Nearly eight years have passed since I last reviewed one of Bend’s most popular fast-food restaurant businesses.
In March of 2010, I praised the two Longboard Louie’s for “generous portions, speedily prepared and served at budget prices.” That remains true today.
But I also noted the differences between the two restaurants, which share a name, a menu and a tagline (“Healthy Mexican food, Mayan Hawaiian style”) but are independently owned and operated.
The original west-side shop, a funky cafe on Galveston Avenue at NW 13th Street, opened in 1996; it was purchased in 2000 by Jeff and Kathi Parshall, native Oregonians who love Mexican food. In 2007, the Parshalls established a more spacious and contemporary east-side cafe on U.S. Highway 20 at Dean Swift Road. Three years later, they sold the original to longtime employees, with the understanding that the core menu would remain the same.
“That lends itself to more consistency,” Jeff Parshall said at the time. “To me, that’s No. 1. People need to know what to expect.”
Consistency is indeed important. That was why, on recent visits to both restaurants, I ordered identical meals. Results were notably different.
My choice was the No. 4 Combo plate, also known on the west side as “Todos Santos,” after a resort town in Baja California. It included a fish taco, a chicken enchilada, rice and beans.
I could have done without the rice and beans — especially the Spanish rice, which was so dry as to be almost inedible at both restaurants. That was undesired consistency.
The refried pinto beans, at least, were suitably moist on the east side. On Galveston, they were as thick and heavy as library paste.
Curiously, despite identical recipes, the fish taco was better at the original establishment; the enchilada was clearly superior on the east side.
According to the La Paz-style popular in Baja, a 4-inch finger of white fish, perhaps tilapia, was corn-battered and deep-fried.
It was served in twin soft corn tortillas with cabbage slaw and lots (and lots!) of chopped tomatoes. On Galveston, however, the fish came with less batter, more white dressing and a wedge of lime. On Dean Swift, it was too thickly battered and not sufficiently dressed.
But the enchilada served on the east side was superior. Its chicken filling was thick and moist, quite opposite the west side. Both enchiladas came with a mild ranchero sauce and a topping of melted cheese.
Specials vary between restaurants. I was very impressed with a cup of elk chili, a “soup of the day” served a few weeks ago on Galveston. The elk meat was ground and blended with onions and three styles of whole beans. I had it topped with shredded cheddar and served with tortilla chips.
More recently, on the east side, my dining companion enjoyed a luncheon burrito called the “Hollenbeck,” named for an East Los Angeles street vendor who donated the recipe. A large flour tortilla was stuffed with beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and a choice of meat. (My friend chose bite-size chunks of grilled steak.) It was finished with ranchero sauce and a sprinkling of cheddar.
But we both agreed our favorite burritos are those served before 10:30 a.m. Breakfast burritos are made with eggs, hash browns, and a choice of seven fillings: chili relleno, fajita veggies, sausage, chorizo, bacon, steak or turkey sausage They are finished with salsa, sour cream, beans and cheese.
We especially like the salsa bar at the east-side Louie’s. There are nine choices, from a mild pineapple-and-mango salsa to a super-heated choice that comes with an “at your own risk” warning. The west side has a salsa bar, as well, but with only five options.
On Galveston, Longboard Louie’s has a small counter area where orders are placed, a modest and loosely maintained indoor seating area, and a substantial outdoor picnic patio. The east-side restaurant seats about 50 people and has plenty of wall space for exhibits of surfboards and other memorabilia, including photographs and posters.
An avid surfer who learned to ride the waves on the Oregon Coast, Jeff Parshall came to the restaurant business with no particular experience in the field. But he knew what he liked — healthy, from-scratch recipes, with seasonal availability a big factor.
Seafood specials are rotated in and out of the menu, with halibut and shrimp among the popular items. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are also key to the success; cultured soy tempeh can substitute for meat or fish in any menu item.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.