McMENAMINS OLD ST. FRANCIS SCHOOL

Food: () Constantly improving, with gourmet renditions of salmon and pork entrees.

Service: () Professional if uneven, with long waits for food but servers who go the extra mile.

Atmosphere: () Beautiful historic preservation work showcases antiques and original art.

More Info

Location: 700 NW Bond St., Bend

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Price range: Breakfast $7.50 to $16.75; lunch $7.75 to $25; dinner starters $5.75 to $15, entrees $15.50 to $29.

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Breakfast $5.25 to $7, lunch and dinner $3.75 to $8.25.

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Limited options; gluten-free buns on request

Alcoholic beverages: Fully licensed

Outdoor seating: Several dining sections

Reservations: No

Contact: www.mcmenamins.com, 541-330-8563

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My best reason for visiting any McMenamins property has always been the atmosphere. The care taken in historic preservation, coupled with showcasing quirky antiques, photographs and original art, makes its hotels, restaurants, bars and theaters worthy of long exploration.

I’ve never been especially impressed with quality of food or service — until now. Recent visits to Bend’s Old St. Francis School are changing my mind.

Historically a Catholic elementary school, the building was bought in 2004 by the Portland-based McMenamins hospitality group. In fewer than two years, the school was transformed into one of the most popular of its holdings, which number close to 60 in Oregon and Washington.

Besides hotel rooms, a theater, a music room and a popular soaking pool, the Old St. Francis School has two kitchens that service a main pub-restaurant and four smaller bars around the property. The basement brewery (a former nursery school) produces dozens of beers, and a variety of McMenamins wines and spirits are trucked down from the Portland area.

My dining companion and I focused our recent breakfast, lunch and dinner visits on the large central pub facing Bond Street. And while this is far from Bend’s best dining experience, there were enough good things about each of our meals that we wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Service was professional if occasionally uneven. We sometimes waited several minutes to be greeted and seated by a host, and our meals always seemed to take an excessively long time to be delivered from the kitchen. But our servers were prompt and friendly, and showed themselves willing to go the extra mile when we weren’t pleased with our food.

Dinner

We launched our dinner with a shared bowl of manila clams ($15), steamed in McMenamins’ own Edgefield White Rabbit wine from its Troutdale estate. This was not the highlight of our evening meal. The buttery broth needed a lot more garlic to counter the brininess of the shellfish. The blend of herbs (tarragon? dill?) didn’t bring out the flavor.

But the entrees were delicious. My tender pork chop ($22) was finished with a sweet glaze of whiskey, apples and honey that left the fruit tasting like apricot jam. It was served with sauteed green beans and macaroni and cheese, the noodles baked with a crispy bread topping.

My companion loved her Red Eye Salmon fillet ($24). Pan-roasted to flaky perfection, the wild salmon (it appeared to be coho) was presented with a unique bacon jam, flavored with coffee, that complemented the dish nicely. The meal came with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and garlic-roasted broccolini.

Lunch

I sat in the street-side garden one sunny afternoon for a casual, solo lunch of a burger, a salad and a glass of iced tea.

My Communication Breakdown burger ($14.75) was excellent. Like all of McMenamins burgers, the six-ounce patty of grass-fed Oregon beef was served with lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles on a house-baked sesame brioche bun spread with a proprietary sauce. This version came with Tillamook cheddar cheese as well as grilled onions, mushrooms and slivers of green and red bell peppers.

Instead of fries or tater tots, I paid an extra $1 to sub in a small green salad. The leaf lettuces were fresh, but the salad was nondescript, served only with pear tomatoes and three overly thick cucumber slices.

Breakfast

I enjoyed my morning huevos rancheros ($12.75), two over-easy eggs served upon a generous bed of black beans atop a crisp corn tortilla. The Mexican sauces — chipotle pico de gallo and an ancho chile blend — were a perfect and only slightly spicy complement. Pepper-jack cheese, onion, jalapeño pepper, cilantro and sour cream made this breakfast a party on a plate. The only negative was that small slices of avocado were beginning to turn brown.

My companion ordered a Cascadia scramble ($16.25) with wild mushrooms, sauteed spinach and goat cheese. But it did not meet either of our perceptions of what a scramble should be. Instead, the eggs were prepared as a single griddle cake, more like a frittata than an omelet.

When our server offered to replace it with a second option, my friend chose traditional eggs Benedict ($12.75). This time, she was delighted. A lemony hollandaise sauce inspired her to send compliments to the chef. The soft-poached egg was served on Canadian bacon and a toasted English muffin, and presented with an ample helping of fried cottage potatoes.

Instead of toast, she opted for a frosted cinnamon roll, baked in-house. It was one of the best things on the menu. The house coffee was also delicious.

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

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