Notable Chefs at the Best Restaurants in and around Bend, Oregon
A little known fact that visitors are picking up on, Bend is a foodie paradise. There’s something about our creative, non-traditional attitude and emphasis on local ingredients that just makes great food. Luckily for visitors and locals alike, there are several chefs running Bend kitchens that constantly push boundaries, experiment, and create delicious and innovative dishes across a diverse array of cuisines.
Chef Jeff Hunt at Globally-Inspired Spork
The international cuisine served at Spork, like lomo saltado, tacos and tomato peanut curry, is inspired by the head chef and owner’s travels across the globe. Jeff Hunt takes these various flavors and masterfully combines them in culture-crossing dishes that the New York Times has called “culinary magic.” The restaurant itself has a vibrant West Coast design combined with motifs from around the world: Tibetan prayer flags and photos from South Asian and South American travels line the space on the walls that have not already been covered in greenery.
Before gaining a permanent location, Spork was one of the top-rated food carts in Bend for several years. From their opening in 2013 to now, the restaurant has one several first-place awards and runner-up places in “best of” contests from local newspaper The Source Weekly, such as best chef, best lunch spot and best casual dining.
Fine Dining with Chef Ariana Fernandez at Ariana
Ariana and her husband Andres Fernandez own and operate Ariana, an upscale restaurant described as Northwest cuisine with a Mediterranean flare. Chef Ariana brings her Italian roots into the kitchen with dishes like Sicillian calamari. The restaurant opened in 2004 when the husband and wife duo explored their chemistry in the kitchen, and Ariana’s parents offered to help fund the opening of the restaurant that would become one of Bend’s favorites.
Dishes at Ariana are always rotating and changing, based on what local ingredients are available seasonally. According to chef Ariana, the restaurant’s flavor has evolved overtime to truly reflect the flavors that surround them in Central Oregon. The duo describe themselves as “modern Americans who really enjoy Central Oregon and creating eclectic seasonal moments.”
Northern Thai Food with Chef Paul Itti at Wild Rose
Wild Rose is one of three restaurants owned by the Itti family from Thailand, and it has become a Bend-staple over the last few years. The food is specifically Northern Thai, which is traditionally a very rural cuisine and includes sticky rice, a variety of stir fry and curry noodle dishes, and tons of opportunities to snack on crispy pork and chili paste; you won’t find any pad Thai, chopsticks or Sriracha sauce here.
The chef and owner Paul Itti encourages diners to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. Itti himself hails from Northern Thailand, and brings with him a level of authenticity that is nearly unmatched. He has stated that the recipes he serves up at Wild Rose are what he cooks for himself and his family at home. Instead of inquiring about pad Thai or something with peanut sauce, he recommends going for the creamy, egg noodle soup called khao soi, a dish so popular it has developed a local cult following. Their website states “nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t order,” and the attitude is carried over in the restaurant which features dishes meant to be sampled and shared as a family. At the end of the day, Itti and the chefs at Wild Rose will cook the food exactly as they would cook it at home, with decades of experience in perfecting their recipes. It’s no wonder why Bend Magazine readers called them “the best takeout in Bend” in 2020.
Latin-Inspired Barrio with Chef Steven Draheim
Winner of the 2016 Readers’ Choice Award by The Source Weekly, the Latin-inspired Barrio has become a well-known Bend business. With humble beginnings as a food truck, chef Steven Draheim cooks up Mexican, Spanish, Southern American and American fusion dishes that have wowed visitors and locals for years; four different kinds of paella can be found right next to tacos, a Oaxacan cheeseburger and a local take on a popular Mexican street food, elote.
You can find these fusion dishes plus cocktails and micheladas at one of Barrio’s food truck locations, as they have paused their indoor dining operation in downtown Bend until further notice. Until then, guests can dine outdoors with any Barrio food truck, or consider picking up a to-go meal. The downtown location is offering meal bundles made for either a family of four, or a couple on date night, to help make having delicious family meals at home a bit easier.
