It's What's for DinnerThere's probably been no clearer example of the changing economics of Bend's restaurant landscape than the recent closing of fine dining favorite Bluefish Bistro and the subsequent opening of Bend Burger Company on the corner of Wall and Franklin. Goodbye white linens, hello paper napkins.
The new restaurant offers a straight forward take on the American standard. It offers ten burger choices that take their names from Central Oregon geographic features such as Awbrey Butte, Paulina Peak and Mt. Bachelor, along with chicken sandwiches, salads, soups and some classic sandwiches like the B.L.T.
After a productive two hours of shopping and socializing at the Farmer's Market, all eight of us (four adults and four kids) plunked our tired posteriors down in the now very beige interior of the former Bluefish Bistro. Framed prints of stock photography with "Bend Burger Company" emblazoned across each image dot the walls, accompanied by a couple of snowboards and a fishing boat. Menus are available, but we were told not to trust them and to look to the overhead menu instead.
The staff at the counter was patient with all our pre-order questions (Do you have wheat buns? Can you split the shake three ways? Can you leave off the sauce?) Once our kids were settled with their BLT's ($5.99) and Kid Sliders ($3.99) we dug into our burgers. Two of my dining partners went basic with The Bend Burger ($6.95), the standard pairing of a patty, bun, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and a Bend Burger Sauce, which was explained to me as ketchup, mayo and chipolte seasoning.
I opted for The Broken Top ($8.95), which the staff said is one of the most popular items. This burger had all the basic toppings as well as two strips of pepper bacon and blue cheese crumbles. When I ordered my burger medium rare, thankfully there was no rebuttal. So often when it comes to burgers that haven't been cooked to hockey puck consistency, someone is bound to fill you with foodborne pathogen stories. Unfortunately, when I got the burger it was more medium well than medium rare, cooked exactly as the others that had not requested a temperature on their burger.
The patty was thin but tasty, and I liked the Bend Burger sauce. My burger had too few of those blue cheese crumbles, but ample bacon. The restaurant could also stand for a little more variety with its buns, which come in only one flavor - enriched white.
Accompanying each burger and sandwich are crispy and slightly spiced fries. Garlic fries and onion rings are also available for an additional charge.
The best part of the meal was the milkshake ($4.25). BBC scoops Eberhard's hard ice cream into a traditional metal shake machine canister, blending it until thick and creamy and tops it with a big swirl of whipped cream. Nothing gets the kids to gobble up lunch as fast as the promise of a milkshake.
Bend Burger Company certainly isn't in the same arena as its location's previous tenant, but if the crowds lining up to order a burger are any indication, this might be exactly what downtown needs - affordable, yet relatively high-quality snack food from a locally owned outlet.