The young schoolgirl left no doubt as to what she thinks of Schlotzsky's Deli on Bend's east side: “This place is awesome!" she said.
The girl's raves about her individual pizza were echoed by her older brother, who had a sandwich, and by her mother, who enjoyed a fresh salad along with change from a $20 bill. Certainly, there aren't many restaurants in Central Oregon that can provide a satisfying lunch to three family members and keep the cost at that level.
That's one of the things I like about Schlotzsky's, a national restaurant group whose Bend franchise is its only one in Oregon. Any shortcomings in the food — which I find to be generally good, but far from perfect — are balanced by excellent prices, solid service and a spacious, well-maintained dining room.
Founded in 1971 in Austin, Texas, Schlotzsky's now has more than 340 franchises in 35 states and four foreign countries. The next nearest to Bend, which also sells cinnamon rolls and other sweets from the Cinnabon chain, is in Spokane, Wash.
Auto access to the Bend Schlotzsky's is a bit awkward. The only driveways lead through the Regal Pilot Butte 6 cinemas parking lot off 27th Street or, more directly, off U.S. Highway 20. But the restaurant lightens the mood for new arrivals by poking fun at its unusual name. A sign on the door warns: “No shirtzsky, no shoeszsky, no Schlotzsky." An arrow directs drivers to the “Drive Thrusky" lane.
Schlotzsky's first built its name around a sandwich it calls The Original. It features three meats — smoked ham, Genoa and cotto salamis — and three cheeses, layered with black olives, red onions, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce and a couple of sandwich spreads.
But what really makes the sandwich work is the company's trademark “Fresh-from-Scratch" sourdough bun. Oven-toasted, this bun is crispy on the outside, soft and yeasty in the middle, and it truly adds to the enjoyment of The Original.
I would have liked my sandwich more, however, had the meat and cheese been applied in more generous portions. In particular, the melted cheddar, Parmesan and especially mozzarella cheeses were almost invisible. I later discovered on the menu a Deluxe Original-style sandwich that advertises “more than double the meat" — this will be my choice on a future visit.
The deli offers lots of other sandwiches — including a turkey bacon club, a chipotle chicken and an Angus pastrami with Swiss cheese — on additional choices of bread, including wheat and jalapeņo cheese.
Schlotzsky's has an all-day lunch special called the “Pick Two." For $7.25, a diner can get two of these four items: a bowl of soup, a half salad, a half sandwich or an 8-inch pizza. I opted for the first two.
There are two daily soup choices, and my thick and savory split-pea soup was good enough that I could have asked for a second bowl. It was clearly homemade with the addition of a generous amount of minced ham and onions. I only required some additional salt-and-pepper seasoning, with which a server was quick to provide me.
My half-size turkey avocado Cobb salad was sufficiently large that I don't know what I would have done with a full-size version. I liked it okay, but I didn't love it.
For starters, a little textural crunch beyond that provided by stale croutons would have been nice. Some hearts of romaine, for instance, might have supplemented the mixed baby greens that were the foundation of the salad. The bacon could certainly have been more crisp.
Most of the other ingredients were fresh and good, including chopped avocado, tomato and hard-boiled egg, along with black beans and crumbled feta cheese. But actual turkey breast meat would have been far preferable to the slices of processed turkey meat better used in deli sandwiches than in salads.
The best thing about the pizza — I swiped a slice of a pepperoni-and-double cheese pizza from a teenaged friend — was the cheese. Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses were thickly melted atop a light crust.
But cheese bread was not what I was looking for. The pepperoni was sparsely applied, and there was no underlying layer of tomato sauce in spite of the menu's promise of “sun-dried tomato pesto." I have a feeling the kitchen crew forgot an ingredient.
Schlotzsky's patrons order from a spacious counter with the extensive menu posted on the wall behind. Each sandwich and salad is made from scratch, so the wait for food is five to 10 minutes. There's a comfortable seating area for take-out orders; dine-in customers take a number to a table and wait for their order to be delivered by a friendly, efficient staff member.
At tables and booths, the dining room seats more than 70 guests, an ample number for a deli cafe. Bend-area recreation and activities are depicted in artwork and photos, both contemporary and historical, that hang on walls of muted blue, green and slate color. Brick trim accents a tiled floor, and a single flat-screen television (with sound turned off) offers a diversion for those who want it. Large windows and recessed lighting provide illumination.
A bottle of Schlotzsky's own Louisiana hot sauce, made with cayenne peppers and vinegar, stands in the center of each table. But salt and pepper are in packets beside a service area, where patrons fill their own glasses with water or soft drinks, and help themselves to silverware and napkins.
Mother's Juice Cafe opened a second location Aug. 13 on Bend's east side. The new cafe is located in the Borden's Corner Shopping Center, in the space formerly occupied by TuckMo Subs & Sandwiches. Well-known for its fruit smoothies, Mother's also serves breakfast and lunch daily. 62090 Dean Swift Road at Greenwood Avenue. Also at 1255 N.W. Galveston Ave., Bend; 541-318-0989, www.mothersjuicecafe.com.
Fox's Billiard Lounge closed Aug. 9 after three years of business. Owner Marshall Fox reported on the lounge's Facebook page that “we could not work things out with our location and had to close." The pool hall and cafe opened in mid-July 2009 at 937 N.W. Newport Ave. on Bend's west side.