A pub for the whole family

Brother Jon's earns a neighborhood following on Bend's west side

John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin /

Published Feb 19, 2010 at 04:00AM

In the beginning — when white settlers first arrived in Central Oregon — the Three Sisters were dubbed Faith, Hope and Charity. The peaks’ bachelor sibling, a snow-capped loner that stood off to the south, was known as Brother Jonathan.

Years passed. The Sisters’ poetic names were exchanged for North, Middle and South, and Brother Jon became simply Bachelor Butte, then Mount Bachelor.

Now Brother Jon has returned, and he’s making a splash on the west side of Bend at a namesake pub that opened in July.

Brother Jon’s Public House has emerged as one of Central Oregon’s better budget dining options. Owned and operated by two veterans of the Deschutes Brewery and the Downtowner cafe — John Machell and Steve Barnette — it’s a casual joint that has quickly established itself as a neighborhood favorite. Brother Jon’s has a lot going for it, starting with its location in the heart of Galveston Avenue’s growing dining district.

It welcomes families; indeed, on two separate visits, I was surprised by the number of children I saw dining here with their parents. It has a pleasantly secluded open-air deck for fair-weather dining and drinking.

The menu is creative in its way; Jon’s generous salads and sandwiches are excellent. And although this is one pub that doesn’t brew its own beers, it does offer an excellent selection of nine Northwest regional beers on tap and another dozen by the bottle.

“We didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel,” said Machell. “As I had a 2-year-old daughter when we started this, we were looking to create a clean, low-cost pub where you can bring your whole family down. We keep our food prices under $10. And we have zero tourists: It’s a very neighborhood place, all local clientele.”

Not perfect

That doesn’t mean Brother Jon’s deserves a rave review. For all its merits, Jon’s is far from perfect. I find the food inconsistent and the service unreliable.

Moreover, the casual ambience lacks any particular focus. Lodged in what was once a residence, later a bakery and a coffee shop, Jon’s has three separate dining rooms. Two of them have corner televisions tuned to sporting events, while the third has a couple of dartboards. Earthy music, from folk and Celtic to Grateful Dead, provides the soundtrack. Patrons choose between seats at bar stools, standard tables or tall tables on hardwood floors.

Service was very spotty on both of my visits. My companion and I were greeted promptly and pleasantly each time, but the presentation of our orders took longer than it should have, and neither of our servers were very good about checking back at our table to see if we needed water, additional condiments, or even refills on our beers.

And about those beers: Why provide diners with a list of beers when half of those beers are no longer available? The menu had not been updated, so it should have been removed.

Pros and cons

A black-bean dip appetizer left us far from satisfied. Seasoned and stewed with green onions and freshly chopped tomatoes, the beans were topped with melted cheese and sour cream, much like any casual home chef might toss together. The dip was served with the same brand of round tortilla chips that I frequently pick up at the supermarket.

But a cup of house-made soup was excellent. A creamy crab chowder with chunks of sweet potato, carrots and celery, it was sweet and tasty.

On one visit, an appetizer special was a Willapa Bay oyster shot, and I couldn’t resist. It was served with a special cocktail sauce made with horseradish and India Red Ale from Hood River’s Double Mountain Brewery, and somehow was both spicy and sweet.

The pub has a short list of entrees, including baby back ribs and pasta dishes. I tried one of them — the buffalo mac — and was far from enthused. The menu description was encouraging: “Ground buffalo, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, peas, macaroni noodles and lots of cheese.” But the problem was in the lack of subtlety in seasoning. Sage or thyme might have gone a lot further in bringing out flavor than an overly zealous pour of salt and a too-generous scoop of sliced peppers. I like lean buffalo meat, but I wouldn’t order this again.

Salads, sandwiches

What I like best at Brother Jon’s are the salads and sandwiches.

The Cobb salad I ordered was delicious and very fresh. Mixed lettuces and baby spinach were served with pulled chicken breast, chopped bacon, slices of avocado and boiled egg, minced tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles. It was a little light on the blue cheese dressing, so I requested more. I can’t imagine how large a “whole” salad would have been; my half-size was more than enough for two.

The Captain Jack Sparrow sandwich, named for Johnny Depp’s character in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, was delicious, though it could have used a little more bite. Pulled pork, sweet onions and chunks of pineapple were simmered in a pineapple-rum sauce. The meat was served on a toasted Sparrow Bakery kaiser roll, dressed with mayonnaise and topped with melted pepperjack cheese.

My friend raved about her meaty Gold Medal sandwich, a special on the day of one of our visits. Pastrami, ham and bacon were topped with Swiss cheese and presented on a newly baked kaiser roll with Thousand Island dressing.

She even said it was something she might bring along for a day at Mount Bachelor ... or was that a day with Brother Jon?

SMALL BITES

Versante Pizza has opened as a family-style Italian restaurant on South Third Street in Bend. In addition to cornmeal-crust pizzas, owners Jon Sargent and David Johnson serve pasta dishes, calzones, oven-baked submarine sandwiches, salads, beer and wine for lunch and dinner daily. The cafe is located in the former Zydeco Kitchen + Cocktails location just north of Reed Market Road. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day; 1085 S.E. Third St., Bend; 541-318-9177.

Avery’s Wine Bar is now open for lunch. The new midday menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches and vegetarian dishes, and a featured Vietnamese shrimp-and-jicama slaw salad wrap. The Redmond bistro also presents live music on Friday nights. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to close Tuesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to close Saturday. 427 S.W. Eighth St., Redmond; 541-504-7111, www.averyswinebar.com.

RECENT REVIEWS

Hola! (A): At its new location in the Shops at the Old Mill District, and its original spot at the Forum Shopping Center, Hola! offers a creative Peruvian and Mexican menu unique in Central Oregon. Outstanding food, generous portions, moderate prices, good drinks, a festive atmosphere and well-trained staff make this one of Bend’s best bets. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day (dinner from 4 p.m.). 680 S.W. Powerhouse Drive, Suite 1002, Bend (541-647-2711); 2670 N.E. Highway 20, Suite 710, Bend (541-389-4652); www.holabend.com.

The Gallery (C): A three-decade institution on Sisters’ main street, this bastion of Old West flavor has mediocre cuisine and less-than-attentive service. The best food choice may be the halibut in the fish-and-chips. Open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 171 W. Cascade St. (U.S. Highway 20), Sisters; 541-549-2631, www .galleryrestaurantandbar.com.

Old Mill Bistro (B): Despite a difficult location in an off-the-beaten-track office building, this little restaurant offers good Northwest-inspired food and professional service at moderate prices. Lunch business bustles. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 384 S.W. Upper Terrace Drive, Bend; 541-389-3060, www .oldmillbistro.com.

Brother Jon’s Public House

Location: 1227 N.W. Galveston Ave., Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Price range: Appetizers $4 to $7, larger dishes $7 to $10

Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Children’s menu: Yes

Vegetarian menu: Options include salads and Portobello mushroom sandwich

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Seasonal

Reservations: Not accepted

Contact: 541-306-3321

Scorecard

Overall: B+

Food: B+. Outstanding salads and sandwiches, though some other dishes are less exciting.

Service: B. Friendly but inconsistent, and orders can take a while to be delivered.

Atmosphere: B. Located in a former residence; casual ambience lacks any particular focus.

Value: A. Excellent budget dining, with no dish priced over $10.

Next week: Trattoria Sbandati

Visit www.bendbulletin.com /restaurants for readers’ ratings of more than 150 Central Oregon restaurants.

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