BungatimeTheme is king at the Bungalow Tropical Bar and Grille, a new no-holds-barred tropical fusion restaurant in north Bend, where cabana boys greet outside the front door. "Aloha," they crooned to our group, while shivering in Hawaiian shirts, and directing us to the stairs that led up to the expansive second-floor.
Once inside, we were greeted with more "Alohas!" this time by young women in print sundresses who asked us if we want "formal" or "casual." Peering around a wall of water, we saw half of the restaurant outfitted with high-backed chairs and white linens with rain forest sounds piped in for that extra tropical boost.
The other side is split between the "Sand Bar," which is covered with the requisite grass shack roof, headquarters for "Bungatime" (otherwise known as happy hour) and a dining area with booths decorated in mini surfboards. At the Bungalow there's no skimping on atmosphere-enhancing props. A soundtrack marked by Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" resonated from overhead in the Sand Bar as surf films played on the big screen TV. There's also a large tropical fish tank to help set the ocean tone.
The menu continues the well-worn tropical theme by offering things like the Bunga-Partyizer (a sampler appetizer tray for $26), the Cowabunga Burger ($18) and Island Chipino (a fish stew for $20). The entrees range from Mahi-Mahi ($22) and a 16oz lobster tail ($70), to a 10oz filet mignon ($44) and a 28oz Porter House steak ($53). They even have some exotic items such as a wild boar chop ($30) and Paella (a rice, seafood and sausage dish, $180) that serves four.
Since my dining partner and I came with our youngsters, we ordered off the "Bunga Starters," "Surfer's Appetite," "Surfin' Salads and Soups" and "Compliments" parts of the menu. We started with "Screaming Steamers" ($14), a nice preparation of clams in a coconut chili broth with a confetti of red bell pepper, tomato, bacon and pineapple. The only bread available to sop up all that good broth was the "famous" Monkey bread, a sweet white roll. A nice crusty sourdough would have been preferable, but when in Rome....
Next came the "Caesar Salad" ($13) that was lemony and had good anchovy flavor but was sweetened a bit too much with pineapple and sun dried tomatoes. "The Bungalow Spare Ribs" ($10) were tender and sweet, and were the kids' favorite part of the evening, second only to pressing their noses against the fish tank.
We moved on to the "Hawaiian Burger" (1/3 lb with pineapple, teriyaki sauce and Monterey Jack cheese, $12), which was juicy and on a fresh bun. We also had the "Char-Grilled Corn on the Cob w/Chili Lime Butter," the "Wasabi Mashed Potatoes" and the "Caribbean Fries." The corn was not young corn (as it is out of season), but was prepared well. The mashers had not a hint of wasabi and the fries were beer battered. (I don't understand why anyone would batter a potato before frying it, but maybe that's just a personal quirk of mine.)
If theme is what you want, theme is what you get at the Bungalow. Innovative food is not the focus, instead it is well-prepared tropical standards that are pricey, but are still cheaper than booking a flight to Tahiti. The major difference being that when you walk out of a bungalow in Tahiti, you'll likely find yourself on a sandy beach. Whereas when you walk out Bend's Bungalow Tropical Bar and Grille, you'll definitely find yourself back in a shopping mall.
Bungalow Tropical Bar and Grille
63455 N Hwy 97 (in the Cascade Village Shopping Center) 541.728.0105Open 11am-11pm. Thursday-Saturday, Sunday Monday 9pm