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Restaurant review: Great Harvest Bread Co.

Good sandwiches, no GMOs at Bend bakery/deli


Great Harvest Bread Co. is best known at mealtimes for its sandwiches. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Lauren Richardson, 19, of Bend, makes a turkey sandwich inside Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
A Tuscan Chicken Panini from Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Lauren Richardson, 19, of Bend, makes a turkey sandwich at Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
A loaf of challah bread at Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
A turkey sandwich being made at Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Customers wait to be helped inside Great Harvest Bread Co. in Bend. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Great Harvest Bread Co. is best known at mealtimes for its sandwiches. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
A Tuscan Chicken Panini cooks inside the panini grill at Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Kylie Kinyon, 22, of Bend, ties and packages loafs of bread at Great Harvest Bread Co. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Sandwich knives sit inside Great Harvest Bread Co. in Bend. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)
Various loaves of bread sit inside Great Harvest Bread Co. in Bend. (Meg Roussos / The Bulletin)

The buzz about genetically modified organisms — known simply as GMOs to the average diner — has reached a crescendo in food-conscious communities.

Although many restaurants, franchise groups in particular, may turn a blind eye to GMOs, the Montana-based Great Harvest Bread Co. is taking an active role in avoiding them. In fact, the corporate website declares: “We can confidently say that our wheat is not genetically engineered” — at least in part, the company says, because it is commercially unavailable in this country.

But Cloyd Robinson, owner of Great Harvest’s franchise in downtown Bend, takes his dedication to GMO-free

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The buzz about genetically modified organisms — known simply as GMOs to the average diner — has reached a crescendo in food-conscious communities.

Although many restaurants, franchise groups in particular, may turn a blind eye to GMOs, the Montana-based Great Harvest Bread Co. is taking an active role in avoiding them. In fact, the corporate website declares: “We can confidently say that our wheat is not genetically engineered” — at least in part, the company says, because it is commercially unavailable in this country.

But Cloyd Robinson, owner of Great Harvest’s franchise in downtown Bend, takes his dedication to GMO-free foods a step further.

“We are doing our best to eliminate all traces of GMOs in our products that we can,” Robinson says in a statement circulated at his restaurant.

Robinson said his bakers use honey and molasses to sweeten the bread. “We feel that the flavor and nutrition is far superior to something like evaporated cane juice or high-fructose corn syrup,” says his statement. “We see other bread companies promoting the health of their product, but compromising on important principles like this.

“In fact, our basic Honey Whole Wheat bread includes five ingredients — whole-grain wheat, honey, yeast, salt and water. That’s it. Simple and healthy.”

Great Harvest was established in 1976 and became the nation’s first whole-grain bread franchiser in 1983. Today, it has more than 200 stores across the West and Midwest.

Specialty breads

It’s no surprise that the Great Harvest bakery on Bond Street in downtown Bend is best known at mealtimes for its sandwiches, at breakfast as well as lunch time.

This is an order-and-pay-up-front establishment. Counter service is very friendly and as prompt as the person who’s in line ahead of you — but don’t be surprised if you have a 10-minute wait while your custom-order sandwich is being prepared.

A half-dozen tables can seat a couple of dozen patrons, who may sip a coffee or cold beverage as they wait. There is a handful of seasonal outdoor seats, as well.

There are many bread selections. Regular customers visit not only for a sandwich, but to buy a loaf or two for the family. In addition to Honey Whole Wheat, Great Harvest offers Farmhouse White, made with whole wheat and white flour.

Specialty breads, often but not always available, include Dakota (whole grain with pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, as well as millet) and Nine Grain (whole, white and red wheat, barley, buckwheat, corn, flax, millet, oats and rye — which is, in fact, 10 grains). There’s also cinnamon raisin walnut, Egyptian spelt, cranberry orange and spinach feta.

Sandwich choices

I chose lightly toasted Honey Wheat for my breakfast sandwich. Several slices of Black Forest ham were layered with a two-egg omelet, provolone and cheddar cheeses, and a light mayonnaise-style spread. Slices of tomato and leaves of spinach were on the side.

It didn’t compare up to my favorite breakfast sandwich in Bend — that’s at the Sparrow Bakery — but it was a far cry better than any $5 fast-food option, for approximately the same price.

I especially enjoyed the classic Swede Ridge sandwich: layers of cold, thinly sliced smoked turkey served on grainy, untoasted Dakota bread with a Dijon mustard spread. Two nicely seasoned slices of tomato, finely sliced red onions, a romaine leaf and a slice of Swiss cheese finished this excellent sandwich.

The grilled Smith Rock roast beef sandwich was also very good. The sliced beef wasn’t rare, but it was tender, and it was served with aged provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, onions, spinach and tomato slices. The Nine Grain bread boasted a tangy spread of cheese, garlic and red peppers.

Never again

One sandwich that did not make the grade — in fact, my dining companion said she’d never order it again, and she often enjoys vegetarian options — was the Tasty Tempeh-tation.

Served on grilled focaccia as per the counter attendant’s suggestion, the squares of tempeh (a cultured soy cake traditional to Indonesia) lacked much flavor of their own, and their nutty consistency did nothing to complement the other ingredients of the sandwich: sweet-pickle relish, shredded carrot and romaine lettuce. A pesto and sundried-tomato spread did very little to rehabilitate focaccia that was unfortunately dry.

I’ll give credit to Great Harvest for attempting a veggie-friendly sandwich, however. For myself, I preferred the mini-bag of baby carrots that came with my order instead of potato chips.

The bakery also has an excellent selection of cakes and pastries for visitors with a hankering for sweets.

‘Freedom franchise’

Robinson takes tremendous pride in his product, as noted in a letter on his website: “Great Harvest Bread has been a huge part of my life for 25 years,” he said, noting that Bend’s store is a “freedom franchise.”

“The ‘freedom’ part means that I get to run my business in a way that meets my community’s unique needs,” he writes. “The ‘franchise’ part gives me access to the recipes and processes that Great Harvest has continuously improved for over three decades.”

“It has been a pleasure to use the same discretion in what I would feed my family as to what I would provide for my community,” Robinson continues on the website. “Details like … offering organic (and gluten-free) bread options, never using corn syrup, doing everything possible to avoid GMOs, these are just a few of the things that you can count on in this bakery.”

— Reporter: janderson@bendbulletin.com

Great Harvest Bread Co.

Location: 835 NW Bond St., Bend

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Lunch sandwiches served 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Price range: Sandwiches $4.75 to $6.95

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Kids‘ menu: Pastries and half sandwiches

Vegetarian menu: Choices include the “Tasty Tempeh-tation” vegetarian sandwich

Alcoholic beverages: No

Outdoor seating: Several tables

Reservations: No

Contact: 541-389-2888, www.bendoregon.greatharvestbread.com

Scorecard

Overall: B+

Food: B+. Healthy bread, good sandwiches, but the “Tempeh-Tation” scored a big miss.

Service: A-. Counter service is friendly and as prompt as the person in line ahead of you.

Atmosphere: B. Spacious bakery but limited seating with only a half-dozen tables.

Value: A. Even the biggest sandwiches are priced no more than $6.95.