The Pickled Pig

Food: () Excellent barbecued meats are a better reason to visit than the undistinguished breakfasts.

Service: () Counter service is friendly but slow, and more care could be taken with beverage service.

Atmosphere: () Views of departing planes and a wall of prize ribbons rescue an uber-casual cafe.

More Info

Location: 63136 Powell Butte Highway (second floor), Bend Municipal Airport

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday to Sunday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Friday

Cuisine: Breakfast and barbecue

Price range: Breakfast $5.45 to $13.95; lunch sandwiches $11.50 to $13.95, salads $5.95 to $13.95, barbecue meals $11.95 to $23.95

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request (macaroni and cheese is popular)

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Vegetarian salad or lunch burrito (request no meat)

Alcoholic beverages: Yes

Outdoor seating: Small deck overlooks runway

Reservations: No

Contact: thepickledpig.com, 541-797-6136

For more area restaurant reviews, visit www.bend bulletin.com/restaurants

The cafe on the second floor of the Bend Municipal Airport terminal building has had numerous tenants over the years, but not for a long time has anyone succeeded in capturing a regular flow of return visitors.

The Pickled Pig has turned the trick. Not since chef David Hatfield departed for Seattle in 2011 has this casual spot offered food to match the spectacle of single- and twin-engine Cessnas and DeHavilland Beavers arriving and departing on the edge of the High Desert.

Paul Ostrom and his family have chosen to specialize in barbecue, and in a community with only a few options, this is a winning choice. Pulled pork, brisket and other barbecued meats are served as sandwiches and combo plates or as a complement to hearty breakfasts. The shop takes Mondays off, but makes up for the absence by serving Friday dinners.

Judging from the colorful array of prize ribbons (more than 50 in all) from barbecue cook-offs around the Western United States, the Ostrom family is no stranger to this style of cuisine. The meat, including ribs and tri-tip, sausage and chicken, reflects the experience: It is excellent and served in generous portions.

Now, service and atmosphere are not at a similar award-winning level. While barbecue is rarely offered as a five-star dining experience, The Pickled Pig takes “casual” in an opposite direction. Orders are taken at the counter, but the process can be as slow as a Southern drawl.

Orders are delivered to nondescript tables, but when we didn’t get the coffee we had requested for breakfast, we were told that we had to help ourselves. We hadn’t seen the beverage section, and it hadn’t been pointed out to us. And when I went to pour half-and-half into my brew, I discovered that the warm cream had curdled.

Breakfast options

The Pickled Pig serves breakfast all day, or until it closes at 3 p.m.

On a morning visit, I opted for a “Full Throttle,” which I found very ordinary despite its tantalizing name. It was merely eggs, potatoes, meat and bread.

I requested the eggs fried over easy, which they were. I chose “breakfast potatoes” over “fiesta potatoes,” and was delivered a serving of what appeared to be chopped French fries. My sourdough toast was one of four bread selections. The meat might have been the best part of breakfast — bacon, pulled pork and sausage were possible choices — but I found my two slices of brisket to be bland and dry.

My regular dining companion was more pleased with her eggs Benedict. It’s typically served with Canadian bacon or pulled pork, but on the day of our visit, she went with a daily special of smoked salmon. Served open-faced on an English muffin, the fish was topped with two poached eggs, cloaked in a light Hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with fresh dill. She was delighted.

My visiting brother chose a meal he’d be unlikely to find where he lives in Japan: Swedish pancakes. Three thin crepes weren’t rolled with lingonberries, as they might have been in Scandinavia, but instead were filled with raspberry jam and topped by large fresh raspberries. He thoroughly enjoyed them.

An accompaniment of pulled pork, however, carried the element of sweetness a little too far. The meat seemed to have been stirred in molasses, which gave it a candied flavor.

Lunch choices

I took my brother to The Pickled Pig thinking that he might enjoy American barbecue. He surprised me by ordering a hamburger.

To his credit, it was an excellent burger, and he doesn’t get many decent burgers in Asia. A full half-pound of ground Angus beef, sourced from Green Bros. in Powell Butte, was served on a large toasted bun with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mayonnaise.

Five cheeses were offered, as were optional topping of bacon, egg, pulled pork or a second beef patty.

I had a combo plate, a daily special with pork “burnt ends.” Cut from barbecue ribs, the cubes of meat were brushed with a sweet glaze and cooked chewy-tender. They were a little pedestrian, perhaps, but still delicious.

Two sides came with my plate. “Grandma’s potato salad” was a cold, German-style salad tossed with stone-ground mustard. Another chilled salad of very finely sliced cucumbers and red onions could have been less soupy, but it was a nice complement to the pork.

I’m far more likely to return to The Pickled Pig for lunch — or even Friday dinner — than I am for breakfast.

There are many excellent spots for breakfast in Central Oregon, but barbecue (other than Baldy’s in Bend and Redmond, and Slick’s in Sisters) is not as widely available. The meat prepared here is a worthy entry for local meat eaters to enjoy.

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

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