WORTHY BREWING COMPANY

Food: () Inconsistent, as if the kitchen might be afraid of being too adventurous.

Service:() Friendly and highly professional, even when tested by long waits for seating.

Atmosphere: () Lofty indoor space and a broad patio with the Hopservatory rising above.

More Info

Location: 495 NE Bellevue Drive (at U.S. Highway 20 East), Bend

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Gourmet pub fare

Price range: Starters $8 to $14, salads $6 to $16, sandwiches and entrees $13 to $19

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Choices include the hummus plate, Refuel Bowl and chickpea-and-quinoa veggie burger

Alcoholic beverages: Fully licensed

Outdoor seating: Expansive patio with music stage

Reservations: No

Contact: www.worthybrewing.com, 541-639-4776

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

The Worthy Brewing Company is unique among Central Oregon pubs. Established in 2013 and located on Bend’s east side, the spacious restaurant and brewery has a unique character that is about so much more than just beer.

After all, how many brewpubs have their own hop garden and astronomical observatory?

Worthy founder Roger Worthington is a lawyer by trade and as intellectual a brewery owner as you’re likely to meet. As a promoter of science education and environmental awareness through the nonprofit Worthy Garden Club, he has spawned ventures such as an experimental hops breeding program (together with Oregon State University) and the unlikely “Hopservatory.”

On a recent Wednesday evening, for instance, manager Grant Tandy welcomed a handful of visitors — beers in hand — to look through the 16-inch reflecting telescope at the rings of Saturn and the great red spot on Jupiter. Tandy has been showing off planets and star clusters from the pub’s rotating dome for more than two years. It’s a celestial touch that puts a cosmic glow on the rest of the Worthy experience.

And if there’s music on the outdoor stage, so much the better! Local artists such as K.C. Flynn and Circle of Willis entertain admiring audiences at least twice a week in summer; when the weather gets cooler, there are indoor spaces for musicians to perform.

Salad and burger

Worthy’s beer is excellent. There’s no arguing with brewer Zach Brenneman’s national award-winning Strata IPA, Secret Spot Pacific Ale or Lights Out Stout. In any given week, there may be as many as a dozen house brews on tap, from flagship choices to single-batch ales.

I find the food less consistent.

My favorite meal, from among those I’ve tried recently, has been the Oaxacan chopped salad ($15), named for chef Juan Infante’s hometown in Mexico. On a bed of romaine lettuce, poblano and bell peppers, spicy black beans and roast pork carnitas are tossed with cilantro and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Cotija cheese is crumbled on top. It’s served with a jalapeño ranch dressing and wedges of cheese quesadilla.

The Magic Bus Burger ($15) might have been the perfect pub hamburger had the ground beef not been overcooked: It was closer to medium well than medium rare, and lacked the juiciness that I enjoy in my burgers. That was a shame, as everything else about the sandwich was excellent. Served on a brioche bun from Bend’s Sparrow Bakery, it had lettuce, tomato, fried onions and a melt of Tillamook cheddar cheese, along with delicious house-made pickles and barbecue sauce. Even the fries were good.

Disappointments

I had high hopes for the Worthy Wings ($12 for eight plump drumettes, about a pound), but they disappointed me. Three choices were available: traditional Buffalo wings, barbecue-lathered wings, or Thai chili wings. I chose the latter. The chicken meat was perfectly cooked, but it didn’t retain much of the sweet red chili sauce used to baste it. The flavor was bland until I requested extra sauce to dip it myself.

An order of pub mac ‘n’ cheese ($13) was similarly unremarkable. Had I not been munching on wings, I might have found it tastier with the addition of a meat, like chicken or bratwurst. But the locally produced corkscrew fusilli were treated only with a mild mozzarella cheese and a finishing sprinkle of citrus-and-herb bread crumbs.

I wondered if the Worthy kitchen might be afraid of being too adventurous, of designing its dishes for diners whose cravings are more easily found in a pint of HopZen Imperial IPA.

I’ve heard good things about Worthy’s pizzas, although I have yet to try them. The Al Pastor ($17), for instance, harkens to Infante’s Oaxacan flavors, with grilled pineapple, cilantro and jalapeño peppers complementing a pizza with pork carnitas. But the creative chef is more commonly seen at Worthy’s intimate Taps & Tacos in downtown Bend.

The menu offers a “Diggy Dog Scoop” ($5) of chicken thigh, carrots and cucumber for those who want to bring their (well-behaved) dogs onto the patio with them.

During busy lunch and (especially) dinner hours, Worthy’s first-come, first-serve seating policy can create a logjam of impatient new arrivals at the front of the restaurant. I think the hostesses do an admirable job of keeping order, of maintaining a next-in-line list of those who prefer outdoor, indoor or bar seating, even when the wait may be 45 minutes or longer.

I can’t say enough good things about the food and beverage servers. Invariably prompt and friendly, frequently playful, the team quickly takes and delivers orders and responds to special requests. And it’s heartening to see abandoned tables so swiftly cleared and cleaned to make room for the next set of patrons. It’s a highly professional operation.

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

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