The question came from my editor: What restaurants would I recommend to local diners in search of an alfresco meal?
I wavered. Would they want breakfast, lunch or dinner? Would they want a patio in downtown Bend or a seat beside the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District? Would they prefer a brewpub or a wine bar? A view of mountains or golf fairways?
Perhaps they wouldn't want to be in Bend at all, opting instead for outdoor dining in Redmond, Sisters or Sunriver.
I've considered all of those options in the following recommendations. My suggestions focus on restaurants with a dedicated outdoor dining space, not just a handful of seasonal sidewalk tables.
The Pine Tavern
Beyond a doubt, the best place for outdoor dining in downtown Bend is the venerable Pine Tavern. I like it best at lunchtime.
A Central Oregon institution, the Pine Tavern takes its name from two large ponderosa pines that extend into the ceiling of the restaurant's main dining room, giving diners a sense of being in a woodland pavilion.
Beyond this dining room, maple and birch trees shade the beautifully landscaped brick patio, its tables overlooking the Deschutes River.
Carefully tended hostas and geraniums surround the patio, in the center of which is a large maple tree with a bird condominium designed to look like the outside of the Pine Tavern itself.
Opened in 1936 when Bend was a small lumber-mill town, the Pine Tavern has built a reputation upon its classic ambience, homespun service and reliably consistent cuisine. A traditional steak-and-seafood menu is especially popular with an older clientele.
Other good spots to dine outdoors in downtown Bend include 900 Wall, Zydeco and Hola! at St. Clair Place, although none of these first-come, first-serve options offers the same atmospheric seating as the Pine Tavern.
PINE TAVERN: Lunch Monday to Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner daily. 967 N.W. Brooks St., Bend; 541-382-5581, www.pinetavern.com .
The Old Mill District has several options for riverside dining. My favorite is Greg's Grill. The lodge-like restaurant, built at a cost of $5 million, rises like a cathedral beside the river's banks. Floor-to-ceiling windows welcome the outside in, while the soaring wood-beam architecture keeps it there.
Seventy seats on a riverside patio are a great place to listen to late spring and summer concerts at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, directly across the Deschutes. When it gets a little chilly, heat lamps keep patrons warm. Service is professional and the menu — upscale but casual — offers quality food at moderate prices.
My favorite time to dine here is early evening, when I can watch the final rays of sunlight disappear behind the stand-up paddlers, and follow a meal of clam chowder and a Fiesta cobb salad with an original cocktail.
If the patio is full at Greg's, other fine outdoor-dining options are Anthony's, for seafood, and Red Robin, for burgers and a family atmosphere.
GREG'S GRILL: Lunch and dinner daily. 395 S.W. Powerhouse Drive, Bend; 541-382-2200, www.gregsgrill .com .
Halfway between the Old Mill and downtown Bend, Brickhouse Steak&Seafood features a large rear deck high above the river — with a view across the Alder Creek Kayak launch site toward the Deschutes Brewery, and south toward the smokestacks of the Old Mill Powerhouse.
The cuisine here is at once simple and sophisticated, bold without being fancy. Classic steaks and imported seafood are complemented by produce from local purveyors. And service is some of the finest at any Central Oregon restaurant.
I come for happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. It's a great time to enjoy smaller plates of some of Brickhouse's fine entrees at a fraction of the price.
For those who like riverside deck dining and a steakhouse appeal, the Riverhouse is another good option on the north side of downtown Bend.
BRICKHOUSE STEAK&SEAFOOD: Dinner daily. 803 S.W. Industrial Way, Bend; 541-728-0334, www.brickhouseco.com .
10 Barrel Brewing
Of Central Oregon's multitude of craft brewers, none offers a better area for outside dining than 10 Barrel. The spacious outdoor patio, with a fire pit at its center, is an extension of the indoor dining space, itself a sort of community gathering place. Garage-style doors connect the two, encouraging new acquaintances and the renewal of old friendships.
Plan to spend a weekend afternoon with a pint of Mike Saw a Sasquatch summer ale — drink enough of them, and you will, too — and a specialty pizza, known here as a 10 Barrel Pie. My favorite is the Incredible Hulk, with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts in a pesto sauce with black olives, pepperoncinis and shredded mozzarella.
My second choice among brew pubs for outside dining is the more traditional Cascade Lakes Lodge on Century Drive and Chandler Avenue. I also like GoodLife Brewing Co., at the Century Center, and the newly expanded Deschutes Brewery&Public House.
10 BARREL BREWING COMPANY: Lunch and dinner daily. 1135 N.W. Galveston Ave., Bend; 541-678-5228, www.10barrel.com .
Breakfast at Chow
A spacious garden and deck, outside a renovated bungalow on Newport Avenue, make Chow an easy favorite for dining in the morning and early afternoon hours. Add a little music — a singer-guitarist typically performs on weekends — and it's hard to keep me away.
My favorite meals are the cured salmon hash with two eggs (over easy, please) and the French toast stuffed with roasted pears and honey. I also love the eggs Blackstone, with poached eggs on baked cornmeal with pan-fried tomatoes, bacon and Bearnaise sauce. Chef-owner David Touvell makes all his food from scratch, and his menu lists two dozen Central Oregon providers from whom he sources his menu.
But Central Oregon is blessed with several great spots for alfresco breakfasts. In particular, McKay Cottage Restaurant is outstanding, especially when it opens its dog-friendly front lawn on O.B. Riley Road to morning dining. And in Redmond, the charming One Street Down Cafe is a great breakfast-lunch option.
CHOW: Breakfast and lunch daily. 1110 N.W. Newport Ave., Bend; 541-728-0256, www.chowbend.com .
Many area destination resorts and golf clubs have restaurants with outdoor dining and outstanding views toward the Cascade Range. I am partial to three, in particular: Bend's own Broken Top Club, the Range at Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte, and the main lodge dining room at Black Butte Ranch west of Sisters.
For Mexican food, both La Rosa, in the NorthWest Crossing neighborhood, and Baltazar's, on Bend's west side, have fine sunny patios. So, too, does Los Agaves, in the heart of Sisters.
Additional options in Bend include Scanlon's, for lunch and dinner at the Athletic Club of Bend; Kebaba, for Middle Eastern food on Newport Avenue; and the modest Riverside Market, which offers three casual meals a day on a back street southwest of downtown.
And I love the 750 Wine Bar&Bistro in Redmond. A broad deck and an eclectic, ever-changing international menu are complemented by an outstanding choice of carefully selected and hard-to-fine wines. It's worth the trip.