Wednesday, July 3, 2013

restaurants of central Oregon and vicinity

(scarfed from my Yelp reviews)

Bingen, Washington (pronounced Binjen, and right across the Columbia from Hood River, Oregon)
Solstice Wood Fire Cafe: About the most intensely flavorful food I have ever tasted. Just really the bomb as flavor goes. So good in that department that it totally overcame my initially unenthusiastic reaction to the menu. The thin crust, crunchy chicken pizza was so well made it overcame my mixed reaction to the choice of toppings. (You can make your own choice, but the pizza becomes quickly more expensive that way.)
Also, Moroccan beef stew, a sauce made entirely of a vast array of tastily blended spices, with big chunks of juicy beef, beans, and carrots. Served over potato, but they gave me a full sized bowl of the stew even after I asked for it without the potato.
Less enthused about the apple crisp: apple too wet, crisp too dry.

Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Oregon
Kah-Nee-Ta Resort: I stopped over here for lunch because tour books suggested it was the best food between Hood River and Redmond, not a thickly inhabited region.
Getting here tried my patience. You turn off the highway at a junction, drive ten miles through deserted sagebrush landscapes to another junction, drive another ten miles to a third junction, three miles to the entrance to the complex, two miles to the road to the lodge, then up a winding hill to the parking lot, which fortunately is right by the lodge's front door. This better be worth it. Well, it wasn't not worth it.
Lunch turns out to be served at the "Warm Springs Grill", a cavernous space behind a bar. Looked deserted, but the service turned out to be fairly attentive and the food from the basic pub grub menu well made. I got the most Indian thing on the menu - this is after all a tribe-owned and operated resort on a reservation - a bison burger on fry bread. Thick, juicy, not overcooked burger, and the fry bread, which was a lot lighter in texture than it looked, was addictively tasty.

Madras, Oregon (named for a bolt of cloth in the general store, the founders having had to cast around for another name in a hurry when the Post Office turned down their first choice because of duplication)
Rio Distinctive Mexican Cuisine: What do you know, road warriors, a really decent yuppieish Mexican place in a hopeless-looking ranching town. It's a small house made up as a restaurant, with a menu focusing on enchiladas. I got a mixed enchilada plate with assorted mole sauces on top, all tasty if not great, and the plate presentation is beautiful. It is expensive for what you get, but what you get is good.
Service was kind of pressed at a busy dinner hour, but boy did the staff ever hustle. I have never been asked so often if I wanted more chips, and I never finished the ones I had! Those chips had paprika sprinkled on them, by the way, a unique and greatly enhancing touch.

Bend, Oregon (named for a bend in the river, which makes me wonder why there aren't more towns called Bend)
Barrio: Walking down the street downtown, looking for a place for lunch among the many big-city urban offerings here, I spotted a menu in a window listing paella. This is something you don't often see, so in I went. Yes, one-person servings of paella for $10. Order at the counter, find a table or barstool in the tiny space.
The house paella, with an odd taste I could get used to, has shaved chorizo, hunks of almost-undercooked chicken, and, unfortunately but inevitably, peas. You can add (additional) veggies or seafood; if you ask for seafood, it includes one large shrimp, one large mussel, and a couple large hunks of salmon and white fish. But it's better than this sounds; the fish is moist and embedded in the mix, so you can cut it up easily with a fork and have bites with the rice.
Zydeco: Austere dark wooden furniture like a Japanese restaurant, but it serves yuppie-Southern. Jambalaya pretty good; enough big hunks of sausage and shrimp, but it tasted like it was made with brown rice.
But the bread and olive oil that comes before the meal! Oh, heavenly! Moist bread with thick crunchy crust, and the olive oil on a plate is infused with salt, garlic, and parsley, and it is just so addictive. If I dared, I'd go back and have just four or five plates of that.

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