I have recently been contemplating cutting meat out of my diet. It seems, however that the restaurants that have opened as of late in Bend are meat-centric, and truthfully, I'm elated. Because that's the only excuse I can muster for why I ate three of the largest ribs I've ever seen on top of wolfing down a giant Hungarian sausage in one sitting last week.
The gluttonous meal I'm referring to took place at the old Cheerleader's Grill and Sports Pub location on Highway 97, which was recently taken over by Taylor's Sausage, the purveyor of 80 different types of sausage in addition to ribs, bacon, hams, smoked turkey, jerky and beef snack sticks. Taylor's Sausage, a five-generation family operation now run by brothers Terry and Scott Taylor, is based in the tiny town of Cave Junction in Southern Oregon, but has a reputation that spans the West Coast.
I first heard of Taylor's Sausage through friends from Medford, who load up on the company's locally made meats every time they pass through Cave Junction and, without an ounce of irony, even wear T-shirts and hats adorned with the company's logo. I'd never tried the products myself, so I was excited to hear that Terry Taylor opened a satellite deli and pub in Bend.
"We'd always traveled to Bend for holidays and ski season," said Taylor, who visits Bend every weekend to oversee the store. "We're just crazy about the town. It's kind of similar to [Cave Junction] without all the rainfall."
Taylor's Sausage uses local pork and beef from Oregon and Washington, and using recipes developed over 80 years - the first Taylor's Sausage opened in 1924 in Calgary, Alberta. The products available in the Bend location are the same as those in Cave Junction. In addition, this location offers full menus for breakfast; lunch and dinner as well as a rotating beer tap with brews from southern and central Oregon breweries.
The décor is diner-style and low key, with a variety of stuffed and mounted antelope, elk and a somewhat unsettling vulture being the only decoration. Truly, the focus is on the meat. When I visited, I threw all illusions of a healthy lunch out the window when I saw the special: a plate of BBQ ribs with fries or salad for $6. With prices that reasonable, I decided to order the Hungarian dog as well for $4. Other options include a Rueben, Philly cheese steak and bratwurst.
The plate of ribs was, as I previously mentioned, enormous. The ribs had to be nine or 10 inches long and full of rich, fatty meat covered in a slightly sweet barbeque sauce. The Hungarian hotdog was topped with sauerkraut with the option of adding dozens of other toppings, including chopped onions, jalapeños and four types of mustards.
These ribs are not what you order on a first date. I was glad to have a full napkin dispenser at the ready to wipe down my face full of sauce. But the mess wasn't for naught - I really, really tried not to eat all of the ribs, but all of a sudden, like some sort of time warp, I opened my eyes and realized all that was left on the plate were some bones and a bit of fat. The Hungarian dog was delicious as well - plump, juicy and well seasoned with a generous helping of sauerkraut on top. If I had been a bit less presumptuous and just ordered the dog, it would have made a filling meal by itself.
In addition to lunch, Taylor's has a meat-and-potatoes breakfast menu and a well-priced dinner menu, with a 12-ounce rib eye ($16) and Cajun pork chops ($12). But Taylor's Sausage is much more than a diner with great meat. A massive variety of meat products are available for sale, making Taylor's Bend's newest must-hit for barbeques and camping trips. And in celebration of their grand opening on October 16, Taylor's will feature Kobe-style beef burgers with beef from Klamath Falls for just $5 until Saturday, October 23.
For carnivores, Taylor's Sausage will feel like home. But even for those who don't often indulge in giant plates of meat, Taylor's is an experience not to miss. Don't let the drab digs fool you. Taylor's Sausage is a contender for the best meat in Bend and is far and away the best bang for your carnivorous buck.
Taylor's Sausage, 913 NE 3rd Street, 541-383-1694. Mon - Sat, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sun, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.