Restaurant pleases palates and eyes

Sisters’ Open Door combines wholesome food with fine art and wine

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

The Open Door at the Clearwater Gallery

Location: 303 W. Hood Ave., Sisters

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

Price range: Lunch $6 to $12; dinner starters and salads $7 to $12, flatbreads and entrees $13 to $16

Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: By request

Vegetarian menu: Numerous choices include creative salads and veggie lasagna

Alcoholic beverages: Wine and beer

Outdoor seating: Spacious patio, open seasonally

Reservations: Recommended

Contact: www.theclearwatergallery .com/opendoor or 541-549-4994

Scorecard

OVERALL: A-

Food: B+. Salads in particular are superb; other dishes are solid but not exceptional.

Service: B. Heartfelt and genuine if inconsistent: Perfect on one visit but confused on another.

Atmosphere: A. Tables are placed among art-gallery exhibits and in a rustic wine bar.

Value: A. Prices are highly affordable, especially given the charming atmosphere.

Art, wine and wholesome, house-made food: It’s a can’t-miss recipe. But no one in Central Oregon had truly nailed it until the Clearwater Gallery in Sisters expanded its wine bar to a full-service restaurant last year.

The Open Door has tapped into a formula that perfectly fits the laid-back, artistic ambiance of the town of Sisters. One block south of U.S. Highway 20 (at West Hood Avenue and South Oak Street), the cafe’s tables are placed among gallery exhibits, beside stunning oil paintings, delicate watercolors and handmade craft items.

Additional seating is in the slightly more rustic wine bar, where relaxed Monday-night concerts draw a passionate crowd of local music lovers. Among them is Clearwater Gallery owner Julia Rickards, who displays landscapes and wildlife art by her husband, Dan, among the paintings in the gallery.

Like the food and atmosphere, service at The Open Door is heartfelt and genuine, if inconsistent. On our second visit, a lunchtime arrival, impeccable service greeted me and my dining companion. But previously, when we had dropped in for Monday dinner, there were delays and confusion. While I’m sure that our simultaneous arrival with numerous concert-goers was the main factor in the chaos, we also sensed a certain inexperience in the service staff.

Service snafus

Had I known in advance about the music, I would have made a reservation. Because I did not, we were relegated to a high stool at the wine bar. In short order, however, a server informed us that a reservation had been canceled, and she was able to reseat us at an isolated table near the gallery’s front door.

Shielded from other tables by room dividers hung with paintings, it would have been a romantic spot, had not two individuals stood beside the door discussing business for 15 minutes.

We were especially aware of that conversation because we were waiting for menus and water to be delivered. I finally rose to search for a server, and found one who assured me that we were “next on her list.”

We ordered a salad to be shared, followed by individual entrees. Much to our surprise, all courses arrived together. Our server expressed wonder that we would have wanted our salad to begin; apparently, we should have specified that desire when we ordered.

Delicious salad

Regardless, the “Wholesome Grain Salad” was wonderful. Kernels of barley were mixed with black beans and served over mixed greens, then tossed with sweet golden raisins, cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado and tender leaves of kale. The blend of textures and flavors was delicious, and it was enhanced by a vinaigrette dressing made with herbs and lemon juice.

The menu of entrees is limited, but it is supplemented with specials, including pasta and lasagna preparations that change nightly. My lasagna was good but not great. Served upon a bed of greens, it was layered with more ricotta cheese than ground beef. I would have liked extra tomato sauce to balance the ricotta. My companion had a Mediterranean flatbread, not unlike an unleavened Greek pizza. Baked with feta and mozzarella cheeses, topped with hummus, kale, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and tomatoes, she found it tasty and not overly heavy.

That left room for her favorite food — chocolate. A flourless chocolate cake was, she said, “to die for.” I thought it was a nice brownie with whipped cream on top, but my sweet tooth is subdued. She said it was one of the best cakes she’s ever had.

Beets and ‘sammies’

Service was streamlined at our subsequent lunch. There were no interruptions in seating, order-taking or delivery of food. It made us think that our first experience might have been an aberration. We began with a salad of warm, coarsely chopped red beets, tossed with crumbled goat cheese and roasted almonds, served atop fresh arugula — its peppery flavor balanced with a dressing of brown-sugar vinaigrette. It was excellent.

My companion had a “Ham Sammie,” a baked croissant sandwich that paired smoked local ham with Swiss cheese. It got its unusual flavor — too sweet for me, but my friend thoroughly enjoyed it — from layers of honey Dijon mustard and chunky Granny Smith applesauce, made in-house.

I chose a blackboard special that coupled turkey with roasted bell peppers and Brie cheese on lightly grilled wheat bread. Similar to a regular menu item called the “Miss Crenshaw,” with turkey and avocado, tomato and red onion, it made a nice midday bite.

We also brought a sandwich home, an Italian panini. With salami and pepperoni pressed into a bruschetta, along with pepperoncini peppers and melted Havarti cheese, it was not unlike a mini pizza. But that was perfect for the teenager who awaited it.

— Reporter: janderson@bendbulletin.com

SMALL BITES

Pisano’s Pizza, which closed its NorthWest Crossing store in June, has a new location: Pisano’s Woodfired Artisan Pizza opened Saturday in the former Subway space at Tumalo Junction. Owner-chef Ed Barbeau said his menu of thin-crust, New York-style pizzas is complemented with a half-dozen salads and an upscale wine and beer bar. 64670 Strickler Ave., Bend; 541-312-9349, www.facebook.com.

Having upgraded from a “burger deli,” the Big Belly Grill House in the Sunriver Business Park has added a selection of three-egg Benedicts, accompanied by pancakes or waffles, priced at no more than $12.50. A variety of meats — pulled pork, chicken and tri-tip steak, smoked in-house — are served throughout the day. Open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. 56815 Venture Lane, Sunriver; 541-382-3354, www.bigbellygrillhouse.com.

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