Well-Known Zydeco with Chef Steve Helt
Named the restaurant of the year in 2020 by The Source Weekly, Zydeco is an upscale, American restaurant serving Northwest cuisine with Southern flare. The award was won in part due to Zydeco’s groundbreakingly delicious food, but also because the restaurant provided thousands of high-quality meals to those in need during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Head chef Steve Helt, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Cheri Helt, is the brains behind the culinary side of the operation. Constantly reinventing and reimagining well-known dishes, Helt serves up shrimp andouille and crawfish jambalaya alongside mouthwatering and perfectly cooked local cuts of meat. Local farmers are the ones providing the veggies for the roasted beet salad and the vegetable risotto. Helt is also a member of the nationally-acclaimed and peer-reviewed BCA, or Best Chefs America, an organization of highly-talented chefs who provide inside knowledge and judge the quality of other chefs in ways that non-chefs just aren’t able to. Among his peers, Helt is known as one of the best American chefs. Don’t believe us? Go taste the difference at Zydeco.
Historic 900 Wall with Chef Cliff Eslinger
Award-winning service, an award-winning happy hour and a head chef published in “Best Chefs in America”; do you need more reason to try out 900 Wall? The food, headed by chef Cliff Eslinger, is best described as upscale, modern American cuisine with French and Italian influences. The dinner menu boasts some unique dishes, including some of the best beef carpaccio around. The prosciutto pizza with truffle oil will satisfy any palate, while entrees like the duck confit and the sockeye salmon masterfully combine American and European ingredients and flavors.
Boutique American Steakhouse Bos Taurus with Chef George Morris
Chef George Morris remembers having his love of cooking cultivated at a young age. At just seven years old, he recalls watching a TV show where Julia Child prepared coq au vin, a French dish of chicken cooked in wine, and remembers his parents taking him to a French bistro soon after. From there, his love of cooking blossomed and he refined his skills at the Culinary Institute of America. Now, he’s not only the head chef at the upscale steak house, Bos Taurus, he also oversees the culinary operations at two other popular Bend spots, Miyagi Ramen in the box factory and Hablo Tacos in east Bend.
To ensure Bos Taurus has the highest quality beef around, Morris originally selected 75 different cuts of meat from 13 ranches, and after meticulously taste-testing each one, he selected about a dozen steaks from five ranches to serve. Morris and his staff pride themselves on being able to cook the perfect steak on a daily basis, and this level of expertise has landed Bos Taurus on several award spots, including Bend Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for the best restaurant in Central Oregon.
Chef Eslinger is originally from upstate New York where he worked in restaurants as a teenager. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he moved to Bend and broke into the culinary scene at Merenda Restaurant and later at a Japanese-fusion restaurant called Deep. In 2009, Eslinger helped open 900 Wall and it wasn’t too long after when he was included on the advisory board for Bend’s Cascade Culinary Institute for his commitment to innovation, quality, and sourcing every ingredient as ethically and sustainably as possible.
Izakaya-style Ju:no with Chef Michi Nakanishi
Chef Michi Nakanishi originally immigrated to the United States from Japan when she was just 17 years old, after watching a popular 90s Japanese TV show that was set in Central Oregon. After falling in love with the Cascade peaks and juniper trees of the high desert that were seen in the show, Nakanishi settled in Bend, Oregon in 1997. Culinary experience from her childhood helped her find work at multiple Bend Japanese restaurants over the years, including Yoko’s, Kanpai and 5 Fusion. Now the owner of her own establishment, Ju:no, Nakanishi strives to bring a casual Izakaya vibe to Bend, fit with authentic Japanese flavors from her childhood.
An Izakaya is an informal Japanese bar that serves small plates, typically in a cozy environment. Nakanishi brings what she calls “true Japanese food” to the Podski food carts, where her restaurant is located inside the main building. Nakanishi has established a reputation for authentic and fresh flavors. Each dish, from the vibrant nigiri sushi and creative rolls to the gyoza, miso soup, soba noodles, tempura and more are all personally crafted by Nakanishi, as she is often the only chef in the kitchen. Dining at Ju:no can be compared to dining at a friend’s house, assuming that friend has decades of experience preparing fresh and authentic Japanese cuisine.
More inspiring stories, adventures, and tips & tricks for planning and experiencing the best Central Oregon has to offer.
