A little inconsistent, but eggs Benedict are never a wrong choice.
Although not always fast, it's so friendly that returning orders is never questioned.
Prices are a little higher than other breakfast spots, but portions are generous.
A little piece of Cheers on the west side of Bend.
|-||- Rate It!|
A = Outstanding
B = Very Good
C = Average
D = Below Average
F = Poor
|Restaurant facts (updated: 11/25/2011)|
|Hours:||7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day|
|Credit cards:||MasterCard, VISA, Discover|
|Price:||Breakfasts $4.95 to $14.95, lunches $8.95 to $17.95|
|$ =||under $12|
As an icon of the Central Oregon breakfast scene, The Victorian Cafe has no peer.
With its rustic charm and unparalleled selection of eggs Benedict plates, “the Vic,” as it is popularly known, has a neighborhood appeal that extends well beyond its west-Bend precinct.
It helps that the converted residence (constructed well after the end of the Victorian era) is located at a key roundabout between downtown Bend and Mount Bachelor that's home to the well-known “Phoenix Rising” art. Despite limited parking, a long line of patrons may be seen waiting outside the Vic's door on any given morning.
“To me, the Vic is a whole experience, a home away from home,” said owner John Nolan. “It's not only that our breakfast experience is different from a normal breakfast. Here, the customers, the servers and the people at the table next to you all seem to know each other.”
Now in its 26th year of business, The Victorian Café has certainly been Nolan's second home. Shortly after he settled in Bend in 1996, at the age of 22, he began working here. By 1999, he was general manager, and three years later, he bought the restaurant from former owners Paul and Denise Mercer. For most of that time, he has been assisted by Josh Podwils, now the chef de cuisine.
Today Nolan is 38 and the Vic is an institution — even though it often requires a substantial wait for a table, and even though the prices are a little higher than at other breakfast spots around town.
On two recent visits, a friend and I ordered three breakfasts and a lunch. The Vic's score: Three hits, one miss. That's not perfect, but it isn't a bad percentage.
The miss was on a dish that may suit some diners' palates, but not that of my dining companion. Her French toast, ordered from the daily sheet of specials, featured thick slices of Texas toast soaked in a vanilla cream before grilling. The bread sopped up the cream so thoroughly that she found her meal to be unfavorably mushy.
No problem. Our cheerful server never once questioned her request to send the meal back to the kitchen. She replaced it with everyday French toast, which my friend thoroughly enjoyed. Simply fried in egg batter, topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and served with a choice of maple and berry syrups, it suited her appetite perfectly.
From a choice of 10 eggs Benedict dishes, I chose the “British.” Two poached eggs were served atop a grilled English muffin with sauteed garlic and mushrooms, artichoke hearts and roasted red bell peppers. A house-made Hollandaise sauce, with just the right touch of lemon juice to balance the eggs and butter, was ladled over the top.
Each of the Benedict dishes are tantalizingly different. The “Caribbean” includes Cuban-seasoned ham, mango, black beans and fresh cilantro. The “California” has sliced turkey breast, crisp bacon, fresh spinach and avocado. The “Wild Salmon” features cold smoked salmon, red onions, capers and Roma tomatoes.
Coffee at the Vic is excellent. So, too, are the bloody marys, when a hangover breakfast is called for.
Of two Victorian lunches, my favorite was a Southwest chicken BLT. In addition to lettuce, tomato and thick slices of bacon, this sandwich features a thick chicken breast topped with melted pepper jack cheese and a spread of chipotle mayonnaise on grilled sourdough bread. It was so big, I wound up taking half of it home and enjoying it just as much the next day.
I also had a croque madame off the daily special list. A grilled ham, Gruyere cheese and fried-egg sandwich topped with béchamel sauce, it was the sort of sandwich that requires a fork and knife to be properly attacked. Again, it was delicious.
Most meals at the Vic may include a choice of homemade applesauce or home-style potatoes, French fries or cottage cheese. On two separate occasions, I opted for the home-style spuds. Yet the two orders were very different from one another. The first time, I found the potatoes too thinly sliced and overly fried. The second time, however, they were much thicker and tastier.
At a table or at the counter, service is more friendly than fast. But that's a factor of the amount of business the Victorian draws. Any restaurant that will replace an order without batting an eye rates very high in my book.
Joel Cordes, owner-chef of the El Sancho mobile food cart, won the crowd-favorite “Best Booth” award Oct. 15 at the Arizona Taco Festival in Tucson, Ariz. Cordes said the festival was held on the same day as the Oregon-Arizona State football game in Eugene, so he and assistant Maddy Wasserman cheered loudly for the Ducks and gave preferential treatment to patrons who swore allegiance to Oregon. El Sancho is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and located outside The Blacksmith at 211 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Bend; www.wix.com/thesancho/ elsancho or 541-264-0397.
Seven ales from Bend's Deschutes Brewery were honored at the 2011 World Beer Awards, a 37-country competition based in England. Hop Henge Experimental IPA was the big winner, being acknowledged both as the world's best pale ale and imperial IPA. Three other beers won “world's best” designations: Hop Trip as a harvest ale, Red Chair as an extra-strong pale ale, and Obsidian Stout as a stout. Three more beers were cited as America's best: Mirror Mirror as a barley-wine dark ale, Inversion IPA as an IPA pale ale, and The Abyss as a strong stout and porter; www.deschutesbrewery.com.