While meals arent quite gourmet, they are well prepared and made from scratch.
Gracious and heartfelt hospitality begins the moment you walk in the door.
Nothing is priced as high as $12, and servings are usually generous.
Theres a certain charm to this odd-shaped room attached to an older motel.
|-||- Rate It!|
A = Outstanding
B = Very Good
C = Average
D = Below Average
F = Poor
|Restaurant facts (updated: 3/30/12
Kids menu: Lighter-side menu available for seniors and children
Vegetarian menu: One omelet and a couple of sandwiches
Outdoor seating: Limited seasonal
|Hours:||7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day|
|Reservations:||Encouraged for groups|
|Credit cards:||MasterCard, VISA, American Express|
$ of $$$$ What's this?Breakfast $6.50 to $11.25; lunch $7.95 to $10.50
|$ =||under $12|
It is presented on business cards as the “best-kept secret in town,” but I hadn’t been in Palmer’s Cafe for more than five minutes one morning before I fell in love with this oft-overlooked east-side Bend institution.
I was welcomed at the door and encouraged to sit where I’d like. I was barely seated before I was offered coffee. Seeing that I was alone, another server came by and asked if I’d like to read the morning newspaper.
All this attention in a little ma-and-pa-style cafe, set back from Greenwood Avenue and next to a motel that’s been a part of Bend nearly as long as Mt. Bachelor.
Owners Harry Johnson and Michael and Karen Kau purchased the cafe — its space leased from Palmer’s Motel — back in November 2001, and have operated it ever since.
While the food is good and the prices very reasonable, I’m convinced that the reason they have developed a devoted clientele is their gracious and sincere hospitality. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a “from-scratch” kitchen; virtually everything served here is made from fresh ingredients immediately before serving.
I had a very simple breakfast that first morning: two eggs, over easy, perfectly cooked. Hash browns, soft inside, no grease. Two long strips of bacon, done just to crispy.
And coffee. Although the cup wasn’t a large one, I didn’t have to look around for a refill. It seemed like a server or host was always there to pour more.
Light rock music provided a backdrop to my relaxing meal. There are no more than about 10 sturdy tables in this intimate, L-shaped cafe, but it’s rare when they aren’t occupied. Photos of Central Oregon landscapes hang on the walls, adding to the family vibe: They have all been shot and framed by co-owner Johnson.
Breakfast for two
So pleased was I with my first solo meal at Palmer’s, I insisted that my dining companion join me a few days later.
We discovered that the cafe takes great pride in its homemade blueberry-banana nut bread, so despite its $3 price tag, we shared a slice. Moist and chewy, we found it almost more like cake than bread. And the flavor was balanced, not over the top with banana, as sometimes can happen with this recipe.
We both chose egg dishes for our breakfasts. My friend ordered a farmer’s omelet, and that farmer must have been a pig farmer: This was definitely not a vegetarian option. It was filled with big chunks of ham and lots of bacon, along with green onions, avocado, and cheddar cheese folded inside and sprinkled on top. Chopped tomatoes and sour cream provided a finishing touch, along with a fresh wedge of orange as garnish.
My huevos rancheros had two fried eggs sandwiched between lightly pan-fried corn tortillas and spooned over with lots of ranchero sauce — a common, tomato-rich Mexican blend incorporating green chilies, onions, garlic and spices. The dish was topped with three generous avocado wedges and was served with refried beans and melted mozzarella cheese.
I wouldn’t call either of these dishes gourmet, but they were tasty and well prepared, with nothing under- or overcooked.
A lunchtime return
Palmer’s is open only until 2 p.m. daily, but that leaves plenty of time for lunch. We returned to check out the cafe’s sandwich fare.
I started my midday meal with a cup of the soup du jour, which on this occasion was albondigas, a homemade Mexican meatball soup. Served in a chicken broth, it also featured coarsely chopped potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and herbs, and was light and delicious.
I’m a sucker for a good Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Palmer’s uses organically raised beef from the Painted Hills ranch near Fossil. The sirloin is sliced thin and served on a French roll with melted Swiss cheese, sauteed red onions and tri-colored bell peppers (red, green and yellow). When I asked for the addition of mushrooms, they were thrown in for no extra charge.
The meat was tender, the veggies nicely sauteed, the roll fresh. It was one of the better Phillies I’ve had in the area.
My companion opted for a Monte Cristo sandwich accompanied by potato salad. The sandwich was a generous one. Turkey, ham and two cheeses, American and Swiss, were layered in big slices of white bread, dipped in egg batter and grilled with butter. Sprinkled with powdered sugar before it was served, the Monte Cristo tasted almost like savory French toast.
Even the potato salad was good. Cooked, chopped potatoes were mixed with German mustard, eggs, red onions, celery, bacon and the cafe’s secret ingredient: slivered green apples. I’d get a side dish of this salad with any meal.
But like the cafe, I’m afraid it’s no longer the best-kept secret in town.
Tickets are still available for Sunday’s “Foodie Crawl,” featuring gourmet plates from a dozen Central Oregon chefs. A benefit for the Feed the Hungry program at Bend’s Community Center, it is scheduled 4 to 8 p.m. at 10 locations around Bend. Participating are Baldy’s BBQ, Deschutes Brewery Public House, 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar, Hola!, Jen’s Garden, Primal Cuts Meat Market, Range Restaurant of Brasada Ranch, Rockin’ Daves Bagel Bistro, Seventh Mountain Resort, Trattoria Sbandati and Victorian Cafe, along with 12-year-old food-contest winner Billy Morton.
A $60 ticket includes small plates and beverage pairings at all locations; each $95 ticket also includes the “Sage in the Kitchen” cookbook, featuring chefs from all of these restaurants and others, and a bonus “bag of swag.” A full menu is available online. www.sageinthekitchen.org, 541-312-2069.