When you walk into the Depot Café in Sisters, the old town, dark wood exterior gives way to a casual dining room and seasonal outdoor seating area behind the restaurant, which plays host to live music during the summer months.
My companion and I arrived on a Saturday evening, reflecting on our last visit, which was over the summer after day spent playing tennis and walking around Sisters. We were hungry, but not starving, and thought we'd stop into the Depot Café (formerly the Depot Deli, the name by which some locals still call it) for a small bite to eat. Chris Wavrin was smoking filets of salmon on the outdoor smoker while his co-owner and wife, Pam Wavrin, ran the dining room that evening. We started with a Mediterranean-inspired appetizer: Hummus, pita and a variety of roasted veggies before sharing the salmon. The salmon was so delicious that on the way to Sisters just last week, I hoped that the salmon might once again appear on the specials menu that evening.
The Depot Café menu features three dinner specials per night, typically including a steak, a Pacific Northwest Seasonal fresh fish, and a vegetarian pasta dish. In addition, the lunch menu is always available. The restaurant offers a focused wine and beverage list, eight microbrews on tap, and kid friendly drinks like Italian sodas and root beer floats. On a recent visit, the cocktail special was a lemon drop martini made with house-candied lemons.
We began our meal with a flatbread from the specials board, a nice starter for us to share, with fresh mozzarella, basil, pesto and roasted tomatoes. Fast-forward to the fantastic salad; a highlight of the dinner. Perfectly dressed local greens (don't underestimate the beautiful simplicity of just that) with sliced red onion, sliced persimmons, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, a nice balsamic dressing and a back story that involved a scolding customer comment on Yelp about a salad drowning in dressing. Pam took the comment into consideration (as every good chef should) and came to the perfectly dressed salad ($8).
With attention to the "wild" sourced fish, Pam Waverin, whose culinary talents drive this train, has made a commitment to just that. If she can't get wild fish, there will be no fish. But I'm glad there was. The fish special that evening was a nice filet of wild Coho salmon, grilled excellently with a celery root-red potato mash, wilted spinach and herb butter ($19). My companion's choice, Pam's favorite burger ($11.95), was a country natural beef patty on a homemade cheese-onion Kaiser roll. The favorite burger was aptly named because my companion proclaimed it his new favorite burger. It was loaded with jalapenos, grilled onions, pepper jack, avocado and chipotle mayo and was served with seasoned, hand cut french fries.
Few visitors realize that the Depot Café actually has a bakery upstairs featuring a deck oven where fresh breads and desserts are turned out daily. You may have noticed the bakery case filled to the brim with fresh pies, cookies and more - all of which are made fresh daily.
We finished our meal with a chocolate-walnut brownie a la mode that included vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. That evening was slow. We were one of two couples in the restaurant, so we were given the attention we like (just enough without being too much), and between the low hum of the toy trains circling above our heads, the dim lights and the photography, our last pours of a bottle of Pinot Noir left us feeling a little romantic. Check, please.
The Depot Café has a wide range of offerings sure to please anyone who walks through its doors. Known for breakfast, lunch and take out, the café gets hammered by tourists in the summer season, which is probably why Pam and Chris finally hired a chef. Now they can put a fine tooth comb to details like their online presence, wine dinners, service and catering and spend more time enjoying the restaurant experience they've created - family-friendly eatery by day, subtly-romantic restaurant by night.
The Depot Café
250 Cascade Ave, Sisters. 541-549-2572, sistersdepot.com, Dinner Wed-Sat 5pm-Close; Open for lunch every day; Breakfast Sat-Sun 7am-11am.