RIVER PIG SALOON

Food: () Quality pub food that’s a step above the norm, with some healthy choices.

Service: () Minor shortcomings, but for the most part friendly and efficient.

Atmosphere: () Eclectic sports-bar mood features game mounts and quirky art.

More Info

Location: 555 NW Arizona Ave., Suite 40, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Gourmet pub food

Price range: Starters $4 to $9, meals $7 to $13

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Kids’ menu: Not in this saloon

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Oregon’s Finest Bowl ($9) is built on quinoa and vegetables

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Dedicated patio

Reservations: Large parties only

Contact: riverpigsaloon.com, 541-385-6777

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

When Portland’s River Pig Saloon expanded into Bend in May, it expected to serve the Old Mill District primarily as a neighborhood watering hole, not as a restaurant.

Locals quickly discovered that the food was good, reasonably priced and a slight detour from what may be regarded as the norm in Central Oregon pubs.

“We didn’t expect to do this much food business,” confessed Steve Sirok, manager of the establishment on the Arizona Avenue side of the Box Factory. “It seems we hit it on the head with the brewpub culture.”

The name “river pig” derives from the early 1900s, when it was bestowed upon lumbermen who drove timber floats downstream from forests to sawmills. With the Shevlin-Hixon and Brooks-Scanlon ponderosa mills on either side of the Deschutes River here, barely a stone’s throw from the new saloon, the name seems eminently appropriate.

The name is not quite reflected in the eclectic decor, however, despite its rustic, heavy wood-beamed appearance. Prominent panels of Pancho Villa-era outlaws occupy one wall. Big-game mounts overlook the 75-seat room and mezzanine from several locations. Televisions are hung in several places, one atop an elevated piano near the entrance.

Quality and quantity

My dining companion and I have had occasion to visit three times in recent weeks, and each time, we’ve come away impressed. Nothing on the menu is priced above $13 (happy-hour listings, 4 to 6 p.m. daily, are considerably less), and the saloon scores on quality and quantity.

Perhaps our favorite meal of all is the $8 mac and cheese, which ranks as some of the best we’ve had in the region. Bacon, kale and caramelized onions are blended with the elbow noodles and cheeses.

The Saloon’s Bison Burger ($12), with locally sourced buffalo meat, is a lean alternative to a traditional hamburger. It’s topped with tomato, lettuce, onions, pickle, bacon and a choice of cheese (cheddar, Swiss, bleu or pepper jack), offered on a brioche bun spread with garlic mayo. Sauteed mushrooms and onions are only $2 more. It was so large that my companion was able to make two meals out of it.

The River Pig Bratwurst ($9), infused with the saloon’s lager beer, is juicy and delicious. Presented on a hoagie roll, it comes with bacon, caramelized onions and a tangy chipotle mayonnaise dressing. And like all of the bar’s sandwiches and burgers, it is served with a large helping of seasoned curly fries sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

I had mixed feelings about the fish and chips ($12), served with those same curly fries. Catfish was a nice substitute for cod in this offering, and the breading wasn’t so heavy as to dominate the flavor. But there was an oiliness about it that I didn’t enjoy.

On a healthier note, The Bel Air ($11) was a lovely, peppery arugula-and-beet salad, dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and topped with crumbled feta cheese and strips of chicken, generously seasoned with rosemary. I liked this plate very much.

And the Oregon’s Finest Bowl ($9), with quinoa and arugula, was perfect for vegetarian diners. Carrots, red onions, Kalamata olives, basil and edamame (soybeans) went into the concoction, which was blended with lemon oregano vinaigrette. You could eat it five days in a row and make it different each time by adding an egg, pork or chicken, or having it rolled into a wrap.

Good starters

The starters are also excellent. I enjoyed the Hell’s Canyon drumsticks ($9), made with chicken legs instead of wings. Four flavor versions — dry rub, barbecue, honey mustard or cilantro buffalo — are served with celery and either ranch or bleu cheese dressing. The in-house dry-rub recipe was superb.

Jalapeño poppers ($8) were stuffed with cheddar-jack and cream cheeses, wrapped in bacon and served with ranch dressing. Fried Brussels sprouts ($8) were perfectly cooked with bacon bits and a balsamic reduction.

River Pig’s owners — cousins Ramzy and Shadi Hattar and Ramzy’s son Zedan — established the original location in Portland’s Pearl District in 2014. The saloon earned a reputation for its inner-city hospitality (welcoming large parties and corporate groups) that Sirok said he hopes to carry to Bend.

Unfortunately, we did witness one early-evening instance when a party of four, including a pre-schooler, was asked to leave because the saloon is not licensed to accommodate minors after 4 p.m. Although staffers were polite in their request, I did not hear them suggest a nearby restaurant alternative, which they might easily have done.

For the most part, I have found River Pig service to be friendly and efficient. The only exception was an early afternoon, when a wedding-reception party showed up hours before scheduled and the kitchen was severely understaffed.

Not surprisingly, our meals took a very long time to be prepared and served. But our servers expressed their apologies with drinks on the house. It’s hard to argue with that.

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

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