It's about time Bend got a Laughing Planet. The Portland-based healthful food chain, beloved by Portlanders and Eugenians (is that right? Eugeners, Ducks?), for its long list of nutritious nourishing options, affordable price point and goofy vibe. All those merits seem like perfect additions to our active, creative, food-loving culture.
For the uninitiated, Laughing Planet works on the premise that food should make people, and the planet, happy. It accomplishes that with a slew of fresh meal options for every dietary preference—paleos, vegans, the gluten-free and the carnivorous can all find something here. The focus is on healthy food, which isn't necessarily an oxymoron with burritos. Their standard lineup has a tasty Che Guevara, which is filled with sweet potatoes and pinto beans, and the popular Bubba burrito, a standard pinto and chicken burrito; the addition of BBQ sauces brings a zest to the meal.
From burritos and bowls to fresh-squeezed juices and salads, the menu reads a bit like a snooty yoga studio juice bar, but the environment is completely devoid of pretension. Despite a string of closures at the restaurant's current location in midtown on Third Street—Taylor's Sausage's occupied the building for a short stint, and longtime sports bar Cheerleaders held the spot down from 2002 until 2010—the Bend location is full of light, with big windows, exposed wood, and an energizing lime/aqua/slate color palate. An excellent remodel. Laughing Planet's signature plastic dinosaur collection adds a healthy helping of levity. And if you're worried that T-Rex has spent too much time in the mouths of babes to be lurking by your plate, fear not: the dinosaurs are bathed multiple times a day.
Born in Bloomington, Ind., in 1995, by 2000, the dinos of Laughing Planet had migrated west to Portland. By 2005 there were two new locations in Rip City and a branch in Eugene. The Bend location marks the tenth for the chain, now synonymous with a good-for-you-and-mama-earth plant-heavy menu.
The offerings of the new Bend addition are in keeping with the Portland and Eugene locations with salad options that stay under the $7 mark, house-made soups (we avoided these as it was hotter than the sun on opening day, but we hope to try them soon!), quesadillas, bowls stuffed with hearty veggies, grains and nuts, and mouth watering burritos as big as a toddler's arm.
A full smoothie and juice menu add to the options as well as some amazing sauces, we were particularly enthralled with a traffic cone orange habanero hot sauce with a late burn that we could literally eat on anything. Like, anything. We'd probably just drink the stuff if there weren't any burritos or veggies handy.
Staffer Erin Rook took a new approach to an old favorite saying that as a former Portlander, Laughing Planet's arrival in Bend feels like the return of an old friend. Rather than chow down on one of his predetermined favorite dishes (the Spanky's, Thai, Bollywood and Soylent Green bowls all fit that description), he opted for something he hadn't yet tried, the Cuban bowl. Simple, yet satisfying, the brown rice bowl included black beans, yams, plantains and pico de gallo. Rook added tempeh because, well, tempeh makes everything better and was impressed with the balance of sweet and savory. He even said that the dish took him back to his college days in Boston, where the diverse student population meant plantains made a regular appearance in the dining hall. Another highlight was a freshly pressed juice with kale, ginger, cucumber and some other tasty green things. The juice was fresh, light and tangy.
Editors Phil Busse and Bri Brey shied away from the veggie heavy bowls and salads and instead opted for a massive bean and chicken burrito and a cheesy quesadilla option. Filled with BBQ chicken, pico de gallo and chipotle BBQ sauce, Phil's quesadilla was a smaller rendition of the burrito that Bri ordered, stuffed with crunchy onions, pinto beans, and brown rice in addition to the chicken and zesty sauces. With the added dash of habanero hot sauce the burrito was simple but flavorful, a meal that could easily be consumed everyday for lunch with no complaints.
And then there was dessert. Our eating team devoured two cookies—double chocolate and snicker doodle—which were sweet and moist and, surprisingly, vegan. Overall, the meal was excellent and reasonably priced, making Laughing Planet our new favorite lunch destination when we're feeling conscious of our waistlines and our pocketbooks.
913 NE 3rd St.
Hours: 11am-9pm, Everyday