Restaurant review: Jake’s Diner

Bend fave still serving classic diner fare

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Published May 2, 2014 at 12:11AM

Jake’s Diner

Location: 2210 N.E. Hwy. 20, Bend

Hours: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Price range: Breakfast $6.95 to $16.85, lunch $8.75 to $16.25, dinner $9.95 to $17.55

Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Yes

Vegetarian menu: Limited options include salads and a black-bean burrito

Alcoholic beverages: No

Outdoor seating: Seasonal deck seating

Reservations: Large groups only

Contact: 541-382-0118, www.jakesdinerbend.com

Scorecard

Overall: B+

Food: B+. Classic American dishes capably prepared, often with fresh ingredients.

Service: B+. Reliable and old-school, though we had to prompt servers for water refills.

Atmosphere: B. Nothing special about artificial plants and celebrity photographs.

Value: A. Most normal appetites will get two meals from a single order, thanks to takeout boxes.

Jake’s Diner is not what it used to be. It’s better.

It’s not that the improvement has turned the popular family restaurant into a gourmet establishment. That’s not what Jake’s is about.

But a clear effort toward enhancing the diets of certain of its patrons allows me to think more highly of the east Bend diner, which brags that it is “home of the largest portions in Central Oregon.”

My previous visits, several years ago, had left me with a negative impression, a belief that Jake’s sacrificed quality in providing overly generous servings. But my opinion has changed.

The restaurant is making an effort to accommodate guests who prefer to emphasize meat and vegetables in their meals, rather than potatoes and desserts. “Are you on a ‘Low Carb’ diet?” the menu asks. “Most items … are easily converted to low carb. Just ask your waitress for assistance.”

And again: “Want a Low Carb burger? Just order it without the bun & sub cottage cheese or salad for the fries.”

Jake’s also has a gluten-free menu, although vegetarians get short shrift — certainly, diners can request plates without meat, although veggie-centric choices don’t extend far beyond a black-bean burrito.

Community support

Back in 1987, Jake Wolfe reopened a truck-stop restaurant on South U.S. Highway 97 and dubbed it Jake’s Diner.

Longtime manager Lyle Hicks bought the name and restaurant equipment when the Wolfe family decided to sell in 2004, and in April 2005 reestablished Jake’s Diner in an off-the-road location, north of Greenwood Avenue and west of Purcell Boulevard.

Hicks and his wife, Judy, didn’t miss a beat — nor did their clientele, who followed them from the south side of Bend to the east side. And the owners continue to repay the community through various events, sponsoring food-and-clothing drives and supporting such groups as Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers in Medicine, the Bend police and fire departments, the American Red Cross, veterans’ organizations and others.

The main dining room — which seats about 80 at tables and booths, another 10 at a counter — is complemented by an extra room for private parties and special functions. The two are divided by the cashier’s station, where various souvenirs are offered for sale along with a display case of oversized cinnamon rolls.

Ambiance is limited to a couple of water features surrounded by artificial plants and photos of the Hickses, especially Lyle, with celebrity visitors. The couple are big supporters of University of Oregon sports, so Duck football players are prominently featured.

Midday meals

My dining companion and I recently visited late one morning. She had breakfast; I ordered lunch.

Her choice was corned beef hash with eggs (two, over easy). She characterized the corned beef as being “as good as you are likely to get from a can.”

All breakfasts come with a choice of pancakes or hash browns and toast. She opted for the former and was graced with three large buttermilk pancakes. They were light and tasty, a good complement to the eggs.

My luncheon choice was a rodeo burger, topped with slices of bacon, melted Monterey Jack cheese and three large onion rings. Although it was dressed with barbecue sauce, I wish it had also had a spread of butter or mayonnaise on the hefty sesame bun. The meat was cooked perfectly, however, and the garnish of green leaf lettuce and a thick tomato slice were fresh. The French fries, however, were clearly not house-cut.

Dinner hour

On a subsequent visit, three of us gathered at Jake’s for dinner.

I ordered a Jack chicken breast meal, which offered two grilled poultry breasts covered with melted Monterey Jack cheese and sauteed mushrooms. The chicken was tender and tasty, and the meal was accompanied with a garden salad (a blend of iceberg and other lettuces), white rice, vegetables and a dinner roll. I was pleased with everything but the veggies, which were mostly fresh but overcooked.

My companion chose grilled pork loin, two 6-ounce, bone-in chops. They were perfectly grilled. She opted for a cup of house-made soup, which she found tasty but too salty, and chunky mashed potatoes, which she said were clearly made in-house. She noted that her peas weren’t fresh, but neither were they canned — frozen, no doubt, she said.

Our friend chose a Reuben from the sandwich menu. The classic variety — hot pastrami on grilled rye — had just the right amount of sauerkraut and Russian dressing for his taste.

On each of our visits, we found service to be solid and attentive. And there was enough left from all three of our dinners that we took takeout boxes for lunch the next day. That’s the thing about Jake’s: You won’t go hungry here.

— Reporter janderson@ bendbulletin.com

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