Dedicated patrons of Mother's Juice Cafe on Bend's west side may not have noticed the subtle name change that came when the little restaurant established a second location, just off Greenwood Avenue, in August:
The new cafe has dropped the “juice" from its name. It is merely Mother's Cafe. And that is by design.
“Mother's is a great brand," said owner Michael Sackin, “but it also has a stigma attached. We wanted to let everybody know that we're a lot more than just a place to get fruit smoothies."
Mother's Juice Cafe was established on Galveston Avenue in 1998. Sackin bought the business in early 2008. Last summer, he bought the former TuckMo Subs & Sandwiches in the Borden's Corner Shopping Center and opened the second cafe Aug. 13.
“We were presented with an opportunity to do what we had wanted to do on the west side but had been limited by space," Sackin said. “We got a grill and a full kitchen."
He credited consulting chef Joe Benevento, formerly of Cafe Sintra and Tart Bistro (and now living in Brazil), with helping to create a menu built around healthy, locally available products.
“Joe was an inspiration," Sackin said. “He introduced us to local producers, enlightened us in all of the cool stuff about healthy food and brought us to that next level of wholesome goodness with a local twist."
I better understood what Sackin meant by a “twist" the first time I lunched at the new Mother's, ordering a sandwich called “Reubenesque."
Sure, it was pastrami and Swiss with kraut on rye. But the pastrami was lean, grilled turkey pastrami. The sauerkraut was made in-house with beets instead of cabbage.
Instead of a Russian dressing, it boasted a tomato-horseradish aioli. The differences were a little more than subtle, but it was very good.
“The idea is taking classic sandwiches, thinking about the availability of what we have available to us around the year, and integrating that into our sandwiches," Sackin said.
“Little things can make a big difference. We are very aware, for instance, of using safflower oil in our cooking instead of fattier oils, and of using less salt. We really are inspired to have healthy food that tastes good."
Mother's uses only quality Boar's Head meats and cheeses. “We had to get qualified with them," said Sackin. “They don't just sell to anybody."
Decor at the east-side location is pleasant if minimal. Seating for about two dozen diners extends in an “L" around a prep area. Original acrylic art by Cheri Lee Helfenstein hangs on the walls; morning mood music is amped up to classic rock by the lunch hour.
Mother's has morning options that I haven't seen anywhere else in Central Oregon.
When I visited one daybreak with my dining companion, she ordered a bowl called “Grains and Greens." It featured a blend of roasted quinoa and millet with egg, pumpkin seed, kale and caramelized onion, stirred with tahini. It was not a typical American breakfast, to be sure, but perhaps it should be. She loved it.
“We also like grains, such as quinoa and millet, with extra spinach or kale," Sackin said. “I'm pretty happy with our product right now, especially the bowls."
I requested that a Mother's Cristo sandwich — Mother's version of a Monte Cristo — be prepared open-faced. One half of a toasted baguette was spread with marionberry jam.
The other half carried egg, prepared frittata style, with slices of Black Forest ham and creamy yellow Havarti cheese. It wasn't exciting, but it was just fine.
I find Mother's sandwiches to be healthy, as promised, but not terribly interesting.
I ordered one called the “Sydney," served on toasted Pilgrim wheat bread (made in Mother's own wholesale bakery) that began to fall apart as soon as I picked it up. Several thin slices of processed chicken were stacked with Havarti cheese, crispy-cooked bacon, roasted tomato and a leaf of romaine lettuce. An overly generous spread of tasty, house-recipe tzatziki sauce (with dill) probably contributed to the disintegration of the bread.
I subsequently chose a daily-special sandwich that featured turkey, Havarti, lettuce and tomato on artisan white bread. Curiously, the spread was applied between the cheese and tomato slice rather than on either half of bread. That may have been the key to holding the sandwich together, but the flavor was flat. I found myself wanting a layer of avocado.
My companion was happier with her “Olympus" sandwich in pita bread. This vegetarian choice offered a thick spread of edamame hummus and feta cheese with peppery arugula, sliced cucumber, tomato, marinated onion and roasted bell pepper.
Soup, salad, smoothies
I am a bigger fan of the soups and salads.
An 8-ounce cup of hearty tomato-basil soup was one of the tastiest dishes I had at Mother's. Gently seasoned with cayenne pepper, it contained house-made wheat-bread croutons that added texture.
Turkey orzo soup in a broth with minced carrots, corn, onion, shiitake mushrooms, kale, celery and red bell pepper was seasoned with thyme. I had to add salt to bring out the flavor, and added spice with a few drops of Cholula chili sauce.
Kale salad incorporating slivered beets with mandarin oranges, carrots and sunflower seeds was delicious, dressed with lemon vinaigrette.
So, too, was the tuna salad. A generous scoop of tuna salad — mixed with pickles and celery — was presented atop of bed of greens that included spinach, arugula, frisee and red cabbage. Slices of hard-boiled egg and very ripe tomato accompanied.
Fresh fruit smoothies, for which Mother's first came to be known, remain a highlight of a visit to the east side as well as the west.
My non-dairy, Honey Crisp smoothie, made with soy milk, was filling and delicious. Honey sweetened the blend of peach, strawberry and banana.
My companion opted for a “performance blend" smoothie called the Fat Burner. Made with apple, pineapple, peach and strawberry, it incorporates green-tea extract, protein powder and a fat-burning supplement called L-carnitine. She was pleased that the additives didn't offset the fruity flavor of the smoothie.
For the next week, Sackin has closed the west-side Mother's Juice for renovations and a general facelift. “It should reopen by the end of the month," he said. Regular patrons of the Galveston cafe might find this an ideal time to check out the new east-side Mother's.
Slick's Que Co. will close its Sisters location when the barbecue runs out Sunday. A spokesperson said the restaurant hopes to reopen in a new site in Sisters next spring. Meanwhile, Slick's Bend store continues to welcome patrons from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. 240 E. Cascade Ave., Sisters (541-719-0580) and 212 N. E. Revere Ave., Bend (541-647-2114); www.slicksqueco.com.