THE BEAVER DAM AT OSU-CASCADES

Food: () Healthy and professional, with local sourcing and emphasis on dietary choices.

Service: () Cafeteria is self-service, but student workers are friendly and efficient.

Atmosphere: () Like a huge living room with a central fireplace and a full wall of windows.

More Info

Location: Obsidian Hall, Oregon State University-Cascades, 1500 SW Chandler Ave., Bend

Hours: Monday to Friday, breakfast 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner 5 to 7 p.m. Coffee bar open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Cuisine: American and international

Price range: Breakfast $2.15 to $4.95, lunch $3.95 to $7.75, dinner $6.75 to $7.75.

Credit cards: Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: No

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Very wide range of selections

Alcoholic beverages: No

Outdoor seating: Limited patio seating

Reservations: No

Contact: osucascades.edu/dining/beaver-dam, 541-322-3100

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

Let’s get this out of the way first: I believe the Beaver Dam, the cafeteria on the Oregon State University-Cascades campus, is misnamed.

A dam is a barrier that impedes the flow of water or other materials. OSU’s Beaver Dam, to the contrary, encourages the exchange of ideas and thoughts among students, faculty and community members.

It would be better if this restaurant at Bend’s new four-year university were called the Beaver Lodge, a word that implies warm hospitality.

The bright and spacious establishment, in the heart of campus, is so much more than just a place to stop and eat.

It is the heart of the educational institution, a place where diners can eat well on a budget. Moreover, it is a place where students can study and read, work on their laptops, listen to music or simply relax. The location doubles as an occasional venue for events and activities. And anyone is welcome: The Beaver Dam is not just for students.

The food is healthy, flavorful and professionally driven. The chef de cuisine is Rodney Garrison, a Navy veteran and graduate of the Western Culinary Institute in Portland. The sous chef is Matt Neltner, well-known to Central Oregonians as the former head chef at the Deschutes Brewery and onetime owner of the Blue Pine Kitchen and Bar.

On the ground floor of Obsidian Hall, opposite Cascade Lakes Lodge on Chandler Avenue, the Beaver Dam has been compared to a large living room. It has a high ceiling, a central gas fireplace and a wall of windows extending down the building’s south side.

Midday meal

My editor at The Bulletin joined me at the Beaver Dam for lunch one recent weekday. As her office is a short walk away, she is a frequent mealtime visitor. I make my campus appearances much less often.

The Beaver Dam menu includes selections that are available each day, including a fresh salad bar and grilled sandwiches. It also features a rotating Cascades Grill menu that changes daily on a five-week rotation, offering such specialties as salmon with dill cream, chicken fettuccine Alfredo and ginger soy-glazed pork ribs.

At our lunch, my editor selected the daily grill: steak fajitas ($7.75). Strips of tender beef, nicely seasoned, were served with a selection of vegetables — mainly red and green bell peppers and onions — along with pinto beans and cilantro. Offered with tortillas for wrapping, the fajitas were presented with shredded Mexican cheese and sour cream. The only thing that my dining companion didn’t like was a house-made salsa, heavy with the smoky flavor of chipotle peppers.

I headed first for the salad bar. A choice of freshly chopped romaine or mixed greens was complemented by 20 additions (among them tomatoes, beets, garbanzo beans, cucumber and baby corn) and four salad dressings. There were three plate sizes, the largest priced at only $6.75; my mid-sized was more than enough.

On another occasion, I might have a bowl of homemade soup ($3.75) with my salad. On a couple of days, these soups included a vegan split-pea soup, a vegetarian white bean-and-vegetable soup, and a hearty Creole seafood stew.

On this day, I chose a simple hamburger ($6.25), which immediately won my seal of approval. Thick and juicy, it was served on a house-made bun that was easily the equal of any that I’ve had from local bakeries. I paid a little extra to add Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions to the sandwich.

Breakfast

I paid a solo visit to the Beaver Dam for breakfast on a different day. I was able to choose my ingredients for a gourmet two-egg scramble ($4.95), and it was outstanding. My version wasn’t very different from what would have gone into a Denver omelet — ham, cheese, bell pepper and red onion, along with a handful of spinach. It was perfectly cooked, if under-seasoned; but that’s what salt and pepper are made for.

Along with a cup of coffee, I also grabbed a gluten-free and dairy-free Morning Glory muffin ($1.95). Made with eggs and coconut, topped with slivered almonds and sunflower seeds, this muffin was a sweet treat that I never would have guessed was freshly baked on the OSU-Cascades campus.

“Our emphasis on dietary health and wellness is something that’s here to stay,” said Beaver Dam general manager Marta Givens. “We always have to offer vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Our staff trains in allergens annually. But a lot of people don’t appreciate the extent to which we do that.”

Givens said the restaurant prides itself on sourcing quality ingredients from local providers, and in making all meals from scratch.

A year and a half after it opened, there’s still no sign at Obsidian Hall that announces the “Beaver Dam.” Maybe that leaves the door open for a “Beaver Lodge.”

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

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