Jen (as in her kitchen and garden) explained that rodeo weekend is perhaps one of the best times to visit her restaurant. Many locals, she says, hide away for the weekend, and French fries are about as close to high-style French country cuisine that the cowboys will get.
Which is to say: This weekend, Jen's Garden, one of the finest and best-thought-out restaurants in Central Oregon, will be a relaxing oasis from the hoedown hoopla in the streets of Sisters. Jen's Garden also is open nightly through the summer, and while it may not be as relaxed during those nights, as summer tourists crowd into the cozy French country house, the food will still be as succulent and detailed.
Jen's Garden has been operating for the past six years, and the proprietor is still as giddy as if it were Day One. On a recent Monday evening, she flitted between tables like a hummingbird. The whole restaurant is only two small rooms and a comfortable outdoor space, and she filled the space with her enthusiasm, occasionally idling to explain that the bacon chunks sitting alongside halibut cheeks had been cured that morning in homemade maple syrup ($11), and chatting that the summer salad—crispy bites of asparagus and plump snap peas—was sourced from Rainshadow Organics ($9).
Other dishes were simply left to stand on their own, without explanation. But really, no backstory was needed: A first- course cured salmon Napoleon Gravlax was served inside a wonderfully flaky and rich wonton ($10), and the main-course grilled duck breast—glazed delicately with a zing of strawberry—would have been enough on its own, but cleverly arrived with an accompanying Gruyere bread pudding, creating a balancing seesaw of savory and sweet throughout the dish ($26).
The port wine-braised beef short ribs were so tenderly prepared they slid from the bone. ($26). Paired with a creamy horseradish potato puree, skinny green beans with bacon and almonds—all swimming in a rich, oil-infused au jus—this main dish was a meaty parade of decadence.
There are no cocktails, and the drink list consists almost exclusively of wine—a well curated collection of hardy French selections, Australian Malbecs and Willamette Valley pinot noirs. Throughout the meal, Jen is happy to pair wines with dishes. She provided tastes of two Willamette Valley pinot noirs—Cloudline and Benton Lane—to show how each best complemented the ribs and the pan-seared rockfish. At the end of dinner, Jen enthusiastically poured samples of Quady Electra, a flowery, low-alcohol Orange Muscat dessert wine. "For fun," she exclaimed. As sweet and mellow as honey, the wine raised the elegance of the strawberry hazelnut tart (on cornmeal crush) and gave a spark to the house-made cardamom ice cream.
Each dish at Jen's Garden is carefully considered. Even more impressive is how all these individual parts interlock to make one of the best dining experiences in Central Oregon. SW
403 E. Hood Ave., Sisters
Open daily at 5 pm.
Also in Sisters:
Angeline's Bakery, 121 W. Main St., Sisters
gluten-free treats, coffee, vegan, lunch
Open daily 6:30 am–6 pm.
Cowboy and vegan are not two concepts that would seem to go hand-in-hand (or, maybe the more apt metaphor is foot-in-boot) together. Can you imagine a spurs-clicking rancher ordering a gluten-free pineapple coconut coffeecake? Or marionberry muffins for his ranch hands? And while you're at it, splash in some fresh wheatgrass and beet juice?
Yet, with its brightly painted walls and coffee- and sweets-scented kitchen, the bakery has been a favorite for 16 years in the cowboy town. (Of course, owner Rhett, a mom and former wildland firefighter, also offers traditional, full-of-gluten-and-butter baked goods as well.)
The warm and welcoming little bakery on West Main Street encourages patrons to stay through lunch and enjoy its fresh soups, salads, sandwiches and specials, like veggie lasagna, spinach mushroom quiche or a raw wrap.
The Depot Cafe, 250 Cascade Ave., Sisters
breakfast, lunch, dinner, patio, beer/wine/cocktails
Open 11 am-8 pm Wednesday and Thursday; 11 am-9 pm Friday; 8 am-9 pm Saturday; 8 am-8 pm Sunday (closed Monday/Tuesday).
The wood cabin-looking building on Sisters' main drag is more than eggs, burgers and milkshakes—the decades-old dishes that made the café famous. While the Sisters eatery still slings some of the best burgers and shakes in town, in recent years the rustic restaurant has gone full-service, serving up everything from classic French toast, to sandwiches, spinach salads and specialty cocktails.
Thank owners Chris and Pam Wavrin for the updated and expanded menu. For the past six years the husband-and-wife duo transformed The Depot Café (formerly the Depot Deli) from white bread and frozen patties to a from-scratch restaurant that sources local greens and bakes its bread and desserts in-house. And with a sunny patio serving eight on-tap beers, wine by the glass, and cocktails—like the lemon drop martini made with house-candied lemons—The Depot Café has become a go-to afternoon/evening watering hole.
Ordering at the counter (or calling for a burger to go) makes the café a quick, casual and convenient Rodeo option. Extra points for The Depot's working model train that makes laps around the dining room.