Bold diners who venture east of Bend looking for Tibetan yak, Nalgai antelope or other exotic game meats may come away sorely disappointed when they learn that chef David Hatfield no longer wields a carving knife and spatula at Cafe 3456.
But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t check out the Airport Cafe, which has replaced the 3456 on the second floor of the Bend Municipal Airport’s Professional Air Building.
The menu is far less colorful than it was under Hatfield, a well-known local culinary figure who sold the cafe in November when he became the executive chef at Seattle’s Hotel Alexis. There are no more smoked-trout omelets or bowls of buffalo chili.
Under new owners Don and Doug Peterman, the Airport Cafe has stripped down to basics.
This is diner-style fare, make no mistake. Breakfast might be a Western omelet or a stack of buttermilk pancakes. Lunch could be a bacon cheeseburger, a BLT or a tuna melt on rye. Expect no frills.
But the simple menu is tasty and well-prepared. And the kitchen crew is friendly and efficient, if few in number. Said the young woman who served, cooked and answered phones during my breakfast visit: “There’s no point in having two people in here in the morning. It’s just not busy enough.”
As befits the location of the neatly kept cafe, the decor emphasizes its connection to the airport. A rusted antique propeller, flanked by Oregon Duck and Oregon State Beaver banners, extends from the south wall. Simple posters and photographs extend the aviation theme.
Most significantly, a full wall of windows provides an almost-bird’s-eye view of Cessnas, Piper Cubs and Lear jets parked on the asphalt behind the building. Every so often, one of them taxis into position on the runway and takes off in full sight of diners.
A couple of outside tables on an east-side balcony offer a fully acoustic perspective, best when the morning sun is shining brightly. Indoors, about 40 seats on a hardwood floor are entertained by classic rock of the 1970s and ’80s, streaming from a single flat-screen television.
Tom Petty and Journey serenaded me as I lunched on a Cafe Burger. This was a fine sandwich with an excellent combination of flavors but was really nothing that an imaginative cook couldn’t have made at home.
The ground beef, cooked medium, was served on a firm bun doctored with a guacamole spread. It was topped with bacon, sauteed onions, mushrooms and two processed cheeses (American and Swiss) as well as lettuce and tomato.
I asked the server to recommend from a choice of sides that included potato salad, coleslaw and a green salad. She suggested French fries, which I found to be very ordinary.
On a morning visit, my dining companion and I both opted for egg dishes — and out of curiosity, shared a pancake on the side.
I had a dish called Don’s omelet, obviously a nod to one of the Petermans. (There’s also a Doug’s burger, featuring bacon, ham and egg, on the lunch menu.)
My omelet was perfectly cooked and stuffed with fresh vegetables — spinach, sliced mushrooms and onions — as well as tangy Italian sausage. The accompanying red potatoes were chopped into home-fry size and sauteed with onions, and the entire course was nicely plated on a trefoil dish.
My companion’s Kitchen Scramble would have contained everything but the kitchen sink had she not asked our server-cook to hold the bell pepper. Tossed with the scrambled eggs were sausage, bacon and ham; mushrooms, onions, spinach and tomatoes; potatoes and cheese.
On another occasion, my friend said, she would ask that the country gravy be served on the side, so that she might add it sparingly to her breakfast. Instead, the scramble was cloaked in the light, peppery, white gravy.
Our plate-sized buttermilk pancake was sprinkled with powdered sugar and presented with a small pitcher of maple-flavored syrup. We both had the sense that it could have used another 30 seconds on the grill, as parts of the cake were slightly doughy. But it was a tasty alternative to everyday toast.
Who needs Tibetan yak for breakfast when you can have eggs and pancakes?
When the Kokanee Cafe reopened last night near the Metolius River for its 2012 season, it had a new chef at its helm. Former Deschutes Brewery executive chef Matt Neltner has taken charge of the kitchen at the popular restaurant 14 miles northwest of Sisters. Open 5 p.m. to close Thursday to Sunday until June 1, then daily through the summer. 25545 S.W. Forest Service Road 1419, Camp Sherman; 541-595-6420, www.kokaneecafe.com.
Speaking of Deschutes Brewery, a “Collage” tasting dinner in its brewpub tap room May 18 will celebrate a collaboration with Portland’s Hair of the Dog Brewing and the inauguration of the Conflux series of beers. Chefs will match beers with poached crab legs, cocoa-braised oxtail and other courses at the dinner, scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. A portion of proceeds will benefit NeighborImpact of Central Oregon. The dinner is limited to 80 seats; tickets may be purchased online for $85 per person. 1044 N.W. Bond St., Bend; 541-382-9242, http://collagedinnerbend.eventbrite .com.
Bend chef Lisa Glickman will make her national television debut tomorrow when she appears at 11:30 a.m. on “The Perfect 3” on the Cooking Channel. Glickman is also scheduled to appear the following Saturday, May 19. In Bend, the segments may be seen through BendBroadband on channels 182 (Analog) and 782 (HD).