On the far wall of the newest breakfast café on Bend's west side are perhaps a dozen framed photographs of pugs—and, in case that doesn't drive home the point well enough, there are large black wooden block letters stating, "PUGS RULE." These don't necessarily have anything to do with the food, nor are they are simply kitschy (the words, in fact, double as the wifi password). Instead, if you want to understand the soul of the place—and, yes, the restaurant Birdie's does have a soul—you should understand that the owners Chris and Denise Tate own five rescue pugs. What's more, and, not to jump to the end of the story, but these café owners and pug lovers also put an option on your bill to make a donation to an animal welfare charity, which Birdie's will match up to $300 quarterly.
Yes, there is a new a new breakfast spot on the west side of Bend that is serving up southern and southwest influenced fare made with fresh, local ingredients and home-cooked flavor—but also is taking the concept of a "neighborhood spot" to a whole new dimension of community service.
"The community supports us," said Chris, "so we want to support the community in turn. We like to pay it forward."
Located at the bottom of College Way, Birdie's offers an affordable, delightful and much welcome alternative to the ever-crowded breakfast locations closer to downtown. Owned and operated by Chris and Denise Tate, Birdies dishes up breakfast and lunch to "hungry birds" from 7 am-2 pm all week long.
For breakfast enthusiasts, Birdie's offers a casual, comfortable dining experience that satisfies the palate yet still leaves some dollars in your wallet. It offers a hint of the classic American diner with an authentic Bend twist. The space is filled with comfortable booths and tables, quirky decorations—such as porcelain plates on the walls, bird-shaped salt and pepper shakers, teapots that look like elephants, and little farm animal figurines stationed throughout—providing an atmosphere that's family friendly without being loud.
The restaurant is self-seating, but don't think you can sneak in unnoticed. Within moments of sliding into a booth, friendly staff approached our table with menus and coffee poured into mugs that are big enough to cradle with both of your hands. For any coffee or tea lover, the size of the coffee mugs themselves makes the experience memorable. Birdie's serves Seattle's Caffe Umbria coffee, and the staff never let us get below half a mug before they returned with refills. All the baked goods, from the focaccia bread to the bagels and pastries, are made fresh in the Birdies kitchen, and you can also find them for sale next door at Bom Dia.
As a southern native with roots spread throughout Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, and a Bend resident since 1998, Chef Chris Tate's cooking reflects Southern, Southwest, and Pacific Northwest influences. Birdies' menu offers delectable options that range from Spanish style potatoes to chicken and waffles, and from Chocolate Stout Pancakes to Vermont style granola. For me, it was a tough choice between the Pacific Northwest Benny, made with blackened wild salmon, and the Chocolate Stout Pancakes (yes, Stout, as in beer). After a period of indecisiveness filled with too many gulps of coffee from that giant mug, it was the New Mexico Benny and the irresistible pull of Hatch chiles that won the day. The New Mexico Benny consists of two perfectly poached eggs—pillowy soft on the outside with a velvety, silky yolk, fried chicken and Hatch chiles, piled on top of spinach and herb pancakes and smothered with fresh Hollandaise sauce. The result was delicious assortment of southwest flavors, and the savory spinach and herb pancakes presented a lighter and more flavorful balance to the fried chicken and rich Hollandaise than the traditional English muffin.
Birdie's Café is just getting started—Chris and Denise's plans for the café include outdoor dog-friendly seating and an herb garden with potential to become a community garden. "We want people who are out walking their dog to be able to come in for a cup of coffee or breakfast," Chris said. "We want to be connected to the community."