Restaurant review: Spicy Lips

Bend cafe serves pizzas and Mexican fare

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Published Apr 25, 2014 at 12:11AM

Spicy Lips Cocina Grill

Location: 2625 N.E. Butler Market Road, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday

Price range: Pizzas $10 (12-inch basic cheese) to $28 (16-inch “Works”); tacos and burritos $2 to $6, salads $3.50 to $6

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Smaller portions may be prepared

Vegetarian menu: Best choice is a gourmet vegetarian pizza; gluten-sensitive menu available

Alcoholic beverages: Beer and wine

Outdoor seating: No, but takeout orders welcomed

Reservations: No

Contact: 541-330-3955 or “Spicy Lips Cocina Grill” on Facebook

Scorecard

OVERALL: B+

Food: A. The simple menu features fresh ingredients and recipes made from scratch.

Service: B+. With minimal staff taking counter orders, there can be a little wait in delivery.

Atmosphere: C. Strip-mall location offers little ambiance, and enhancements are insignificant.

Value: A. Patrons reap the benefits of a low overhead: You can dine for under $10 per person.

If I were still in high school — especially, if I were a student at Mountain View High School in northeast Bend — I would make it a point to slip out for regular lunches at the Spicy Lips Cocina Grill.

And although my teen years are now only a distant memory, I can still enjoy the pizzas, tacos and burritos that this small, strip-mall cafe on Butler Market Road turns out.

Angie Farmer established her restaurant last fall, in a small commercial block where Northeast 27th Street meets Butler Market. There are only three tables for patrons, and decor is minimal — a few regional photos hang on a lime-green wall above a “fence” of corrugated aluminum, and there’s a small television in one upper corner of the room tuned to daytime melodramas.

But you didn’t come here for the atmosphere. You came for the food. Farmer herself takes orders at the counter and, with the help of a single assistant, prepares them in the open kitchen. She insists on using fresh ingredients in from-scratch preparations.

“We make all our items home-made, without using MSG or added preservatives,” she said. “We have four different salsas with different heat preferences and flavors.”

Mexican fare

All of the tacos and burritos come with various fillings and choices of meat — shredded or ground beef, chicken and pork. My dining companion and I shared one of each, both of them “loaded.”

We opted for chicken as the meat ingredient in our burrito ($6).

It came with rice and pinto beans, along with lettuce and grated Mexican cheese, all wrapped together into a giant warm tortilla. Sour cream and pico de gallo were presented on the side.

Perhaps because it was freshly made and served immediately, the flavor was more appealing than in some other cafes I’ve visited.

The same held true for a taco ($3), served in a smaller, folded corn tortilla with rice, beans, cheese and shredded beef. Also finished with pico de gallo and sour cream, it was a delicious serving that we finished in about two large bites apiece.

Diners who don’t want the carbohydrates of tortillas have a same-taste option here: the Southwest rice bowl. It has the same fillings, but no wrap.

Gourmet pizzas

We saved our pizza craving for another visit. Patrons may design their own pie from a choice of 16 toppings and three sauces, or choose from a list of specialty pizzas. We selected one called “Mick’s Combo” and were delighted.

This pizza starts with a tomato-based sauce and mozzarella cheese. On top of that go four meats — pepperoni, salami, Canadian bacon and Italian sausage — along with mushrooms and black olives. The crust was light and crunchy on the outside, soft and yeasty within; the toppings were generous.

“My pizza starts with dough prepared in-house and hand-tossed,” Farmer said. “It’s brushed with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.”

She said the red sauce is seasoned with herbs, adding that she also prepares from scratch a white garlic sauce and a blended bean sauce (for taco and fajita pizzas).

Pizza slices — offered from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, or until they’re gone — are a great deal for smaller appetites. They are priced at just $2 a slice (about one-sixth of a 12-inch pizza); on my previous visit, the Hawaiian was going fast.

Special diets

Gluten-free crust is available for those on special diets. And there’s a special gourmet pie for vegetarians, featuring white garlic sauce with onions, green bell peppers, artichoke hearts, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, black olives and freshly sliced tomatoes.

Many of those same ingredients went into our house salad: mixed greens tossed with zucchini, carrot, mushroom, sliced tomato, sweet baby bell peppers (green and red) and croutons. A choice of five dressings was offered.

As a nod to the students of nearby Mountain View, Spicy Lips offers lunch-hour and after-school specials to teens.

There’s also a short selection of bottled beers and wines available for patrons.

But it’s safe to say those will not be made available to the teen-aged clientele.

— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com

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