Restaurant review: Hardtails Bar & Grill

Biker bar fills a niche in Sisters

By John Gottberg Anderson / For The Bulletin

Published May 16, 2014 at 12:38AM

Hardtails Bar & Grill

Location: 175 N. Larch St., Sisters

Hours: 2 p.m. to close Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to close Friday to Sunday

Price range: Appetizers $3 to $7.95, burgers and sandwiches $5.95 to $10.95, entrees $9.95 to $16.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: No

Vegetarian menu: On request only

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Expansive backyard deck and lawn seating

Reservations: No

Contact: 541-549-6114, www.hardtailsoregon.com

Scorecard

Overall: C+

Food: C. Sandwiches and entrees are no better than average, and a calamari appetizer was awful.

Service: B. Pleasant and generally fast, but even a simple beer order was wrongly delivered.

Atmosphere: B-. The dive-like ambiance is ideal for bikers, music lovers and game players.

Value: B. Prices are excellent, with steak and salmon under $17, but you get what you pay for.

The town of Sisters seems like a natural location for a biker-friendly bar and grill. After a spring ride from the Willamette Valley or a summer cruise over McKenzie Pass, Bend’s Deschutes County neighbor is the ideal spot for motorcycle enthusiasts to park their choppers, grab a bite and maybe a brew.

Hardtails Bar & Grill fills the niche. Located half a block north of U.S. Highway 20 on Larch Street, the restaurant that previously was home to a couple of short-lived establishments — Scoot’s Bar & Grill and Tramondo’s Trattoria — has found new life in the past couple of years as a casual everyday eatery and recreation center.

Those who like to play games will find two pool tables, a dart board, a pinball machine and video poker inside, a pair of horseshoe pits on the lawn outside. TV sports fans are delighted with Hardtails’ surround-sound “Jumbotron” television and several smaller screens.

And music lovers have an overflow of riches — stages indoors and out, a large dance floor, a karaoke machine and an Internet juke box. The establishment’s back room, divided from the front by the pool room, may host jam sessions and band rehearsals even when music isn’t scheduled; at other times, classic rock radio plays throughout the building.

Hardtails, by the way, are old-school motorcycles whose frames have no rear suspension, considered to give them more of a “road feel.” Newer softtail frames, by contrast, have rear-end shock absorbers and an active suspension.

Fat Boy and Ironhead

The biker theme is carried into the decor, with ample posters and other regalia. There is also plenty of sports memorabilia, and a rack of moose antlers hangs over the front door.

But the menu rekindles the spirit in the names of its one-third-pound burgers: The Fat Boy, Ironhead, Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead are all types of Harley-Davidson engines, past and present.

On one of our visits, my dining companion chose from that burger menu, but making a request that combined two sandwiches, substituting buffalo for ground beef in the Ironhead selection, with two slices of peppered bacon and a blue-cheese sauce. She was disappointed in the meal, as she found the meat to be dry and overcooked, and the “sauce” to be like a salad dressing without any cheese crumbles.

She liked the flavor of the accompanying french fries, but she would have preferred the potatoes cut not so thin.

My Philly cheesesteak sandwich featured ample slices of lean roast beef piled upon a lightly toasted French bun, dressed with a touch of mayonnaise. Swiss cheese, rather than mozzarella, was melted on top, while thick slices of green pepper and a conservative helping of grilled onions finished the sandwich. It wasn’t great, but it sufficed.

A serving of cole slaw — white cabbage with a bit of carrot and red cabbage — had a nice balance of sweet-and-vinegary flavors, but its heavy mayo dressing dominated.

One thumb down

On another, solo visit, I began my dinner with an appetizer order of a dozen calamari rings. If I based my review strictly on this one dish, it would warrant an “F.” Served in a heavy, greasy batter, the rings and tentacles were terribly fishy tasting; although I didn’t, I was concerned I might get sick after eating them.

The house salad, by contrast, was made with freshly chopped romaine lettuce. It really wasn’t anything special — served with a wedge of tomato, packaged croutons and shredded cheddar and jack cheeses — but I enjoyed it.

Rather than order another sandwich, I chose a dinner entree for my main course. The “grilled BBQ chicken breast” wasn’t really barbecued; after grilling, the thin but tender breast of bird was swathed in a tangy house-made barbecue sauce.

My meal came with a small baked potato, served with separate small paper cups of sour cream, butter and dried chives. The latter I didn’t understand; how hard is it to chop up a few fresh green onions? But the price was right — $9.95 for chicken, potato and salad.

Hardtails offers numerous local microbrews on tap and an extensive selection of bottled beers. Servers are pleasant and generally fast, but on one visit, I was served a pale ale when I had requested an amber. A bar has got to get the drink orders right.

— Reporter: janderson@ bendbulletin.com

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