KAREN’S GROUNDED CAFÉ

Food: () Owners make the best of a limited and opportunistic kitchen space.

Service: () A cheery couple, formerly of Palmer’s, run the entire restaurant.

Atmosphere: () Brightly adorned with local art and a sing-along soundtrack.

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Location: 51470 U.S. Highway 97, Suite A3, La Pine

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Price range: Breakfast $7.75 to $10.25, burgers and sandwiches $8.25 to $10.95

Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: $4.75 and $5.75

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: On request

Alcoholic beverages: License application awaiting approval

Contact: 541-241-0980

NORMA’S RED ROOSTER RESTAURANT

Food: () Burger and salad could benefit from fresher local ingredients.

Service: () A little awkward, as server had to copy order longhand from the menu.

Atmosphere: () Hundreds of roosters fill display cases and hang on walls.

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Location: 51425 U.S. Highway 97, La Pine

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; “to go” barbecue dinners 4 to 7 p.m. Friday to Sunday

Price range: Breakfast $5 to $9, soup $3.50 to $5, sandwiches and wraps $5 to $8.75; weekend barbecue $7.95 to $21

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Several breakfast and sandwich choices

Alcoholic beverages: None

Contact: facebook.com, 541-536-5181

THE HARVEST DEPOT

Food: () Extensive menu includes five entree salads, but my sandwich was ordinary.

Service: () Warm and efficient, delivered as quickly as preparation-to-order allows.

Atmosphere: () Enter through swinging doors to a room of sawn-timber furnishings.

More Info

Location: 51453 U.S. Highway 97, La Pine

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday (breakfast 7 to 11 a.m.)

Price range: Breakfast $6 to $11, burgers and sandwiches $8 to $13.50 (premium burgers to $23), salads $11.50 to $12.50,

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ and seniors’ menu: $5.50 to $8.50

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Tree Hugger veggie sandwich; chicken strips can be made gluten-free

Alcoholic beverages: Beer and cider

Contact: facebook.com, 541-536-1493

For more area reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

When Karen McCormack sold Palmer’s Cafe in September 2016, her immensely popular Bend restaurant of 15 years, she did so because the commute from her new home in La Pine had become tedious and sometimes dangerous in winter.

Within a few months, however, she had reemerged in La Pine, opening Karen’s Grounded Café with husband Alan McCormack in the simple Aspen Alley strip mall near the Cinco de Mayo Mexican restaurant.

Karen’s Grounded Café is one of three breakfast-and-lunch restaurants within a short walk of one another on either side of U.S. Highway 97, in the heart of Deschutes County’s southernmost community. While each of the trio is unique in its own way, all of the cafes offer a similar menu that is in the same general price range.

One might argue that Norma’s Red Rooster Restaurant is the kitschiest, with its ever-growing collection of crowing souvenirs, and that The Harvest Depot is the most rustic, with its log cabin-style decor. Karen’s is, perhaps, the place to head for a coffee break and light meal with your aunt and uncle.

Karen’s Grounded Café

That’s assuming that your uncle and aunt love music of the sing-along variety. The McCormacks do — so much so that once their liquor-license application is approved by the state, they plan to extend their hours until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, allowing them to welcome locals for dancing and karaoke.

For now, visitors must be satisfied with a soundtrack that ranges from Diana Ross to Tony Bennett to the Crests’ “16 Candles.” The cafe exhibits work from local artists and craftspeople on its walls and in display cases, all visible from 10 widely spaced tables that seat no more than two dozen guests.

A naturalized American citizen, native Scotsman Alan McCormack drew upon the practicality of his heritage to create a kitchen where there was none. Small but functional, it’s fine for making bacon and eggs, soups and grilled sandwiches.

When I first visited, I enjoyed a daily special — an open-faced pulled-pork sandwich, cloaked in melted cheddar and served with chopped tomatoes on top. Peppery house-made coleslaw and a thick slice of watermelon accompanied.

I started a subsequent meal with a cup of chicken-and-bacon soup in a cheesy cream base. And my burger was delicious, its thick and juicy patty served on a cornmeal-dusted bun. Dressed with several slices of Roma tomato, green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced sweet onion, Swiss cheese and chipotle mayo dressing, it took two toothpicks to hold it together.

Diners who still love McCormack’s former Bend restaurant may know that Palmer’s Cafe is now closed for extended renovation, with no reopening date yet announced.

Norma’s Red Rooster

Norma McAllister was not in when I visited the Red Rooster, but her husband, Darrell, was minding the cash register. He told me that when they bought the spot 10 years earlier, there were only half as many roosters as there are now. Since then, the fowl have multiplied, with ceramic and other images filling display cases and hanging on walls. “Whenever our regular patrons return from trips, it seems they have these souvenirs to share,” he said.

My burger at Norma’s was not as good as it had been at Karen’s. There was nothing wrong with the meat, but I expected something better than a slice of processed Swiss cheese and a tablespoon of tiny canned button mushrooms for something highlighted as a “Mushroom and Cheese Burger.” And the bun fell apart in my hands.

Service was a little awkward. My attendant began writing the wrong order from the menu on her notepad. I corrected her.

Next time, I may order grilled chicken, given the cafe’s theme. And I probably would forgo the house salad of chopped iceberg lettuce.

Harvest Depot Restaurant

The menu at the Harvest Depot was limited in its choice of burgers: There was no midway between its standard $8 burger and its $14 “Ricky Burger,” topped with ham, egg, two cheeses and various other ingredients.

So I ordered a patty melt, which for comparison’s sake may have been as close as I could come. Grilled between two slices of lightly marbled rye bread, it was built around a thinner but broader ground-beef patty with grilled onions and Swiss cheese.

The Depot had by far the most expansive menu of my three stops. It included five entree salads, including an “orange chicken” salad, a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, a dozen breakfasts served daily until 11 a.m., and meal menus for seniors and children under 10.

I found the decor a wee bit intimidating for a boy from the big city of Bend. The entry through swinging saloon-style doors had me wondering if I was walking into a logging camp, an impression reinforced by the sawn-timber furnishings.

But hospitality was warm and efficient, even as I was cautioned not to return for a week after Sept. 27: The owners are closing to take their children on a family vacation to California’s Six Flags amusement park!

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

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