Roszak’s Fish House (and Prime Rib)
Food: () Old-school preparations of seafood and other classic dishes.
Service: () Very friendly but efficiency suffers with a single dining-room server.
Atmosphere: () Faux garden decor in the dining room is superior to an austere lounge.
Location: 1230 NE Third St. , Bend
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Price range: Lunch $6.50 to $19.50; dinner starters $4.25 to $15, entrees $13 to $38.50
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Kids’ menu: On request
Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Vegetarian wrap, or request a meat-free salad; gluten-free dishes are so indicated
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Outdoor seating: No
Reservations: Recommended weekend nights and for large parties
For more area restaurant reviews, visit www.bend bulletin.com/restaurants
T he food was average at best. Service, while very friendly, tended toward inconsistent. The faux garden-style atmosphere of the main dining room did not extend to the austere, windowless lounge.
But the bartender-server wasn’t the least bit concerned. “This is not a high-pressure situation,” she said. “It’s mostly a bunch of regulars (who eat and drink here).”
And that’s what you need to know about Roszak’s Fish House, a fixture in Red Oaks Square on Third Street since owner Mike Roszak opened the restaurant in 1981.
The dining room has large windows that look across a concrete square surrounded by concrete-block buildings. Light wood tables are neatly arranged atop Kelly-green carpeting, with matching upholstery on the chairs. Stained-glass art, Tiffany-style lamps, silk plants and easy-listening music add to the soothing ambiance.
On my lunchtime visit, service was utterly filled with energy, thanks to a cheerful attendant who raced back and forth, between the dining room and kitchen and lounge, to take and deliver orders while filling drink requests. When I asked if the restaurant was understaffed on this day, she assured me it was not.
Roszak’s bills itself as a “fish house,” so my midday meal order was seafood linguine ($19.50).
Salmon, shrimp, scallops and a half-dozen manila clams were sauteed in white wine with chopped mushrooms, onions and Roma tomatoes, then tossed with linguine noodles in a light basil pesto. The fresh-frozen seafood was nicely cooked, even if the bay scallops turned out just a little bit rubbery.
My dining companion chose a shrimp Louis ($13.50). A classic Louis is made with tiny bay shrimp; Roszak’s version offered larger, nearly prawn-sized grilled shrimp. They were presented on a bed of fresh, chopped romaine and shredded red cabbage, together with carrot, cucumber, tomato, black olives and sliced hard-boiled egg. A helping of Thousand Island dressing came on the side.
On another visit to Roszak’s, we might have gone with fish and chips — $13 with cod, $17 with halibut — or an albacore tuna melt sandwich ($9.50). Surprisingly for a seafood-oriented restaurant, however, this one has a limited choice of fish during its 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. lunchtime.
There are plenty of meat-oriented dishes, however, including burgers ($7.50 to $10), wraps and sandwiches. I was tempted by one wrap called The Gobbler ($9.50), an herb tortilla filled with roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, cream cheese and chopped walnuts. The Stella Blue Reuben ($9.50) also sounds delicious, its pastrami and sauerkraut served on marbled rye bread with melted Swiss cheese and Thousand Island.
Dinner in the bar
My evening visit was a solo one. With no one to greet me at the host stand, I perused the dining room, saw three tables occupied — including one whose diners shuffled closed menus in front of them, wondering where they might find a server; I did an exit, stage left, to the bar.
The dinner menu offers a dozen seafood entrees from which to choose, compared to just four with meat (three beef, one chicken). The grilled halibut Parmesan ($20.50) and pecan-crusted salmon ($19) were inviting, but having enjoyed the seafood here, I opted for a steak entree.
The bartender doubled as my server, and she was terrific as soon as she had taken care of her regular clientele. That’s probably as it should have been. It didn’t take long before we were on a first-name basis.
My order was for a 7-ounce sirloin called Top ‘n’ Mushrooms ($18.50), “grilled to your specifications, topped with mushrooms and onions, served with vegetables and baked potato.” I started with a small salad that my server promised was “the best Caesar in town.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it was fine. Chopped romaine was tossed with a creamy, garlicky dressing, croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese.
Then, the fun began. As she came to take my finished salad plate, my server told me: “Honey, I’m sorry to tell you, but we’re out of baked potatoes.” They had plenty left for roasted potato skins for the bar menu, but none to accompany entrees. Rather than french fries, I settled for dirty rice.
When my steak arrived, it was anything but medium rare, as I had ordered. My server took one look at the well-done shoe leather and returned it to the kitchen, perhaps with some choice words for the cook. I had my meal again five minutes later with a sincere apology. The sauteed onions and mushrooms were perfect, and the meat was now exactly as I like it.
Roszak’s strikes me as the sort of place my late mother might have liked. In her 80s, she didn’t pay a lot of attention to atmosphere, other than what was provided by friendly servers. And she loved shrimp and prime rib. Roszak’s has both.
Mom would have started a dinner with a Shrimp Combo ($13), a mix of fried, grilled and coconut shrimp. And on any Friday or Saturday night, she would not have hesitated to order the 10-ounce prime rib special ($27).
She would have been sad, however, had there been no baked potatoes.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at email@example.com .