1. Spork While we loved Spork's global-street-food-inspired food cart, the move out of the Airstream and into a proper brick-and-mortar location is the best thing that could have possibly happened to Bend's food scene.
2. Worthy Brewing If Spork is the best thing to happen to Bend's westside, Worthy gets the prize for best eastside improvement. The massive brewpub offers mouth watering pizzas, fresh salads (with beets!) and, of course, tasty pints.
3. The Lot Not just for summer, this zone has heated seats (seriously) as well as overhead space heaters. Also, beer and bathrooms.
4. Drake While we were sad to see El Jimador go, Drake, an upscale southern-food style diner, has proved a worthy downtown replacement.
5. Jackson's Corner on the Eastside (coming soon!) One of Bend's best restaurants—breakfast, lunch and dinner—will open an eastside location by late summer/early fall. Local ingredients, thoughtful menu, in-house café and massive beer cooler? Score another point for the eastside!
Top Five Bend Dishes
By Erica Reilly, Spork co-owner
1. Khao Soi Curry (Wild Rose) This new downtown Northern Thai restaurant allows you to feel like you've traveled far away. The Khao Soi Curry (be sure to get a protein!) is a traditional egg noodle dish that is delicate and velvety beyond words.
2. Tie: Forbidden Black Rice Bowl and Halloumi Cheese (Joolz): Maybe it's because it's forbidden. Maybe it's the squeaky sound the cheese makes and the perfect tartness of the pomegranate reduction—I can't explain it. These dishes feel like a warm hug from some wonderful, exotic woman.
3. Beef Tartare (900 Wall): Classic, I know. But sometimes you need some raw meat in your life. This dish exemplifies chef Cliff Eslinger's mastery of ingredients and flavor. And, if I may, 900 Wall's Michelada and Bourbon Sour 9 definitely belong on this list of Best Dishes.
4. Tacos! (El Sancho): That's right! He's back. You can find Joel's food cart on the Packit compound during weekdays. I absolutely adore a person that hones in on one or two things and puts all their heart into those few things. For Joel, those things are his tacos—perfection.
5. Spicy Fried Chicken (Spork): It can't be helped. At the expense of looking like a dork, I'm going to acknowledge that it is culinary crack and easily makes this top-five-best-dishes-in- Bend list. Shameless, I know.
Top Five Central Oregon Beers of the Year
1. Deschutes Brewery: Class of '88 Barleywine (10.2%) This collaboration with Rogue and North Coast turned out a delicious beer. With less hop bitterness, '88 is malt-forward and a great introduction to barleywines.
2. Ale Apothecary: Sahati (10.5%) The process involves hollowing out a spruce tree, lining it with needles and delicately passing the brew over top. The result is a spontaneously fermented beverage that tastes like the forest.
3. Boneyard Beer: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Suge Knight (13%) Did you know Boneyard makes something other than RPM? In fact, this huge stout had the longest line at The Little Woody, and for good reason.
4. 10 Barrel Brewing: German Sparkle Party (4%) 2013 may go down as the year that Bendites discovered sour beers. It will also go down as the year this Berliner Weissbier won gold at the Great American Beer Festival.
5. Silver Moon Brewing: Demolition Man Strong Ale (9.5%) You'd never guess a beer this big and complex could come from a hidden-in-plain-sight brewery like Silver Moon; a connoisseur's beer with bold malt flavors and subtle dark fruit. Forget scotch. Drink this from a snifter by the fire.