Review: Little Bite Cafe

Bend restaurant brings French flair to NorthWest Crossing

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Published Dec 20, 2013 at 12:01AM

Little Bite Cafe

Location: 102 N.W. Crossing Drive, Bend

Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday

Price range: Pastries $1.50 to $4, baguette sandwiches $6, soups $3.25 and $4.25, salads $7.25 and $8.25

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Sweets are for everyone

Vegetarian menu: Choices include a gluten-free beet and walnut pesto wrap

Alcoholic beverages: No

Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables

Reservations: No

Contact: 541-728-0838, www .facebook.com

Scorecard

OVERALL: B+

Food: B+. Come for the salads and baguettes; the breakfast sandwiches need a little work.

Service: B+. Order at the counter and wait for orders to be delivered to your table.

Atmosphere: B+. Cozy and comfortable with a Paris-style ambience.

Value: A. Everything is reasonably priced, with $6 sandwiches and salads no more than $8.25

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Certainly, that’s true at the Little Bite Cafe in Bend’s NorthWest Crossing neighborhood. White paper snowflakes hang from the ceiling and poinsettias stand atop the pastry display counter. And there are plenty of delicious Christmas cookies, from owner Melissa Albright’s butterscotch-chocolate chip cookies to ginger snaps in the shapes of cellos.

Albright opened the Little Bite in September, just two months after its predecessor, the Sage Cafe, had closed its doors. The space hasn’t grown — the cafe still seats fewer than 20 at a half-dozen tables — but it has taken on a more cosmopolitan ambiance, with a colorful framed photograph of the Eiffel Tower, rising above spring gardens, on one wall, and a model of the Parisian landmark on the counter.

Although Albright hasn’t been to Paris, she is trained in French culinary techniques. And she cooked at Seattle-area restaurants for 13 years before moving to Bend in 2004 with her photographer husband, Michael Albright, and their two young boys.

The boys are no longer young: They’re independent teen-agers, 15 and 13. Her years as a pre-school teacher at Mudpies and Lullabies in Bend the past, Melissa found herself able by summer 2011 to return to her kitchen passions, selling French baguette sandwiches at the NorthWest Crossing farmer’s market.

“They became really popular,” she recalled. “When I was approached by three downtown coffee shops that wanted to carry them, I decided to go wholesale with my sandwiches.”

Breakfasts

When the Sage Cafe space became available, Albright jumped at the opportunity.

“I didn’t buy the business; I started fresh,” Albright said. “I knew I wanted to do a grab-and-go concept here because of the space. And I wanted to use local ingredients as much as possible.”

After ordering at the cash register, patrons may find a seat and wait for orders to be delivered. Busing one’s own table is encouraged.

Breakfasts are simple. Pastries from the Sparrow Bakery (croissants and ocean rolls) and Fearless Baking (muffins and gluten-free choices) are complemented by a house-made granola blend and a pair of breakfast sandwiches, both served on a somewhat dry rosemary biscuit sprinkled with parsley.

My dining companion and I tried one of each. We preferred the more traditional match of an egg, fried over hard, with bacon and cheddar cheese, although there was no apparent spread of anything but butter. A touch of mayonnaise might have been nice. The other sandwich paired the egg with a thick slice of tomato, a modest amount of arugula and a sprinkle of lemon curd, which I barely noticed but which my friend didn’t like.

In either case, on a return visit I would stick with the pastries, or else try one of several breakfast burritos, custom-made for Little Bite by El Comal in Sisters.

The coffee drinks, on the other hand, were delicious. Little Bite makes its own syrups — vanilla and other flavors — to go with Lone Pine Coffee and Metolius Tea.

Sandwiches

Apart from the java, I prefer lunch at Little Bite to breakfast.

The stars of the show at midday are the French baguette sandwiches that first propelled Albright’s business.

Like oversized breadsticks, the baguettes are about 9 inches long, with soft centers that allow just the right amount of chewiness. My favorite — I’ve returned to it twice — is the prosciutto and fig sandwich, although I’d like it even better if the fig jam were evenly spread atop the Italian bacon. It’s complemented by shaved cheese, caramelized onions and a handful of arugula leaves.

Other sandwiches are a turkey-and-apricot blend, a bacon-lettuce-tomato with roasted garlic aioli, and a roasted vegetable choice for vegetarians.

“I use really high-end ingredients,” Albright said. “In spring and summer, when I have more produce from local farms, I will change the choices from time to time. But I will keep the most popular sandwiches.”

Salad and soup

I really enjoyed a fresh and delicious Cobb salad with baby spinach and leaf lettuce. It also featured roasted chicken (picked directly from the bone, with some skins still on) and crunchy bacon bites, along with hard-boiled egg, cherry tomatoes, avocado and blue-cheese crumbles, all tossed together with a chai vinaigrette.

Another Little Bite choice is a salad of goat cheesecake in a hazelnut crust, with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted shallot vinaigrette.

Soups are made in-house daily, and Boar’s Head meats go into a charcuterie plate.

Gluten-intolerant diners may choose, among other options, a pair of beet wraps — one with walnut pesto, the other with white beans and fresh cucumber.

And then there are Albright’s favorites, the desserts, which now include a choice of eclairs (“They are taking off like hotcakes,” she said) and candied apples (baked with s’mores, with chocolate and white chocolate, and with Mexican chiles). “In spring and summer, we’ll have fresh fruit tartlets and pies,” she promised.

Sounds like it will be Christmas at Little Bite year-round.

— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com.

SMALL BITES

There’s been a flurry of activity in downtown Redmond, especially in the Historic Redmond Hotel. Scheduled to open by Christmas is The Red Martini Wine Bar & Grill. (Open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 509 S.W. Sixth St.; www .redmartiniandwinebar.com). In the northeast corner of the same building, Oishi Japanese Restaurant, open since summer, serves a menu of sushi rolls along with noodle and barbecue dishes. (Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day; 511 S.W. Sixth St.; 541-548-3035, www.oishiredmond .com).

After 10 years in business, Redmond’s Coyote Ranch Steakhouse will shut its doors at the end of 2013. “We have decided to be closed indefinitely while we evaluate the sustainability of a restaurant this size and caliber, given the present economy here in Redmond,” owner David Shurtleff wrote in an online letter to patrons. The airport’s Coyote Ranch Pub will remain open under the direction of Shurtleff’s longest employees, Kathy Walters and Kellie Lewis. 1368 S. U.S. Highway 97, Redmond; 541-548-7700, www .coyote-ranch.com.

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