RIFF COLD-BREWED COFFEE TAPROOM

Food: () Innovative, colorful and health-conscious, designed to complement coffee.

Service: () Efficient table service balances counter orders in the expansive room.

Atmosphere: () Sliding glass doors and a giant mural accent spaciousness.

More Info

Location: 555 NW Arizona Ave., Suite 30 (Box Factory), Bend

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cuisine: Healthy and creative

Price range: Snacks $3 to $5, soups $5 and $7, most larger dishes $10 to $15

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Order snacks and shareables

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Most offerings are either or both

Alcoholic beverages: Fully licensed

Outdoor seating: Designated sidewalk area

Reservations: No

Contact: www.riffcoldbrewed.com, 541-312-9330

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Coffee shops and healthy, creative cuisine don’t usually go together. But, then, the Riff Cold-Brewed Coffee Taproom is not a normal coffee shop.

Since opening in mid-December, this unique destination in the Box Factory has been attracting attention for its innovative concept and its food and beverage menu. They are light years different than anything else in Central Oregon.

Co-founder Paul Evers, formerly of the TBD Agency and Crux Fermentation Project, likes to think of the taproom as a research and development center. Indeed, it is being hailed as the only cold-brewed coffee taproom of its kind in the world.

“In music,” said Evers, “a riff is spontaneous improvisation. Here, we collaboratively riff on an idea, on expanding the enjoyment of coffee. We’re taking coffee and expressing its full range of natural flavors. And we want to bring this to everyone. Coffee is nature’s original energy drink.”

Cold-brewed coffee is just what the name implies. It is gently steeped in cold water for up to 15 hours, yielding a brew that is 70 percent less acidic and bitter than hot-brewed coffee, Evers said. A recipe of equal parts medium-ground coffee and water produces a cup — served cold or hot — with a slightly higher caffeine level than other coffees. “Our 10½-ounce cup has as much caffeine as a 16-ounce Starbucks cup,” Evers said.

The food is designed to complement the coffee, sometimes incorporating coffee as an ingredient. “Our theme is light and healthy fare with bright, vibrant colors,” chef Jackson Higdon said. “And the menu will only grow from here.”

Kitchen artistry

It’s somehow not surprising that Higdon, 27, is the son of an artist, oil and pastel painter Susan Luckey Higdon. Although he focuses his creativity in the kitchen rather than on canvas, the genetic link is obvious.

There’s no better example of his artistry than the Hummus Trio ($14). Three generous samplers of creative (and delicious) hummuses — beets and cumin-­roasted carrots, each blended with chickpeas, along with an edamame-avocado hummus — are offered with raw vegetables, multi-grain tortilla chips and orange slices. The veggies include carrots, red peppers, sliced cucumber, purple daikon radishes and watermelon radishes. Vivid colors of red, orange and green leap from the serving dish like a Peter Max pop-art painting from the 1960s.

As Riff is designed to be a community gathering space — broad glass doors open onto the Box Factory’s central corridor as well as the spacious sidewalk along Arizona Avenue — categories labeled “buildables” and “shareables” are the core of the menu.

Typical is the Chef’s Board ($18), which features a selection of charcuterie meats, cheeses and various other snacks. Our spread included hand-made bologna and Death Valley salami (ghost peppers add a tolerable tang) from Bend’s Meat Locker, along with aged Spanish Manchego cheese, Rogue Creamery bleu cheese and a cheddar with espresso and lavender.

We added a selection of snacks to our board: three types of citron-marinated olives, mixed chile-lime-spiced nuts, organic dried mango (my favorite), several pickled vegetables and house-made artisan Cheez-Its (with tomato jam). Any of the buildable items by itself is priced at just $3 to $5, but I’m convinced there’s greater pleasure in the building of one’s own sampler.

Wide-ranging menu

The hummuses are shareable. So, too, are a couple of $10 dips served with chips or crackers. We liked the coffee bacon dip, a takeoff on French onion dip with coffee-crusted bacon and caramelized onions. Higdon also offered his version of a pimento cheese spread spiced with Mama Lil’s Peppers, which have reached cult status in some culinary circles.

For diners seeking more traditional styles of food, Riff offers salads, sandwiches and daily soups, at least one of them vegetarian. The pork brie sandwich ($13), served on a Sparrow Bakery hoagie roll, was excellent, its smoked pork loin accented by fresh arugula, soft-ripened Brie cheese and pepper jam.

Among the salads, my companion, always in search of a good Caesar, was delighted with Kale-ing Me Softly ($10). Kale leaves were massaged by hand until supple, then mixed in a Spanish anchovy dressing with shaved Pecorino Romano cheese and chile lime crostini.

My favorite menu option is the forager bowl ($14). Unhusked brown organic rice is presented with a trio of roasted heirloom mushrooms (oyster, shiitake and miyagi), shredded kale, spicy sunflower seeds and crumbled chèvre cheese, in a balsamic vinaigrette that features (what else?) cold-brewed coffee. The dish is enhanced with avocado, watermelon radishes and purple daikon.

On weekends, Riff opens early to serve breakfast. And there are always several desserts, including a coffee-infused chocolate pot de creme.

Beverage options

“We don’t want to exclude anyone because they think they don’t like coffee,” Evers said.

My companion, who does like coffee but who can’t drink caffeine, found nirvana in Riff’s DoubleTake brew: It’s a decaffeinated blend that features notes of caramel and hazelnut. I’m a fan of Off the Cuff, a nitrogenated brew that highlights toffee and dark chocolate.

Several other varieties are rated by their approximate level of caffeine.

Riff has some unusual beverage choices. Alter Ego is a sparkling coffee fruit tea with notes of rose hip and mango. Hold That Thought is a nitro blonde coffee stout, a collaboration with Crux Fermentation Project. El Jefe couples a decaf concentrate with tequila reposado: This is not your mother’s margarita. A coffee collaboration with Humm Kombucha is scheduled for release this month. Indeed, 30 separate taps each draws a distinctive product.

Bobby Evers, Paul’s son and co-founder, is general manager. Other partners and co-founders are food scientist Nate Armbrust, previously at Stumptown Coffee in Portland, Steve Barham and Kevin Smyth.

Beans are sourced from Colombia, Central America and Ethiopia. The colorful variety is depicted in a two-story mural (a community project led by local artist Megan Stumpfig) that takes up the west wall of the taproom behind a custom-designed, 60-gallon pilot brewing system.

The company’s 9,000-square-foot production facility is in Redmond.

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

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