Astro Lounge

Food: () Outstanding sandwiches and one of Bend’s best happy hours.

Service: () Friendly and casual, especially during the early evening.

Atmosphere: () Brick walls frame a spacious room with large street-side windows.

More Info

Location: 939 NW Bond St., Bend

Hours: 4 p.m. to close Monday-Saturday

Cuisine: American and international

Price range: Small plates $5 to $10, larger dishes $8 to $13; happy hour menu $4 to $10

Credit cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: By request, but not after 8 p.m.

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Salads (gluten-free), mac ‘n cheese, margherita pizza

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: No

Reservations: No

Contact: astroloungebend.com; 541-388-0116

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

It’s impressive for a night club and cocktail lounge, regardless of the location, to persist for 17 years. The dynamics of the music and beverage industries tend to roll with the fickle behavior of patrons, who aren’t the same people in their 40s as they were in their 20s.

Bend’s Astro Lounge is a survivor. Established on Minnesota Avenue (in the location of the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin) in 2001, it doubled its size 10 years later with a move around the corner to Bond Street. It has since continued to draw crowds for live music and DJs, trivia nights and other events.

What’s often overlooked is that Astro has outstanding food, enough so that it’s been recognized as having one of Bend’s best happy hours, offered 4 to 7 p.m. nightly except Sunday.

In particular, the sandwiches are outstanding. Salads and pizzas are reliably tasty. And the savory chicken wings and Asian lettuce wraps make fantastic finger food.

“Food for us has always been hard, because we are looked upon as a late-night dance club,” said longtime owner-manager Josh Maquet. “But when people figure out that we have one of the best happy hours in Bend, they consistently return.

“That’s great, because the bar is a great place to be early on. You get to meet and talk to the awesome staff, the music is always good, and with our new TVs, you get to watch the sports or news you want.”

Friendly and casual

Astro certainly has the atmosphere of a club rather than a restaurant. Brick walls frame a spacious room marked by a long bar on the south side of the building, with a set of tables and high-backed booths on the north side. Large windows face Bond Street, inviting inspection by passersby. In the rear, a 600-square-foot patio and fire pit face a rear alley.

Early evening service, as Maquet suggested, is friendly and casual, before the crowds arrive to attack Bend’s largest liquor inventory — 208 bottles. Without the stress of demanding crowds, bartenders double as table servers, and they are prompt and accurate. Our only service issue occurred when the kitchen made a different pizza than we had ordered, a pepperoni rather than a bacon pie. My dining companion and I decided to keep one and take the other home.

As fate would have it, we preferred the pepperoni. Both pizzas were stone-baked with dough made from scratch, yielding a crust that was flat (it needed more yeast) and somewhat flavorless. But the toppings were excellent.

The simple pepperoni ($11, happy hour $9), rich in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, was delicious. The bacon pie ($12, happy hour $9) featured caramelized onions, roasted garlic, spinach and goat cheese as well as plenty of crunchy bacon.

I’m a big fan of chicken wings ($10, happy hour $8), and Astro didn’t disappoint. Rather than classic buffalo sauce or sriracha agave sauce, I opted for simple barbecue sauce, and the wings were flavorful without being too hot.

Salads and sandwiches

On two separate visits, we had an opportunity to try several other menu items.

The Asian lettuce wraps with grilled chicken ($12, happy hour $10) were excellent. Into green leaves, we folded a slaw of Napa and red cabbages, carrots and bean sprouts with a sesame ginger vinaigrette, along with the chicken. Pork belly and shrimp were other options.

The shrimp and avocado salad ($12, happy hour $8) was served with hearts of romaine, red cabbage and cilantro. An orange citrus dressing over the chilled, medium-size shrimp and sliced avocado was delicious.

But our favorites were the sandwiches, offered on delicious brioche buns. My pulled pork sando ($11, happy hour $9) was stacked with delicious house-smoked pork blended in a barbecue sauce. Chipotle slaw and two fried onion rings were stacked on top, and house-cut fries were delicious.

My companion went with a burger “like no other” ($11, happy hour $9). The thick and juicy beef patty came with Swiss cheese — from a choice of five cheeses— house slaw and fries. On request, the latter were served with Parmesan cheese and truffle oil.

Maquet, who studied restaurant and hotel management at Colorado State University before moving to Bend in 1998, became the first and only manager of the Astro when it opened in 2001.

When it later went up for sale, he took ownership.

“I think the continued success is because I take care of my staff, which, in turn, takes care of the customers,” he said. “I was an employee for a long time and realized that working for someone and doing a good job was hard, if you didn’t like the owner or corporation you work for.”

The continued success of the Astro Lounge suggests that the staff, indeed, like what they do.

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

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