Rating Bowtie Catering Co. and Cafe

Food: () Excellent sandwiches and salads from a Deschutes Brewery veteran

Service: () Order at the counter for rapid table delivery or takeout orders

Atmosphere: () Nondescript strip-mall location, but neat and crisp with an open kitchen

More Info

Location: 61147 S. U.S. Highway 97, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Cuisine: Deli

Price range: Soups $3 and $5, salads $5 to $9, sandwiches $4 to $9, other plates $8 to $12

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Half-size portions available

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Mediterranean salad with quinoa is a good choice

Alcoholic beverages: Wine and beer

Outdoor seating: No

Reservations: For catering, yes; for dining in, no

Contact: bowtiecateringbend.com, 541-241-8711

Chef Gene Soto knows his way around the kitchens of the Northwest. But his current collaboration with business manager Sanda Costello may turn out to be more successful than any that have come before.

Since launching Bowtie Catering Co. two years ago, the pair have become known for their professional acumen, combining Soto’s culinary skills with Costello’s decade of experience in the food-service industry.

They expanded their catering business in May with a casual cafe on Bend’s south side, and it’s been an immediate hit, providing delicious sandwiches, soups and salads to afternoon diners on the S. U.S. Highway 97 corridor.

Soto, raised in Washington’s Yakima Valley, trained at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland and worked at resorts on the Oregon coast and in the Columbia River Gorge before landing at Deschutes Brewery in 2000. He spent seven years as executive chef at Bend’s original brewpub, leaving only to pursue opportunities back in southeastern Washington, where he owned a cafe and cooking school in Walla Walla.

But his heart was in Central Oregon. He returned to Bend in 2013 to open Supervillain Sandwiches on Bond Street. While there he met Costello, a longtime employee of his next-door neighbor, Brother Jon’s Public House, and before that, the Decoy Bar & Grill.

Costello, having already traveled extensively in Europe, left her native Romania a dozen years ago to attend Central Oregon Community College. Marriage and motherhood confirmed her decision to stay in Oregon, and her passion for good food and drink led to a career. She and Soto began catering events together in late 2014. Before long, demand for their services led them to a business partnership in Bowtie Catering.

South Bend location

The cafe seats a couple dozen patrons in Pinebrook Plaza, a strip of shops behind a Shari’s restaurant. It’s nondescript, to be sure, but neat and crisp feeling, with a handful of tables on a hardwood floor. The open catering kitchen extends behind the counter where Costello or a cafe employee takes orders.

Soto’s soups, two or three of them a day by the cup or the bowl, are always excellent. But on a couple of recent visits, I found the potato-and-bacon soup to be a little thinner than I might have preferred, and the split-pea potage too dense.

The potato chowder is an everyday standby with coarsely chopped red potatoes in a creamy broth, and the bacon-enhanced taste is delicious. The pea soup, more yellow than green, was thickly blended and could have used more seasoning to bring its flavor through.

A bowl of macaroni and cheese offered a savory blend of cheeses with elbow noodles. Although it had no particular enhancement — crispy baked bread crumbs, for instance, or peppery bacon bits — the dish was excellent comfort food. It was served with a fresh side salad.

Salad and sandwich

One of our favorite meals here was a Mediterranean-style grain salad, topped with grilled salmon. Fresh hearts of romaine were tossed with a generous portion of quinoa, blended with Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, English cucumbers, toasted sliced almonds and crumbled feta cheese, all tossed in a caper-lemon dressing. The salmon filet, prepared medium, was a nice addition to this salad, which also is available as a vegan and gluten-free dish.

I loved my chicken shawarma, rolled in Soto’s own freshly baked flatbread. Yogurt-garlic sauce provided the Greek-style spread for grilled slices of chicken breast, red onion, tomato, cucumber and shredded romaine lettuce.

A pastrami sandwich served on lightly toasted whole-wheat bread, made in-house, featured multiple layers of thinly sliced pastrami topped with red onions, pickle chips and melted cheddar. It was finished with Russian dressing, but no sauerkraut — it was, after all, not a Reuben.

For sake of tradition, we also ordered a takeout hamburger for my dining companion’s son. He said it was one of the best he’s had in Bend. And that’s an excellent recommendation.

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