I can’t imagine a better place to relax on the grass beside the Deschutes River, to enjoy a cold draft beer and a hearty snack, than the Bend Brewing Company.
Since the brewpub (popularly known as the BBC) doubled its real estate with a spacious adjoining lot, a new parking lot and lawn space above Mirror Pond have provided a new ambiance for spring and summer visitors. Picnic tables and cornhole targets make this a wonderful outdoor space for families.
Built in 1995 as the second-oldest brewery in Bend (after Deschutes Brewing), the concrete-block BBC building is ringed on two sides by a raised deck that may be the pub’s most popular seating area.
Indoors, the mood is darker and more austere, accented mainly by three televisions, typically tuned to sporting events, and a display of many of the brewery’s top awards. Reggae and contemporary rock tunes play in the background, and brew tuns (beer storage containers) may be seen peeking through windows above the central bar.
Menu less gourmet
The menu is neither as diverse nor as gourmet as it was when I last reviewed in the spring of 2013. Six years ago, I could find dishes like a butternut squash ravioli and a tri-tip steak and spinach salad. Today, unless they are daily specials, there are no steaks or pastas.
The BBC’s menu focuses mainly on finger food — chips and dips, nachos, pretzels — along with burgers and other sandwiches, tacos, salads and a few other plates.
On my first visit, I sat on a deck table with a pint of Outback Amber Ale and dined on chicken wings and a Caesar salad. There was nothing remarkable about either.
The salad ($8) was a chop of hearts of romaine, tossed with a lemony house Caesar dressing and shredded Parmesan. Croutons, made in-house from different breads, were excellent, but the greens were forgettable.
Ditto the wings, unfortunately. My choice of honey-barbecue dressing (hot-and-spicy and honey-garlic were also available) added more sloppiness than zest to my order of 10 wings ($14.50; five are priced at $9.50). Carrot and celery sticks, and blue cheese dressing, were good accompaniments. But a napkin is sadly inadequate when it comes to cleaning chicken-wing fingers.
After my initial order, my server was mostly scarce. She was friendly enough, but rarely made her presence known. Each time I wanted to engage her, I had to flag her down. Check, please? Boxes for leftovers? What about that takeout order I had mentioned earlier?
Good burger and fish
The takeout was a bacon guacamole burger ($14) with sweet-potato waffle fries for my usual dining companion, who hadn’t joined me at the BBC. She was very pleased with her meal.
The plump patty of ground beef was sourced from local cattle, which had been fed the same barley malt as the BBC uses in its beers. The meat was served on a gluten-free brioche bun with the promised crispy bacon and avocado spread, and finished with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and house-recipe burger sauce.
On a separate visit, I sat inside and ordered “Bend’s Best Fish & Chips” ($15, or $11 for a half order).
I can’t say these were the best fish and chips in town, but they were right up there. The batter that enveloped the four generous chunks of Pacific cod was crisp and tasty, made with the brewery’s own Metolius Golden Ale. And it was mercifully thin enough to allow the fish to express its own flavor. I never enjoy a breading that masks the main event.
The accompanying coleslaw was a disappointment. Neither sweet nor tart, the white cabbage had an unpleasant earthy flavor. I pushed it aside.
But the dusted house-cut fries were excellent, as was the tartar sauce with an herbal sprinkle of tarragon. I requested a second portion for my fish and fries.
“I always get extra for my fish, too!” exclaimed my server.
By contrast to my previous attendant, she was delightful, frequently checking back to assure that I was happy with my food and drink. (In this case, it was an Oregon pinot gris — the brewpub also offers a selection of nine wines by the glass.) It’s often said that good help is hard to find in the restaurant industry, but it’s always gratifying to see when it’s out there.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org