taproom:  Located at the corner of NW Columbia and NW Hartford, just off Galveston, The Lot is a purpose built food truck lot with heated seating, good beer and lots of choices to eat! My personal favorite is the Real Food Street Bistro with excellent Asian pork tacos and other creative foods. There’s also Thai, and A la Carte (fresh super creative foods, pretty fantastic). The real draw besides the great food is the wonderful sitting area with heated benches and covered patio. It’s a great scene and the taproom has 8-10 beers, kombucha and ciders on tap.

Crux Fermentation Project Amazing beers, great views of the Cascades over the Old Mill District, true taproom atmosphere plus a kitchen and a couple of food trucks makes Crux a go-to for us. The beer is simply outstanding and the meals inside are casual fair meant to compliment the beers. Outside on the lawns and firepit area sit a couple of food trucks, with El Sancho taco cart being an absolute standout for their amazing tacos. The vibe here is family friendly, dog friendly and decidedly casual. Look for “sundowner” happy hour with drink and food specials within 1 hour of sunset.

Spork  Spork started out as a food truck, grew to a small restaurant and now expanded to an even larger restaurant. Extremely creative foods and good drink prices make this a go-to for many locals. Happy hour from 3-5 and drink specials are sure to please as well. The Spicy Fried Chicken pleases even this guy who doesn’t really like fried chicken with it’s sweet chili sauce, sesame and jasmine rice. The Carnitas Sando has beautiful pulled pork, salsa, fried egg, radish, cabbage cottage cheese and green onion to make things really interesting.

Deschutes Brewery  Located downtown, there is almost always a wait but whatever the host says, divide it in half as they alway over-estimate! The best of the brewpub food in Bend, get a burger and one of the best beers locally made. Much more of a restaurant than a tap room, the focus is on the food but they just happen to have fantastic beers so everyone wins. A go-to for families.

Looking for a nice night out?

Bend isn’t known for it’s fine dining but these two break the stereotype.

ZYDECO Kitchen & Cocktails  When we get a babysitter, ZYDECO is the first place we check for reservations. ZYDECO features great American food with a Southern twist, focusing on quality ingredients that are hormone-free, pesticide-free and organic.  Also a full Gluten Free menu for guests with allergies to wheat. This is one of those rare places where I always suggest sticking with the menu as the standard items are so delicious. For a perfect meal, start with the Barbecue ship with grit cake, enjoy a delicious beet salad course with goat cheese, pistachios and olive oil then Blackened Redfish for your main course which is perfectly tender and just spicy enough every time. Leave room for desert as the chocolate Pot de Creme is fantastic and the massive homemade carrot cake impresses even this carrot cake snob!

Ariana  A gem in the heart of Bend, Ariana was voted in the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America but Open Table Diners. I’d advise you to order the chefs tasting menu with wine, sit back and enjoy a fantastic culinary experience put together by a couple of the best chefs in Oregon. Truly a great restaurant.

Dessert

Ida’s Cupcakes   Where to even start! I should start by saying that I am actually not a huge fan of cake. Really, this photographer who’s shot hundreds of weddings has eaten cake at maybe half a dozen weddings, I’m just not a fan. That all goes out the window if there’s a cookie station, I’m all over that. But I digress… Ida’s is freaking amazing! Moist cake with unique flavors with some of the best icing I’ve ever had. Gluten free and vegan options that are actually fantastic too. Try the salted caramel and vanilla buttercream, amazing!

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