When you roll into a new place for vacation, one of the first things you want to do is find a great, local place to grab a bite to eat. You didn’t drive up from the Bay Area to pop into an Applebees, right? Central Oregon is chock full of amazing local restaurants sure to fit into every culinary category.
Here are some of our favorite spots – we’d say “secret spots” but they’re pretty popular places and, well, nothing in Central Oregon is a secret anymore.
Pizza – Pizza Mondo in downtown Bend is hands-down the locals’ favorite place to get a slice or whole pie. In fact, the tiny little pizza joint has been named Bend’s Favorite Pizza by readers of the local Source Weekly newspaper every year since it opened in 1996. I mean, c’mon. A lot of pizza shops have come and gone since then – yet “Mondo” remains at the top. And for good reason. Local tip: There’s a basket of brownies at the counter where you pay. Buy one.
Seafood – The Pine Tavern has been a staple of downtown Bend since 1936 for one simple reason: It’s just a great place to get classic American comfort food. And for many locals it’s the go-to spot for some delectable seafood entrees, including baked salmon stuffed with Dungeness crab, bay shrimp, brie and cream cheese. Local’s tip: Don’t fill up on the sourdough scones that come before dinner. Save them and take them home for a perfect late night snack.
Burgers – Nearly all of Central Oregon’s brewpubs have amazing burgers on the menu, but if you really want to dine like a local, go a little under the radar and check out Hardy’s Hot Wings, Hamburgers and Ice Cream. No frills or bells or whistles, just a wide variety of tasty hamburgers and the most Buffalo-esque wings in town. (Ask about the hot-wing challenge.)
Dessert – 900 Wall in downtown Bend is known for great food and an amazing Happy Hour, but it’s most popular dishes might just be found on the dessert menu. My wife and I sometimes will plan a date night just for the powdered sugar beignets. They come with a bittersweet chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, and vanilla mouse for dipping.
Italian – Bend’s had its fair share of Italian restaurants open and close over the years, but one has stood the test of time: Marcello’s Cucina Italiana in Sunriver. A staple of classic Italian fare with a PNW twist, Marcello’s has been filling bellies since 1980. You’ll find all the classics like lasagna, chicken parm and spaghetti, but also a few surprises like salmon-n-chips, pork osso bucco, penne arrabiata. Local tip: Stop in on a Wednesday for $10 all you can eat spaghetti – including a side salad or cup of soup & homemade bread.
Brewpub – Now this one gets a bit tricky. Ask five locals their favorite brewpub and you’re more than likely going to get five different answers. Some love Crux Fermentation Project and their huge, grassy yard that feels more like a neighborhood party than a restaurant. Some are old school Deschutes Brewery fans who’ll tell you about the good ole days when the joint was way smaller (but the beer was just as good.) Bend Brewing Co. has staked its claim as being the locals favorite for years while newcomers Sunriver Brewing Co. now boasts popular hangouts in both Sunriver and Bend. My favorite? I’m always partial to Deschutes Brewery where I can belly up to the bar for a burger and a pint of the pub-only Bachelor Bitter. It doesn’t get any more local than that.
Breakfast – Everyone knows the best breakfasts come from the smallest, most quaint spots in town. That’s true to form in Central Oregon where Sparrow Bakery stands out. The original Scott Street location is a tiny little brick building in the Old Iron Works Art District while the newer Northwest Crossing spot is a bit larger, more modern pastry oasis. Ask anyone in town and they’ll say Sparrow’s “Ocean Roll” is among the best pastries anywhere. If you’re looking for something a little more “stick to your ribs,” check out McKay Cottage in Bend. The breakfast landmark has amazing pancakes, eggs benedict and much more in a quaint riverside location.