Winter Tours You Have to Try in Bend and Central Oregon
Twinkling lights, fresh snow and fire pits bringing people together; it’s winter in Central Oregon! Bend and the surrounding towns within Central Oregon are great places to cozy up when the snow falls, and even better places to take part in winter recreation. Locals love to explore the nearby Cascade Mountains, with Mount Bachelor and plenty of sno parks located just a 30 minute drive away. Back in town, there are several breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries waiting to be sampled. With so much to do, it can be tough to know where to start. Luckily, tours in Central Oregon that showcase the best outdoor and indoor recreation are available to help visitors make the most of their winter vacations.
Best Hot Springs in Central Oregon, Bend & Beyond
Oregon is known for being an outdoor paradise; where else can travelers discover misty forests, snowy mountain peaks and vast desert expanses in one day? From the Cascade Mountains to the Painted Hills, volcanic activity has helped shape the many different landscapes of Oregon. Along with mountains and valleys, Oregon’s volcanic past helped create a host of hot springs scattered across the state. These hot springs are natural, hot pools of water—natural hot tubs. Some are more developed and have lodging nearby, while others feel completely remote and undiscovered. So whether it’s a soak under the stars in the high desert or a steamy pool in the forest, there’s a hot spring calling.
Ice Skating Rinks You Have to Try in Bend and Sunriver
Bend and Sunriver are two excellent winter destinations. The offering of winter activities in Central Oregon are immense. Snow typically falls fast and heavy and visitors get to experience a winter wonderland filled with snow capped Ponderosa pines and fresh powder. In such a winter wonderland, it makes sense that Bend and Sunriver would have a selection of ice skating spots. Whether guests choose to twirl on the ice, casually glide or just kick back with a hot cocoa while the kids play, a trip to the ice skating rink can help cap off any Central Oregon winter getaway.
The Ultimate Guide to Pumpkin Patches in Terrebonne, Oregon
Nothing signals the coming of fall quite like spending the day at a pumpkin patch. It’s tough to not feel the cozy spirit of the season when you’re solving a festive corn maze while bundled up and sipping a hot apple cider. Pumpkin patches in Central Oregon benefit from our desert climate and still get plenty of sunshine, even in late October. While smaller family farms all around the region will sometimes host fall events, the two most popular pumpkin patches both reside in Terrebonne: the Smith Rock Pumpkin Patch and the DD Ranch Pumpkin Patch.
Great Getaway: Sisters, Oregon
When pulling into Sisters from the West you’re greeted by a main-street cowboy town filled with local shops, western storefronts and lots of charm. But as you reach the far end of that main street (it’s actually U.S. Hwy. 20,) something different emerges. There’s some upscale lodging, a brewpub, movie theater, and spa that gives Sisters a whole new attitude.
Hopless in Central Oregon: Experience Scenic Cideries and Vino with a View
In an area dominated by craft beer, you might be wondering is there anything else on tap? The answer is, ‘Yes’. Central Oregon is home to award winning cideries and wineries and with postcard-worthy views from their tasting rooms – you won’t be disappointed. Named after the Three Sisters, Faith Hope and Charity Vineyards is just over 30 miles from Bend. It’s hard to complain about the drive though when furry faces from the Alpaca farm nearby greet you right before you turn onto the property.
Get Your “Ah-Ha” Beer Moment at Sunriver Brewing Company
Central Oregon can claim more breweries than quite a few states. We’re not exaggerating. Our region has 30+ breweries. That shows how much we care about craft beer but, it can make it tough to choose where to taste local brews, we get it!
Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway: Pull Off For a Central Oregon Adventure
The Cascade Lakes Scenic byway is one of the prettiest drives in the U.S. But it might be the most recreationally rich road you’ll ever drive too. From Bend southwest to the Highway 58 junction, the Oregon Route 372 cuts through 66 miles unique volcanic formations and geological beauty that offers everything that makes Central Oregon an outdoor lover’s paradise.
Grab a Pint & Catch a Game Central Oregon Style
Yes, Central Oregon is known as an outdoor adventure paradise where hiking, mountain biking and skiing are a way of life and the reason many people visit. But sometimes your team’s got a big game. And all you really want to do – even on your vacation – is find a great spot to watch it with a few more diehard fans.