Catfish and crawdads may not dominate every menu around town, but peppered throughout Bend are a representative number of Southern food dishes—certainly enough to make us as happy as pigs in slop! (In a good way. Seriously! That was meant as a compliment.)
Even that guy who orders the veggie quinoa bowl, deep down, he loves fried chicken. C'mon. Especially that guy! The way he stares longingly at your crispy, plump fried chicken dish. Yeah, eyes off, buddy!
Fried chicken has everything good: fat, sodium, protein; basically it's a superfood, right up there with blueberries and chocolate chip cookies. No wonder—and about time—the Southern staple has roared a comeback nationwide. Shoot, diners can't even throw a chicken wing in Portland without hitting a joint that sells fried drumsticks and waffles.
Here in Bend, there are a few places to get decent fried chicken (Real Food Bistro, Drake, Cascade West, Yo Mommas Country Cookin), but the best—the BEST—can be found at Spork. True, the purveyors of global streetfood take an Asian avenue rather than a dusty backroad through the American South, but their spicy Thai version, with its sweet and sour chili sauce and side of kimchi, is so darn good it is almost impossible to consider ordering anything else. Surprisingly, it is also gluten-free, as the batter is made with rice flour, which crisps up extra golden and with a perfect crunch. For a more traditional version, go to Cascade West. There, fried chicken is served piping hot and in large quantities. A perfect-late night, oops-I'm-too-drunk soak-up-the-booze snack. JW
Spork, 937 NW Newport Ave. 541-390-0946.
Cascade West, 64 SW Century Dr. 541-389-1853.
Chef Matt Neltner, formerly of Kokanee Cafe in Camp Sherman and current executive chef and owner of the newly opened Blue Pine Kitchen and Bar, has created a twisted pub menu full of rare delicacies. Neltner said that if he's seen a dish on another local menu, Blue Pine won't cook it. Case in point: frog legs.
The Southern delicacy is served with a garlic aioli dipping sauce—Neltner's answer to the common chicken wing. Prepared grilled and seasoned with a Creole spice rub, the dish would fit nicely on an upscale French menu or at a backwoods barbecue. The seasoning packs a spicy punch, one that demands to be chased with an icy cold beer. With the light texture of fish and flavor like a more delicate version of chicken, the meat takes on the char of the grill with crispy skin. Although the dish looks like it might hop off your plate and back into the swamp even after cooking, these stems are worth trying something new. BB
Blue Pine Kitchen and Bar, 25 SW Century Dr. 541-389-2558.
Biscuits and Gravy
Praise Jee-bus, the little red food cart is back! And they've brought all their Southern fixin's with them! Yo Mommas, which was open last summer but then disappeared, can once again be found in the BIGS parking lot on Bond Street. They make airy buttermilk biscuits that Paula Deen and her crumbling empire would kill for. That's because Yo Mommas co-owner Lisa Maraschiello hails from the hills of western North Carolina and knows a thing or cotton-pickin' two about making sausage gravy and fluffy biscuits. Her prowess is best witnessed in the "Old Timer," a made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuit with hand-ground pork shoulder and Southern-style "sawmill" gravy. All for $7 (or $8 with a fried organic egg on top). The "Redneck Breakfast Bowl" is also a worthy dish: buttery stone-ground grits with bacon, cheddar, gravy and an egg ($7). Wash it all down with sweet tea ($2) or a cold glass of the more regional marionberry lemonade ($3). The hearty Appalachian eats are available from 8 am to 2 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. JW
Yo Mommas Country Cookin, 35 NW Bond St. (in the BIGS parking lot). 541-647-8033.