Shari’s Café & Pies

Food: () Despite inconsistency and overcooking, menu has some good comfort food

Service: () Friendly, mostly efficient and definitely customer-oriented

Atmosphere: () Spacious six-sided restaurants are clean and well maintained

More Info

Location: 3098 N. Highway 97 (Bend River Mall), Bend. (Also at 61135 S. Highway 97, Bend; 541-389-2405, and 1565 Odem Medo Road, Redmond; 541-923-0400.)

Hours: Open 24 hours

Cuisine: American

Price range: Breakfast $4.59 to $13.99, lunch $4.79 to $11.29, dinner $12.29 to $16.49

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Master Card, Visa

Kids’ menu: Eight meals offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner; also an extensive seniors menu

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Eggs and salads are best options

Alcoholic beverages: Beer and wine

Outdoor seating: No

Reservations: No

Contact: sharis.com, 541-382-0674

For nearly four decades, the Oregon born-and-bred Shari’s restaurant group has made a name for itself as a 24-hour family diner.

Established in Hermiston in 1978, now based in Beaverton, Shari’s Café & Pies has 95 locations across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Wyoming and Nebraska — including two in Bend and one in Redmond.

Each restaurant features the group’s distinctive architecture, a hexagonal (six-sided) building divided more or less equally between seating for meals and a kitchen-and-service area. The cafes are clean and well maintained, with large windows providing plenty of light and views.

Unfortunately, those are typically of parking lots and busy streets. The Central Oregon locations are no different.

I had not visited a Shari’s restaurant in nearly seven years until I stopped into the north-side Bend establishment twice last week — once for breakfast, once for dinner. As when I dined on the south side in 2010, I found the service very friendly and mostly efficient, the comfort food predictable if inconsistently prepared.

Breakfast time

Service was a little more heads-up in the morning than in the evening. When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a smiling server who seated us and delivered pots (not just cups) of coffee to our table, one regular (for me), one decaf for my companion.

She got the better end of the breakfast sweepstakes, ordering a “BMP” frittata — that’s bacon, mushrooms and pepper jack cheese — with pancakes on the side.

Never mind that she substituted Swiss for the pepper jack. The eggs were omelet-like, the bacon apple-wood smoked, the sliced mushrooms offered with chopped tomatoes and black olives, diced scallions and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan.

A handful of peppery arugula and a couple of sliced of bruschetta-like “Tuscan toast” finished the meal.

A side of two buttermilk pancakes were as she likes them — thick and fluffy, served with melting pats of butter and maple syrup.

I kept it simple, ordering two eggs, over easy, with sausage — a couple of oversized links, nicely grilled.

I had intended those merely as an accompaniment to Shari’s potato pancakes, with which I was sorely disappointed. The photo in the menu gave no clue that they would be deep-fried and less palatable than McDonald’s cake-like hash browns. A sprinkle of green onions and side cups of sour cream and cinnamon-spiced apples didn’t help.

Evening meal

On a subsequent dinner visit, we waited at the entrance for several minutes before being acknowledged. We eventually were seated at a window-side booth.

I ordered a wild Alaskan salmon entree with a salad to start. This was simple but delicious, with lots of fresh leaf lettuce and frisee, along with plum tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and croutons, and my selection of a delicious, house-made honey-mustard dressing.

My fish, grilled on a thin cedar plank, was slightly overcooked (too dry) but still had good flavor, accompanied by an original tartar sauce.

The side dishes, however, were almost laughable. “Willamette Valley season vegetables,” as promised on the menu, were, in fact, carrots, pea pods and broccoli poured from a frozen-food bag. (The server confirmed this.) And the rice pilaf, with slivered almonds and cranberries, was overcooked to the point of being crispy. “Grilled garlic flatbread” was a few wedges of warm pita.

My dining companion was much more pleased with her “Rib Trio,” an evening special priced at $12.99.

Three tender, barbecued baby-back ribs, served with a marionberry sauce, were delicious. A Zenner’s double-smoked sausage was grilled with the same sauce, and was suitably juicy. A handful of lightly breaded chicken tenders also were moist and flavorful; they came with a buttermilk biscuit.

In lieu of two side dishes, my friend ordered three. The coleslaw was a little sloppy, but its mustardy dressing was a hit. Three kinds of baked beans were delicious in a molasses-rich sauce. And sweet-potato fries were a good complement to the barbecue.

The wine selection was very poor, however. Only two reds (cabernet sauvignon and merlot), one white (chardonnay) and one rosé (white zinfandel) were available, each of them by the glass.

Although Shari’s is a Willamette Valley company, there was not a single offering of Oregon’s most popular wine — pinot noir.

The good news is, the pies are excellent, with well over a dozen choices. According to the company website, in fact, every Shari’s bakes 25 homemade pies on a typical workday.

Trying to be kind to our waistlines, we avoided richer cream pies and chose a couple of fruit options. My sweet Montana cherry pie, and my companion’s sugar-free marionberry selection, were excellent.

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

17666181