The Cascade Lakes Brewing Company has grown in 13 lucky years from a small brewery in a Redmond airport industrial zone to a thriving food-and-beverage business with five Central Oregon locations: two in Redmond, one in Tumalo and two in Bend.
Along the way, its original owners sold the business in 2000. New proprietors Doug Kutella and Rick Orazetti later took on additional partners as the company grew. In 2004 they opened their flagship Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge, on Chandler Avenue at Century Drive; the imposing 6,000-square-foot building has become a landmark in southwest Bend.
Head brewer Mark Henion crafts excellent beers. Rooster Tail Ale, Monkey Face Porter and Blonde Bombshell have devotees throughout Central Oregon.
But on three recent visits to the lodge, I found the food and service that accompanies these brews to be inconsistent.
I arrived for lunch one day and took a seat at a high table in the lounge. The bartender was busy chatting with patrons, and no other servers were in sight. After several minutes, I walked over to the servers’ station, took a menu and sat back down to read it. The bartender eventually looked up and brought me a glass of water and another menu. And soon a server materialized.
I ordered a steak salad. The mixed greens — primarily crisp, fresh romaine leaves — were very good. I liked the sliced red onions, slivered toasted almonds, dried cranberries and Gorgonzola cheese crumbles in the salad.
I was less enthusiastic about the roasted red potatoes, sprinkled with parsley; I had expected them to be a similar temperature to the steak, but instead, they were served cold.
Several slices of marinated tri-tip steak, grilled medium rare as I requested, were layered on top. But the beef was gamey, not a good thing for steak.
A thick blue-cheese vinaigrette came in a small side dish. Coupled with the Gorgonzola, the cheesy vinaigrette overpowered the delicate taste of the fresh greens.
When it came time to leave, I once again had a difficult time attracting a server to bring my check, so I approached the bar and paid there.
Any brewpub should have good hamburgers. Cascade Lakes is no exception. The menu lists turkey burgers, buffalo burgers and black-bean veggie burgers: something to please everyone, it would appear.
I opted to try a Cowboy Up Burger, slathered with a tangy homemade barbecue sauce. It was cooked medium-well and topped with lettuce, tomato, white onion and two slices of smoked bacon. My only complaint was that the sesame-seed bun fell apart just two bites into the sandwich. A light toasting, or choice of a different bread, could help resolve that problem.
The burger came with fries and cole slaw. The fries were excellent; it’s easy to understand why they are a snack of choice for late-night beer drinkers. The slaw, however — a blend of red and white cabbage, carrots and cranberries — lacked flavor. Made without mayonnaise, it would have benefited from a zestier vinaigrette and a bit more seasoning and sweetener.
Again, the service was unimpressive. Seated at a booth in the main dining room, I sat and waited as a couple was seated in the table opposite mine. They were immediately provided water and menus, as I cleared my throat and introduced myself to my server.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Nobody ever told me you were here!” From that point on, however, she was attentive. “I’m sorry about the confusion,” she apologized. “Your beer is on me.” I had a pint of the anglers’ ale known as 20-Inch Brown.
Dinner to go
I wasn’t done trying Cascade Lakes’ food, but I wasn’t in the mood for a third round of slow service, so I ordered a dinner to go. It was waiting for me when I arrived, packaged in two boxes.
I started with two large, deep-fried vegetarian spring rolls. The batter was much too thick, masking the flavors of the vegetables stuffed into the rolls: cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and onions. The rolls came with two sauces — a spicy-sweet chile sauce and a darker, heavier sauce of unidentifiable flavor — and an Asian slaw of red and white cabbage, vinegar and sesame seeds.
By contrast, my entrée was excellent. From the nightly special list I chose arctic char, a relative to the trout; it was lightly seasoned and grilled perfectly. I also thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying vegetable, baby bok choy. But the rice pilaf — a wild-rice blend with pine nuts and cranberries — was over-steamed and partially congealed.
On future visits to the lodge, I would opt either for a sandwich or for something off the short list of evening entrees. The menu always features chicken pot pie, stuffed flank steak and a smoked salmon pasta, as well as nightly specials.
But the one thing you can’t go wrong with is — you guessed it — a beer.
Meadows at the Lodge (B). The Sunriver Lodge offers a grand stage for dining, with picture windows that offer views of the Cascades by day, a lighted woodland by night. The Pacific Northwest dishes are good, but are not always what the overpriced menu describes; service, while polite and professional, can be slow. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Sunriver Lodge, 1 Center Drive, Sunriver. 593-3740, www.sunriver-resort.com Demetri’s Greek American Cusina (B+). Bend’s only authentic Greek restaurant has drawn regulars for seven years despite an off-the-beaten-track, east-side location. The cuisine is light and flavorful, rich with herbs and spices. Ambience is very casual and family friendly, as befits a Greek-style taverna. Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday. 425 Windy Knolls Drive, Bend. 318-0111 Marz Bistro (A-). A great choice if you want a good dinner but have no idea what kind of meal you want, Marz offers sophisticated comfort food with a range of international influences. Service is relaxed but friendly and efficient; atmosphere is festive and eclectic, with tables closely packed and abstract art on the walls. Open 5 p.m. to close every day. 163 N.W. Minnesota Ave., Bend. 389-2025 The Downtowner (A-). The hot and cold sandwiches, soups and salads are can’t-miss fare at this intimate hole-in-the-wall café. Service is basic but efficient: Order at the counter, bus your own table. Seating is crowded and diners fight for space with those waiting in line, but it’s a great East Coast-style bargain. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 852 N.W. Brooks St., Bend; 388-2467.