Plush couches adorn a beautifully restored Bruce Wayne-sized fireplace.
Thoughtfully hung bike rims pay friendly tribute to the town's outdoor culture.
And high-top bar tables made of three and a half-inch-thick maple invite both personal and business communions alike to Athletic Club of Bend's newly opened culinary treat, Bistro 28. Replacing the once popular Scanlon's, this fully renovated, remodeled and remade restaurant clearly carries forward the sense and sensibility of Zydeco, the Source's Restaurant of the Year in 2014.
And like Zydeco, the new restaurant has an open-door policy, as comfortable for those wearing puffy jackets as well as perfectly tailored sport coats. Although set in—or at least connected and adjacent to—essentially, a gym, fear not: Bistro 28 is far from a sports bar—generic or otherwise. Its drink menu boasts a greater selection of whiskeys than beers, and Bistro 28 houses only one television that I am happy to say is easily ignored from most corners of the restaurant. (Although, there is ample space to sit at the bar and enjoy hockey highlights; yes, hockey, which warmed this Canadian's heart!) In fact, one sip into my deliciously handcrafted Vieux Carre—a smoky symphony of rye, vermouth and obscure bitters—and already I was looking forward to seeing what else the bar staff could concoct. And by the time I finished my appetizer—a copious serving of silky smooth smoked trout dip with lavosh crackers—I am fully hooked.
As much as creating an approachable and high-quality menu, Bistro 28 has created a remarkable space where, like downtown's Zydeco, all Bend residents are welcome and treated royally. Specifically, Bistro 28 has done a good job creating some separation from the sports end of the athletic club—and its fluorescent-lit lobby and ubiquitous smell of chlorine. With its own separate door, purposefully added by owners Steve and Cheri Helt (who also own Zydeco), the restaurant stands alone. "You don't have to be a member to eat here," emphasizes Steve, an attitude that clearly is more than a perfunctory remark, but rather a concept that permeates most of what this bistro offers.
A warm smile greets guests as they enter. Thoughtfully lit tables, natural tones of cherry and maple, and an open kitchen are all are stationed to put diners at ease. The service seems to abide by this rule as well; gracious and unhurried, there is as much reason to stay for 30 minutes as there is for three hours.
As well, the menu is designed to be classy, but also accommodating.
"There is a small, medium, and large plate philosophy," explains Cheri, emphasizing that they try to both satisfy different appetites and varying budgets. Moreover, the menu is also a playful and eclectic index of some of the owners' favorite dishes, including: chicken and waffles, a dish that Steve advises should be treated with an "all in" attitude; German caramelized onion pizza that Steve and Cheri first shared in Germany on their fourth wedding anniversary; Dungeness crab deviled eggs, where just the name alone triggers Pavlovian conditioning; and, yes, the Zydeco standby, BBQ shrimp. "I would serve BBQ shrimp even if I owned an ice-cream shop," exclaims Steve.
Also, there is the wood-fired rotisserie chicken. Cooked for over three hours at 350 degrees in a wood-fired over, despite its uninspired accompaniments, it is an exceptionally moist and deliciously smoky cooked dish—and not to be missed.
Rounding out our meal, there were five options. And, although the s'mores tart was underwhelming, the godiva chocolate panna cotta was, as the theme of this restaurant goes, an easy and inviting end to a restorative dinner out.
61615 Athletic Club Dr.
Tues – Fri, opens at 4 pm
Sat – Sun, opens at 3 pm