MAVERICK’S COUNTRY BAR & GRILL

Food: () Inconsistent: I recommend the elk chili and the cheesesteak.

Service: () Servers pleasant but inattentive, never returning to table after initial service

Atmosphere: () Classic country music bar with billiards and Western movie stills

More Info

Location: 20565 NE Brinson Blvd. (at Boyd Acres Road), Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to close every day

Cuisine: American

Price range: Starters $4 to $12, salads $9 to $15, burgers and sandwiches $7 to $13, steaks $17 and $18

Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: No

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Veggie platter $8

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Outdoor seating: Patio accommodates a couple of dozens

Reservations: Suggested for large parties

Contact: maverickscountrybar.com, 541-382-4270

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If you’re a fan of country music artists like Blake Shelton, Tracy Lawrence and Lady Antebellum, there may be no better place in Central Oregon to be entertained than Maverick’s Country Bar & Grill. That’s especially true if you like to kick up your heels and dance.

But the northeast Bend establishment is not the restaurant that it was when I last visited in September 2011.

Maverick’s music scene isn’t as vigorous as it once was. Owner Mike Schoelz rarely books bands these days, although a country DJ plays music for dancing Thursday through Saturday nights. One-hour dance lessons are offered on those evenings at 8 p.m., encouraged by a large hardwood dance floor, with couples’ swing and two stepping on Thursdays, line dancing the other two nights.

For nondancers, there are three pool tables and a Ping-Pong table on the opposite side of the bar, with an outdoor bocce ball court beside heated patio seating. TVs above the central bar are tuned to sports channels. But a mechanical bull is long gone, along with an erstwhile barber shop that was briefly replaced by a cannabis dispensary.

A transformation

Years ago, Maverick’s was a biker bar called the Black Horse Saloon. Schoelz oversaw its transformation from “Easy Rider” to “Pale Rider” to give a legion of country-music lovers a place to call their own. A giant, eight-spoke wagon wheel is suspended above the bar. Black-and-white stills from famous Western movies — Newman and Redford as Butch and Sundance, Clark Gable with Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Gary Cooper — hang on the walls.

Several years ago, the servers wore boots and cowboy hats and played the parts of co-conspirators in a Wild West rodeo. Perhaps they still do that on dance nights, but on my two recent visits — one evening, one midday — the staff (doing double duty between the bar and dining area) wore simple T-shirts that didn’t add anything special to the atmosphere.

That would have been fine if the service had been better.

The front end of our dinner was fine. Once we seated ourselves, menus were delivered, and drink and food orders were quickly taken. But after our meals were presented, we neither saw nor heard from our server again. There was no, “How is your food?” No, “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

There was no offer of a second beer or cider when ours were finished.

A takeout lunch offered fewer opportunities for inattention, but I was never offered a beer or cocktail when I sat at the counter to order. Water sufficed.

Menu choices

Perhaps inevitably after seven years, the menu has been redesigned and condensed. Where there were once 15 burgers, there are just seven. There are also nine other sandwiches, five salads and a couple of steaks. Ten mainly deep-fried “starters” include typical bar snacks like pickle chips, cheese sticks and nachos.

My companion and I started with an order of wings (eight for $8.75, a dozen for $10.75). The drumsticks clearly did not come from a large chicken. But they were perfectly cooked, coated in barbecue sauce with a mild tang. (Buffalo, teriyaki and sweet chili flavors were also available.)

The soup of the day was jambalaya. I thought it was excellent. Thick with rice, it featured chicken and chorizo sausage, chopped tomato, carrot and bell pepper. And it had a nice bite.

With romaine lettuce on the “do not eat” list, Maverick’s house salad added an unusual amount of frisee to its mixed spring greens. It was topped with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese and, per my friend’s request, a sweet honey-mustard dressing.

My friend’s choice of a main course was the North Western elk chili burger ($12) with coleslaw. A grilled hamburger patty was topped with the restaurant’s signature elk chili, finished with shredded cheese and green onions, and served on a toasted burger bun. She thoroughly enjoyed it. The slaw, on the other hand, was sloppy — simple white cabbage mixed with too much mayonnaise.

Steak options

My entree choice was a 10-ounce rib-eye ($18), trumpeted on the menu as “the John Wayne of steaks,” hand-cut in-house. I doubt the Duke would have been pleased. The meat was only a quarter-inch thick (I measured it) and was extremely fatty. By the time I had trimmed the excess fat, I felt that I had been short-changed.

Instead of the cup of sour cream served with the meat, I would have preferred creamy horseradish, but I never could catch the server’s eye to make that request.

Perhaps the sour cream was intended to complement the twice-baked potato. I liked the spud’s filling, mixed with bacon and cheese, but the scooped-out potato was undercooked. The meal came with “seasonal mixed vegetables” that included grilled red and green peppers, onions, yellow squash and zucchini.

When I returned for lunch and a North Ridge cheesesteak sandwich ($13), I found its meat was much better than that of the steak entree. Eight ounces of grilled sirloin was sliced as thick as the rib-eye, and the beef was far leaner.

My sandwich came on a good, lightly toasted hoagie roll. The meat was topped with sauteed onions and bell peppers, melted pepper-jack cheese and — bonus! — a drizzle of creamy horseradish. The accompanying fries were delicious.

The lunch special that day was a chipotle chicken wrap ($5), and it was a bargain for the price. The chopped chicken breast meat was blended with black beans, corn kernels, chopped tomato and greens, and dressed with ranch dressing. The lunch was served with tater tots and rolled in a lightly grilled tortilla.

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

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