When Hardy Lussier opened his restaurant in Bend in 2005, he went for what he knew - fun, flavor and fire.
Lussier opened Hardy's Hot Wings and Hamburgers in January 2005 to give Bend a taste of the flavorful and sometimes fiery chicken wings he served in his former restaurant of the same name in Denver.
”I'm going back to what I like best,” said Lussier (pronounced loo-see-ay).
What he likes best are hot wings, fried chicken wings flavored with one of 12 types of spices or sauces, from sweet to hot and everything in between.
Lussier, 40, spent 20 years in Denver working at a variety of restaurants. He ran his own Hardy's Hot Wings and Hamburgers in Denver for three years before selling and moving with his family to Oregon.
After a year on the Oregon coast, the Lussier family came to Bend, where the climate was more like Denver's high desert. Lussier fiddled around in a sales job for a while before deciding to get back to restaurants.
”I just have a real passion for the restaurant industry, period,” he said. ”You're meeting a need. They come in hungry and it's so gratifying to know that you satisfied their need. The greatest thing is when they come back.”
Hardy's takes its name from Lussier's nickname.
His given name, Eilhard, just doesn't fit as well in casual conversation, he said.
The restaurant is situated in the heart of Bend, occupying a tiny space that has been home to a couple of Mexican restaurants and, before that, Amanda's Cafe.
Lussier gave the place a makeover when he moved in, painting the inside a pristine white and commissioning a wall mural from local artist Chris Friesen.
The mural shows the Cascade Mountain skyline over a stylized map of Bend with a number of local landmarks and obscure facts. It's replete with accurate images of Bend's roundabout art in all the proper places.
Hardy's also features one of the largest collections of Coca Cola memorabilia in town. And look to one memorable section of the restaurant to find Polaroid photos of the 20 brave souls who successfully ate 15 of Hardy's Freakin' Hot wings in 15 minutes - a feat not for the faint of heart, or of taste bud.
Hot wing flavors run the gamut, from mild to fire-extinguisher-required, but also include flavors like teriyaki, honey mustard and the oh-so-sweet Coca Cola.
Buy them by the piece (six for $4.50; up to 100 for $46.50) or in the daily wing special ($7.25 for 10 wings with a fountain drink and celery).
Burgers are available in quarter- or half-pound sizes and come with fries ($6.95 or $7.95, plus additional charges for add-ons like cheese, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, bacon or avocado).
Rounding out the menu are a variety of fried treats, including clam strips ($8.95, including fries and cole slaw), lots of vegetables, cheese sticks and even pickles. That's right - fried pickles. Lussier said that since most of his menu items spend some time in the fryer, he buys premium corn-canola fry oil for quality results. For the calorie-conscious, salads and cold sandwiches are available.
About half of Hardy's sales are from takeout orders, and he takes pride in getting orders done quickly. ”There's no worse or longer time period than when you're waiting to get fed,” he said. Customers can preorder and prepay for food on special occasions, then just walk in and take it home without waiting.
Historically, Lussier said, Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year, and he's opening for special hours Sunday to accommodate hungry fans. It's wings only that day - no burgers or other items. But football and hot wings, Lussier said, are a natural combination.
Just be sure to bring the fire extinguisher.
HARDY'S HOT WINGS AND HAMBURGERS
Location: 238 NE Third St., Bend
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Super Bowl Sunday
Price Range: $4.50 to $7.95
Alcoholic Beverages: None
Kids' Menu: Available
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit Cards: Visa and MasterCard