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Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café

Food: ()

Menu appeals to all food preferences, with meats and vegan dishes best

Service: ()

Pleasant, reliable, timely service, observant but not overdone

Atmosphere: ()

Large windows, sports TV and a giant beer cooler provide ambiance

More info

Location: 1740 NW Pence Lane, Suite 1, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day

Cuisine: American and international

Price range: Appetizers $4 to $18, salads $6 to $14, sandwiches and entrees $10 to $18

Credit cards: Master Card, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Numerous choices include spaghetti squash lasagna and a cauliflower shawarma wrap

Alcoholic beverages: Beer and wine

Outdoor seating: Seasonal

Reservations: Large parties

Contact: btbsbend.com, 541-738-0703

The Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café has been fortunate to have chefs who understand both nutrition and creative cooking. In Bethlyn Rider and Ingrid Rohrer, they’ve had two outstanding kitchen leaders.

Rider now has her own restaurant, Bethlyn’s Global Fusion, about a half-mile down the road on Newport Avenue. Meanwhile Rohrer, who orchestrated three meals a day at the Oxford Hotel’s 10below, hasn’t missed a beat since moving to Bend’s west side last year.

Rohrer excels in catering to a wide range of diets, from carnivore to vegan, pescatarian to gluten-free. Her menu decisions aren’t simply a matter of leaving out the meat or the wheat; she carefully designs recipes to please, such as her gluten-free spaghetti squash lasagna and her vegan cauliflower shawarma wrap.

Opened five years ago this month, three roundabouts west of downtown near the intersection of Newport Avenue and College Way, BTBS (as it often calls itself) is a spacious cafe, but it’s not a fancy place. One side of the establishment is dominated by a giant 12-door cooler containing more than 400 different bottled beers from around the world.

The other side, flanked by large windows, might seat as many as 40 diners at tables and stools surrounding a bar that takes up nearly half the room. Service here, on both of my recent visits, was pleasant, reliable and timely.

First meal

With its preponderance of sandwiches, I find most of the menu to be heavy on carbohydrates. But the list of salads and entrees, a half-dozen of each, is supplemented by daily specials that improve the options for those of us who don’t like a lot of bread or potatoes with our evening meal.

At a recent dinner, my dining companion and I shared a Caesar salad to start. This was not one of my favorite dishes. The romaine leaves were chopped to bite size, tossed with a very garlicky dressing, mixed with house-made croutons that had been tossed too long in olive oil, and finished with a sprinkling of shredded asiago cheese. My friend liked it more than I did, but even she noted that there was no anchovy in the recipe.

Although my “full rack” of dry-rubbed and house-smoked baby back ribs comprised only six bones, they were very thick and meaty. And the mildly spicy barbecue sauce with which they were basted was “more-ish.” The dish was served with roasted asparagus, perfectly cooked and halved, skin-on red potatoes cooked with thyme and garlic.

My companion ordered a vegetarian entree with fish on the side. To me, her spaghetti squash lasagna tasted a lot like eggplant Parmesan. In this recipe, the squash subs for traditional pasta, rendering the dish gluten-free. It was layered with mozzarella, asiago and ricotta cheeses, spinach and a tomato-basil cream sauce.

My friend ate every bite. But a side portion of salmon only earned a couple of bites: It was very fishy tasting, as if it were not truly fresh.

Second meal

A subsequent visit began with the BTBS soup of the day: black-eyed pea. Thick as well with beans and various vegetables, the soup came in a broth reminiscent of a spicy minestrone. It was served with oyster crackers.

While my companion enjoyed her soup, I mawed on chicken wings: It was “60-cent Thursday.” I got a half-dozen — three in a mildly spicy mango Sriracha sauce, three more in a very spicy habanero honey sauce. There are five different sauce options.

My Vietnamese-influenced pork belly banh mi sandwich was superb. Several thick slabs of pork bacon meat packed a Big Ed’s baguette — crispy on the outside, soft in the middle — dressed with Sriracha mayonnaise. Layers of shredded carrot, pickled daikon radish, mint, cilantro and Thai basil gave it a unique flavor.

My friend, however, said she would have preferred her curry tuna melt, served upon warm Indian naan bread, had the salad been served on top of arugula rather than being smothered by the greens. Melted pepper-jack cheese and a tangy tomato chutney came on top as well; the chutney, coupled with the naan, gave this the flavor of a gourmet Indian meal.

Not surprisingly the beer selection was considerably better than the choice of wines. But that’s to be expected in a restaurant that subtitles itself an “ale cafe.”

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com.

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