A fter my first visit to the Cascade West Grub & Alehouse, I was convinced that I’d be telling readers to come for the ales and forget the grub.

I’m glad I made a second visit.

When the menu is strictly from the deep fryer, as it is Mondays and evenings, there is very little to recommend it. But Tuesday to Friday lunch hours, the choices are much more palatable.

Indeed, I found the Taco Tuesday offerings generous and my hamburger better than most. What’s more, service was honest and friendly.

A fixture on Bend’s west side since 1954, Cascade West is an urban log cabin on SW 14th Street where it blends into Century Drive. Originally a garage that doubled as a beer outlet, it expanded multiple times with various names through the decades.

Today, its clientele includes many skiers and snowboarders returning to the city from Mount Bachelor. It also prides itself as the region’s NASCAR headquarters, with a full-specification model of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s, car against one wall, and a half-dozen flat-screen TVs to take in the auto-racing events.

Dimly lit, with an indoor fire pit as a centerpiece and colored neon lights on walls and ceilings, Cascade West seats more than 80 patrons at tables and barstools. Four pool tables, darts, video golf, Lotto games and video poker attract those who love games, as classic rock plays in the background.

Deep-fried disaster

This is a saloon, first and foremost, and this being Bend, beer takes center stage. Given that owner Ron Katella also has a stake in the Cascade Lakes Brewing Co., it’s no surprise to find Blonde Bombshell and Rooster Tail Red, among other brews, on tap here. But with 32 taps in all, there’s plenty of room for other ales, from highly commercial to craft to imports.

The quaffs most often accompany bar fare like pretzels and cheese sticks, pot stickers and onion rings. Cascade West has a local following for its fried chicken — four pieces for $9, eight for $15 — but they were out of chicken when I first dropped by, and unbeknownst to me, the cook had the day off. So I settled for a $9 order of fish and chips.

The chips, as it turned out, were not French fries but hefty jo-jo wedges, battered and fried. As jo-jos go, they were fine, but not what I had expected.

Three pieces of fish (I suspect that it was snapper) were deep-fried crispy. The batter wasn’t particularly thick, but my serving was very greasy, a clear indication that the oil from the deep fryer hadn’t been drained off before serving. My cholesterol count doesn’t need a boost. After one bite, I removed the fish from the crust and ate the seafood with tartar sauce but no breading.

Sandwich menu

That was my first visit. The second time around, the cook was working. I could choose from a full menu of burgers and other sandwiches, salads and wraps. And what a difference that made.

It was Taco Tuesday. Ground-beef tacos were $1.50 in a crispy shell, $2 in a soft tortilla.

A tall can of Tecate beer, a Mexican import, was just $2. While I waited for a burger, I teased my appetite with the day’s special.

That crispy-shelled taco was overstuffed with meat, crunchy lettuce, shredded cheese and pico de gallo, and served with Cholula Hot Sauce and individual cups of sour cream and Pace salsa. I’m not a fan of the latter, but I do love pico and Cholula.

When my “Shroom Burger” ($8.50) arrived, I was delighted. One-third pound of hand-pressed ground beef was delivered thick and juicy on a tasty bun, topped with fresh mushrooms and onions sauteed in wine. Swiss cheese was melted on top; lettuce and tomato slices were added. It was one of the better burgers I’ve had in this city.

Rather than jo-jos, the burger was served with delicious, hand-cut French fries (tater tots, cheesy tots or a side salad are options) and a condiment basket of ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, steak sauce and more.

Regulars rave not only about Cascade West’s burger selection — including a Hammy Hagar and a classic Reuben — but also its weekly Sunday breakfast. Beginning at 9 a.m., I was told, hearty, inexpensive breakfasts are complemented by a make-your-own bloody Mary bar, otherwise known as a vodka salad in a glass.

Sounds like another reason to return.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at .