ON TAP

Food: () Hispanic, Himalayan, barbecue, sandwiches and more.

Service: () Most carts have pagers to alert diners when orders are ready.

Atmosphere: () Spacious seating and dining area is surrounded by ample play areas.

More Info

Location: 1424 NE Cushing Drive, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day

Cuisine: Eclectic

Price range: Nothing is priced above $15; most dishes are $12 or under

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Masterard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Several carts have their own children’s menus

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Most food carts have something for everyone

Alcoholic beverages: Beer, cider, wine

Outdoor seating: Open-air pavilion and spacious picnic area

Reservations: No

Contact: www.ontapbend.com

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

Make no mistake: Central Oregon’s food-truck villages are not amateur operations. Many chefs are experienced professionals. Venues may be downsized from brick-and-mortar, but the budget-priced food they serve is the equal of many more permanent restaurants.

A prime example is Eric and Laura Kramer’s six-spot pod near St. Charles Medical Center on NE Cushing Drive, known as On Tap.

Consider that Levi Gridley, at The Bleu Rooster, was for 6½ years the head chef at Chow on Galveston Avenue. Bryan Illingworth of Curb BBQ and Tenzin Sherpa of Himalayan Bites have years of culinary experience.

Steven Draheim of Barrio, once the executive chef at Camp Sherman’s Kokanee Café, later operated his own soup cart, Soupçon, in downtown Bend. Several years ago, he established Barrio and moved indoors; the Bend restaurant is widely known for its paella and other Spanish-influenced foods. But with a passion for bringing the food to the people, Draheim continues to manage two mobile kitchens — one that attends special events, the other permanently at On Tap.

This pod also is home to Philly Style, specializing in authentic Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches, and the small Shaka Shave Ice and açai trailer. There’s something for everyone.

The Kramers opened On Tap in mid-April 2018 after more than a year and a half of preparation. “We wanted to do something for the east-side community,” Laura expressed. “We love this concept.”

On Tap sits on extensive leased acreage, its central, open-air pavilion home to 30 taps serving a variety of beer, cider, wine and kombucha. Outside, there are fire pits and a large lawn with a sawdust-covered area for cornhole players. Development plans are in flux: “We’re still so new; we’re finding out what it is,” Eric Kramer said.

The Bleu Rooster

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The Bleu Rooster describes its fare as family-inspired global cuisine — family, because it’s the joint project of mother-and-son Lori Walls and Levi Gridley; global, because the menu ranges from Cuban to Greek, Cajun to Hawaiian.

Most of the selection is sandwiches, priced at $11 or $12. I ordered a PBLT, with thick and crispy slices of pork belly in place of more traditional bacon. Dressed with Sriracha aioli and a savory bacon-tomato jam, it came with pickled red onion, lettuce and sliced tomato (of course) on Big Ed’s Artisan potato bread.

My dining companion chose a Greek gyro with grilled beef and lamb shaved from a roasted loaf. Tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and dill slaw added moisture and flavor, along with cucumber, tomato and lettuce.

Accompanying pommes frites (french fries, $3), sprinkled with garlic and herbs, were delicious. But a cup of honey truffle aioli was overwhelming. The truffle flavor was too strong unless a potato was dipped extremely lightly.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Contact: thebleurooster.com, 541-598-4849.

Philly Style Bend

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I’ve heard the same thing from other Philadelphia-bred residents of Central Oregon: It’s hard to find a true Philly in the High Desert.

Teachers Danny and Michelle Ellis took it upon themselves to change that, converting an old Tri-Met bus into a mobile kitchen. Thinly sliced steak (or chicken) is freshly grilled and served on hearth-baked rolls from Philadelphia’s own renowned Amaroso Baking Co.

Piled with grilled onions — along with mushrooms and/or peppers, for those who so choose — they are finished with white American cheese, Cheez Whiz or provolone cheese. The cart also offers pizza steaks (with marinara sauce) and hoagies (with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato).

Jessica Johnson, who runs Philly Style in the Ellises’ absence, made me the best Philly I’ve had in years. I had my full-size sandwich ($12) of tender rib-eye cut in half. On one portion I requested white American cheese; on the other, original Cheez Whiz. Both were superb, but I honestly preferred the creaminess of the latter selection.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Contact: phillystylebend.com, 541-678-2063.

Himalayan Bites

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Tenzin Sherpa came to the United States from Kathmandu, Nepal, a decade ago. He opened his food cart at Spoken Moto in 2015. The distant relative of Mount Everest conqueror Tenzing Norgay landed in Bend because other Nepali Sherpas preceded him. He said he feels grounded at the foot of the Cascade Range.

Handmade dumplings or Sha Momo ($12), are a specialty on his menu. They are stuffed with ground beef, onions, scallions, ginger and garlic — marinated in herbs and spices from among the world’s highest peaks — and served with organic greens.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Masu Bhaat ($10), a plate of marinated chicken served as a sort of curry with brown rice and green salad. Its meat-free equivalent was Sabji Bhaat (also $10), vegetables stewed in coconut milk.

The Himalayan Bites menu also includes a noodle plate and Shaapta ($10), a Tibetan dish of sliced beef sauteed with onions and grape tomatoes. Any other dish combined with Sha Momos is available as a Himalayan Platter for $15.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Contact: himalayanbites.com, 541-410-4431.

Barrio

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Barrio has the longest menu of any cart at On Tap. There’s no paella here, but from a dozen separate Latin-style items, my companion chose tostones ($8) and street corn ($5).

Tostones are crispy, twice-fried plantains, topped with guacamole, braised pork carnitas, red Colorado sauce and curtido, a tangy Salvadoran slaw. A serving is four of them. Prepared to be about the size of crab cakes, they are rarely seen in the Northwest. At Barrio, they are a real treat.

My friend was not as wowed by her two half cobs of street corn, but that may simply have been an issue of personal taste. Rolled in garlic butter seasoned with poblano peppers, the cobs were sprinkled with cotija cheese, pickled red onion, aioli and that fermented Salvadoran curtido.

The menu also includes tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos and burritos, along with a meat-optional taco salad and a Barrio Bowl ($11) served on brown rice. Carnitas, chipotle chicken, carne asada and mushrooms are protein options.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Contact: barriobend.com, 541-610-1002.

Curb BBQ

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Bryan Illingworth worked as a caterer for nine years before opening his barbecue cart at Spoken Moto near Bend’s Box Factory. Serving pulled-pork sandwiches and nachos, wraps and salads, as well as a jalapeño burger and double-play burger, he developed a solid following before moving to On Tap last year.

I was delighted with the brisket grilled-cheese sandwich ($10). Thick pieces of brisket beef, swathed in a mildly spicy barbecue sauce, were served with melted cheddar in sourdough wheat bread. It came with freshly baked cornbread and Fritos Original Corn Chips. Also on the menu, awaiting my next visit, are BBQ pork nachos ($15, and a meal for two). A Sparrow Bakery pretzel ($10), with pulled pork and a beer cheese sauce, is a popular snack.

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Wednesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Saturday. Contact: curbbq.com, 541-647-4772.

Shaka Shave Ice

I didn’t visit the Hawaiian shave-ice cart. But even though the trailer is smaller than others at this pod, it is the first one that one sees upon arrival at On Tap, immediately beside the parking area.

The selection is one of shave ice or sno-cones, in a rainbow of colors and flavors ($4.50 to $6.50) and several choices of açai bowls ($9.50).

Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

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

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