Oregon Trails: Life In Bend
If you own a dog, you need to visit Bend, Oregon.
If you love good food and craft beer, you need to visit Bend, Oregon.
If you want to sip chardonnay and lazily float down a river through the middle of town, you need to visit Bend, Oregon.
What's the best way to get there? If you don't mind flying in a smaller plane (I grip the handrails for dear life), United has a direct flight out of SFO to RDM (Redmond, OR) that's a little over an hour gate to gate. Otherwise, it's about a 10-hour drive from the Bay Area.
Once you land at the adorable airport that looks straight from the set of Wings, you drive about fifteen minutes to Bend. Breathe in the crisp clean air and wave to all of the friendly people who look like they've walked straight out of an REI catalog. (I immediately created a drinking game where I had to drink a beer every time I saw a car with a kayak attached to its roof.) And you can't miss all of the dogs. They're everywhere. On hiking trails. At restaurants. At bars. I may have flirted with one after a few too many beers (thanks self-imposed drinking game). He was a great listener.
But let's get into the Bend bar and restaurant scene. Beer snobs can spend their summer trying a new kind of craft beer everyday while foodies can relish in all of the local fruit stands and farm-to-table restaurants this area of the country has to offer. 10 Barrel Brewing Company is located in the heart of town and serves up some delicious brews like the Sinistor Black Ale, seasonal sours, and the hoppy Apocalypse IPA. The food is damn good, too. I definitely inhaled almost an entire handmade pie called The Jaca (Hack-A) by myself. The perfect mix of garlic cream sauce, pepperoni, house smoked pulled pork, sausage, pineapple, jalapenos, and mozzarella. It was love at first bite.
Crux Fermentation Project sounds like someone's college thesis but it's actually an amazing brewery/winery/restaurant at the intersection of the four quadrants of Bend. You can grab a seat outside on their picnic tables or sit inside at the bar right next to their oak barrels and tanks. They have a huge list of beer including the Impasse Saison, Banished Better Off Red, and Doublecross. But the food gives the beer a run for its money, too. The Cubano with corned Carlton Farm pork belly, Pendelton Hill ham, bacon, spicy pickles, smoked swiss, and agave porter mustard is unreal while the AAMCO bowl is filled to the brim with applewood smoked grapes, roasted pumpkin seeds, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries, and mixed greens (tossed with balsamic Stout vinaigrette).
The Sparrow Bakery is my all time favorite spot. They're best known for their Ocean Rolls - a snail shaped croissant with cardamom, sugar, and vanilla. If you can get there when they're still warm you may cry with happiness. They're by far one of the best pastries I've ever had. If you're looking for a hearty breakfast sandwich you're in luck. Served on a fresh hand-rolled croissant, each bite of this sandwich is delicious thanks to the simple yet flavorful ingredients soaking into each flaky layer. And if you're a coffee drinker you'll be happy to know that they serve Stumptown (my fave).
Here are a few more of my favorite spots in Bend:
Worthy Brewing - Amazing craft beer and tremendous pub food. In love with their glasses (which are also for sale at the brewery).
Jackson's Corner - Fresh farm-to-table cuisine. Casual. Delicious desserts.
Zydeco - One of the nicer restaurants in Bend. Known for their Artichoke & Corn fritters but they also make a mean drink called Bosses Office (Buffalo Trace, Smoked Vermouth, a Touch of Honey).
Chow - Brunch. Glorious brunch.
McKay Cottage - I dream about their Fried Egg Sandwich: Two eggs over hard with applewood smoked bacon, Gruyere cheese, tomato, arugula, red onion, and lemon aioli all grilled on a jumbo artisan english muffin.
Ariana Restaurant - You feel like you're dining inside somebody's living room (because you're inside a craftsman bungalow). Great American food made with local ingredients.
Bend Farmer's Market - Rows and rows of fresh veggies & fruits. They even have a petting zoo sometimes. (Warning: this is where I discovered Ocean Rolls).
But if you feel like you need to work off those extra calories (while you're consuming them) then hitch a ride with CyclePub. This group bicycle experience is great because you get to ride on a passenger bike while a driver navigates you through a culinary tour of the city. You get to choose your eating and drinking destinations and the drivers are normally some cute college kids that you can flirt with (but then realize you're like twice their age).
If you're looking for something family friendly, definitely head over to Black Butte Ranch, located about 35-40 minutes from Bend. It's a beautiful drive and you'll pass the adorable tiny town of Sisters. I grew up going to Black Butte in the summers and it's still just as breathtaking. You can watch horses run along the meadow, bike across the property, play golf and tennis, swim, and if you're like my family, drink wine and eat french fries at their lodge. Seriously, the french fries are amazing. Plus, you can get a great view of the Cascade Mountains. Recently, I crashed a wedding that was going on downstairs. Congrats again Mr. & Mrs. B.
One of the best parts about this city is all of the recreational activities. From Memorial Day to Labor Day you can curl up on the grass and rock out with some pretty big name bands at the Les Schwab Amphitheater (hooray for bottles of wine on site!). Plus there are a ton of food vendors and kettle corn kiosks to get you through the night. It overlooks the Deschutes river and has a spectacular view.
Speaking of the Deschutes, you can rent inner tubes and paddleboards and float down the river all summer long. It's super relaxing - but watch out for the dam halfway through. I got caught along the edge and had to ask two 10 year-olds had to help me to the other side. People really just soak up the sun (as well as their beverage of choice). Oh and they bring their dogs. Because dogs are everywhere.
So basically, go buy a dog and get up to Bend. You won't regret it.