Macy Crowe
The Bulletin

Want to go?

French Market is located at 285 NW Riverside Boulevard in Bend. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

A decorative bicycle basket filled with flowers welcomes restaurant visitors. Inside, a large cheese wheel in a glass case draws immediate curiosity. Chefs are busy preparing food in the kitchen behind, and French music plays softly throughout the dining room.

The Liptons, who had been longing to open a European-style cafe in the Western United States while living abroad, bought the former Riverside Market and Pub in May 2016, and opened The French Market last month.

The French Market offers chef-made cuisine derived from southern France and northern Spain.

The shop offers fresh breads from Sparrow Bakery, cheeses and meats, pates, fruits and vegetables, condiments, olives, pastries, bottled refreshments and more. European cheeses and specialty smoked meats sold at the shop are not often available in Central Oregon.

The location on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and McCann Avenue is tucked away between houses on the outskirts of Drake Park and has an opportunity to become a go-to locale for nearby residents.

“I liked (the location) because I thought it was a unique place,” Philip Lipton said. “We have a lot of people living around us, and we can fill their need for a nice place to eat.”

The Riverside Market and Pub was known as a “dive bar” in the area, frequented by locals as a neighborhood hangout, Lipton explained. Surrounding residents became intolerant of the noise and late-night pub guests as more families moved into the area.

“I know that the patrons of the Riverside Market are disappointed that we didn’t continue that type of venue for them, but I also know that the residents of the neighborhood are just delighted and excited that we are here,” Judy Lipton said.

The French Market is very different from past inhabitants. Before the Riverside Market and Pub, it was home to the oldest gas station in Bend.

Ooh la la

While dining on French cuisine, patrons can see through a glass case of meats and cheeses to the kitchen. Chefs prepare the meals, and a colorful bar manned by Flash — the house bartender — brings the atmosphere to life. Flowers decorate the exterior where there is ample patio seating. Children can play in an outdoor area with a play structure and several gardening beds.

Outside, the sound of a small fountain overshadows the neighborhood noise and adds to the ambiance.

The Liptons wanted to recreate the experience of a cafe in Spain or France. “We really like the European style, where you can sit outside at a cafe, and you can have your dog at your feet — life was very easy and very sweet,” Philip Lipton said.

Well-seasoned owners

The Liptons are not newbies to the restaurant scene. Judy has co-owned eight restaurants and catering businesses: two in Napa Valley and six in San Francisco.

The husband and wife met in San Francisco while Philip was running his own paper goods store. After San Francisco, they lived in Ketchum, Idaho, for 25 years raising a family before deciding to move to Europe. The couple lived for two years in France and three years in Spain before moving back to the states. The Liptons chose to live in Bend to be near their daughter and son-in-law.

A French affair

Casual French fare is one of the few Central Oregon food niches that have not been filled. “If you look around town, what don’t they have?” Philip Lipton said. “Bend doesn’t need another pizza place. It doesn’t need another hamburger place because there are restaurants doing a terrific job filling those niches. We were trying to offer a style of food that wouldn’t step on anyone’s toes.”

While many restaurants serve foods with roots in French cooking techniques, French Market is Bend’s only French bistro. Luke Mason, who cooked for Aziza, a Michelin star restaurant in San Francisco, is the executive chef. He’s worked hard to develop the eatery’s menu. The choices consist of items you would find in France’s southern countryside and northern Spain’s Catalonia region.

“I think people think of Parisian French, which can have a lot of intricate sauces and be very elaborate,” Lipton said. “But if you travel around, French country cooking is something completely different.”

Pizzas and paninis dominate the lunch menu at the French Market. For an evening appetizer, charcuterie and cheese board selections are recommended. “I think a cheese plate is a really fun, communal thing to start off with,” Mason said. Dinner offerings also include a long list of tapas. Some of the house favorites are the glazed pork belly, and the grilled rapini with saffrito and cured egg yolk.

Not enough? The dinner menu is extensive. A few of examples of what is available: a roasted Muscovy duck breast, a roasted Oregon line-caught king salmon, a fresh pasta rigatoni and a pizza topped with duck confit.

But don’t be surprised if the menu differs each visit. The offerings will change frequently with the season. The restaurant has a partnership with Agricultural Connections, a local food source supplying produce and meat from Central Oregon farms and ranches. Those fresh ingredients are routinely involved in the menu. On a recent occasion, the chef created a pureed roasted eggplant spread and served it atop crostini using locally grown eggplants.

A marketplace and a restaurant

When the Liptons sought a permit for their new restaurant, the city granted it on the condition the location also include a market. While that hadn’t been part of the couple’s original plan, the Liptons embrace the opportunity.

The couple want to increase the store’s inventory in the future.

“What we’d hope to do is broaden our produce perspectives and also have more deli items as far as eggs and things like that, where you could really come here and get everything you need to actually make a meal,” Mason said.

“Judy and I have a vision that this would be like a neighborhood bistro. It’s the kind of place you could come when you’re in a variety of moods,” Philip Lipton said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0351 or mcrowe@bendbulletin.com

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