Anyone who's been in Bend for more than five minutes can tell you that folks around these parts take their beer very seriously. New microbreweries pop up like wildflowers, and the market never seems to get flooded. But for me the best part about a brewery is the requisite brewpub that inevitably pops up with it. Don't get me wrong, I love the beer. But I love the bar and, more importantly, the bar food even better. The hard-working chefs at our area brewpubs are often overshadowed by the brew, and the menus are taken for granted. Since this weekend the town will be gathering at the Des Chutes Historical Museum to celebrate the first annual Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew Festival and all the hops and malt that go along with it, I thought a rundown of food favs from the brewpub menus around town was in order.
Silver Moon Brewing
Of all the brewpubs, Silver Moon is probably least known for its food, but that doesn't mean it's not worth checking out - if for nothing other than the German Bratwurst. There are salads, sandwiches and the like that hold their own, but the bratwurst is by far my favorite. To be honest, any bratwurst would probably be my pick from any menu, but Silver Moon's shines in all its porky glory. 24 NW Greenwood Ave., 388-8331.
The Cascade Lakes Lodge menu is loaded with Pacific Northwest treats and great burgers, but I would say the nicest touch on the menu comes in a very small package in the form of a fabulous Oyster Shooter. For $1.50 you get a fresh willapa bay oyster with homemade cocktail sauce and lemon, but I highly recommend adding a shot of Mazama pepper vodka. That extra kick is worth the $3. 1441 SW Chandler Ave., 388-4901.
Bend Brewing Co.
I had a tough time coming up with my favorite dish at BBC, then I realized that's because nine times out 10, I order one of the daily specials. So I'm going to give my best to the last special I ordered a week or so ago, a crispy chicken Caesar with artichoke hearts, fresh tomato and a pile of fresh Parmesan. Tune in next time for my new favorite. 1019 NW Brooks St., 383-1599.
Three Creeks Brewing
Three words for Three Creeks: Wild Hog Wings. Two healthy pork shanks, Cajun-rubbed and fashioned after hot wings with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce knocked my socks off. Pair it with a Stonefly Rye for a truly satisfying bar snack that drips with great flavor and originality. 721 Desperado Court, Sisters, 549-1963.
10 Barrel Brewing@JC's
As soon as 10 Barrel's new brewpub opens its doors on Galveston, this pick will be defunct, but for now JC's is the closest they've got. And the most impressive item I've found at JC's is the absurdly large chicken strips. I picture some sort of cartoon ogre gobbling up these plate-sized crispy strips while pinching the handle of a gallon pitcher between his two enormous fingers. 642 NW Franklin Ave., 383-3000.
Arguably, McMenamins is not exactly a local brewpub, but as a brewery that's part of the Little Woody fest this year, it qualifies. For the best bar snack idea ever look no further than the cajunized tots. Crunchy and seasoned and served with ranch dipping sauce, I can eat an endless number of these little jewels. Fortunately, at happy hour you can get a pile of them for $2, so I can afford to. 700 N.W. Bond St., 382-5174.
In terms of the kitchen, Deschutes is in a league of its own among the brewpubs. From creative salads and hearty sandwiches to full entrees befitting a fine-dining establishment, Deschutes performs across the board. So instead of picking one "best" item on the menu, I'm going with my most recent new discovery, the Buffalo Shrimp. The plate of perfectly cooked shrimp in a pool of blazing buffalo sauce has been the star since I noticed it on the menu a month or so ago. 1044 Bond St., 382-9242.