ZPIZZA AND TAP ROOM

Food: () Some of the pizzas are pretty good, but skip the salads and sandwiches.

Service: () Counter service can be slow, but management is anxious to please.

Atmosphere: () Sports TV provides minimal ambiance, but a large patio is a draw.

More Info

Location: Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn, 1082 SW Yates Drive, Suite 110, Bend

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, to 9 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Pizza and salads

Price range: Appetizers $3.95 to $9.95, salads and sandwiches $7.50 to $9.50, pizzas $7.75 to $21.50 (slice $3.25)

Credit cards: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: The Berkeley Vegan is one of several vegetarian pizzas, and “pizza salads” have cauliflower crusts.

Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine and cider

Outdoor seating: Spacious patio area

Reservations: Large parties only

Contact: zpizza.com/bend, 541-382-2700

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

The owners of Bend’s new Best Western Premier Peppertree Inn, at Mt. Washington and Century drives, may have missed the boat in choosing the type of restaurant that now serves its clientele.

Pizza and beer are not in short supply in Central Oregon. I can only imagine that Zpizza and Tap Room, this state’s first and only franchise of a Southern California-based chain, will be challenged to attract local diners — especially when there are better options nearby.

For a night or two, short-term guests at the BW Premier might be happy enough with the modestly priced pizza slices, sandwiches and salads available at Zpizza. But there are better choices nearby — burgers and entrees at the Cascade Lakes Brewing Company Lodge, epicurean pizzas and salads (and more beer taps) at Pacific Pizza & Brew, and a slew of gourmet offerings at Bistro 28 in the Athletic Club of Bend.

None is much more than half a mile from the new hotel. All of them have warmer atmospheres and more distinctive service.

I would have wanted to provide my guests with something they couldn’t find within easy walking distance of the hotel, such as a selection of moderately priced, traditional American entrees. A full-service coffee shop and cafe might have been a better fit for the location.

A place for pizza

Instead, we have Zpizza and Tap Room, with its cordial counter service and 18 taps, most offering local craft choices. (By contrast, Pacific Pizza has 28 taps.)

The space isn’t huge, and decor is minimal, but it’s modern and comfortable. In warmer weather, 50 or more guests can share a street-side patio. A similar number might enjoy the main dining room, with room for overflow in an adjoining breakfast room linked to the hotel. I counted seven overhead televisions tuned to sports channels.

The corporate menu lists 15 pizzas available for order, with three or four available by the slice ($3.25) at any given time. Among those, my favorites are the Zcarnivore and the ZBQ.

As its name might suggest, the Zcarnivore is a meat lover’s delight, with smoked ham and bacon, fennel sausage and pepperoni, sliced tomato and oregano on a layer of mozzarella and house-made marinara sauce.

The ZBQ features bites of marinated chicken breast in a barbecue sauce with roasted red peppers, red onions, Roma tomatoes, fresh cilantro and kernels of sweet corn. And the crust is delicious on both.

The Napoli was similar to a Margherita pizza, with freshly sliced Roma tomatoes and leaves of basil on mozzarella and tomato sauce. But a roasted garlic sauce was too “in your face” to satisfy. And a simple pepperoni pizza was unduly oily.

Down to the bone

Although I enjoyed the Zcarnivore, it had a problem: Baked into the mozzarella was something sharp and hard. The piece of bone I discovered was proof positive that the ham had been cooked and chopped in-house. On the other hand, I might easily have broken a tooth.

I delivered the bone chip to a server. She informed the manager, who did the right thing. Instead of shrugging off the incident, he offered to pay for my meal. And he went the extra mile, providing me with a $25 gift certificate for a return visit.

The ironic thing is, I’m not sure I want to return — not even for the budget-friendly “3 for $9.95” deal, which offers a slice of pizza, a small salad or half sandwich, and a beer for under $10. There are also extended daily happy hours (3 to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to close) with 20 percent off all slices, appetizers, beer and wine.

Regrettably, I could have had a better turkey sandwich at the nearby OSU-Cascades cafeteria. The menu touted a “fresh baked baguette,” dressed with mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, but there was nothing fresh about it. The sliced turkey with cranberry sauce, provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato was far from memorable.

The two salads I had were worse. Neither my dining companion nor myself could take more than a couple of bites of the pear-and-gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts; pre-assembled Safeway packages are better. The slices of pear were turning brown and the balsamic vinaigrette dressing was unpleasantly sharp.

A Caesar salad was more palatable but totally undistinguished. I wasn’t surprised that the chopped romaine, with shaved Parmesan and a creamy, garlic-free dressing, had no anchovy paste; but it wasn’t even served with croutons.

Founded in Orange County, California, in 1986, the Zpizza group began to franchise in 2000. Today, it has 38 restaurants in seven states (mainly California) and another four restaurants overseas. The only other Zpizza in the Northwest is in Kennewick, Washington.

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

21523290