Bend is no mecca for late-night food; a common issue for temperamentally urban mid-sized cities. Sure, our food scene is growing nicely in the cascade shadow of Portland - more food carts, more farmers' markets, reimagined restaurants - but where can we grab a bite to eat late at night?
Downtown is relatively quiet on weeknights, dead on Sunday nights, but Caldera Grille, a nearly sleepless local pub and grille, however, is an exception, open 21 hours a day, seven days a week. You'll find it tucked amongst the dive bar strip on Bond Street between Minnesota and Oregon Avenue in the space previously occupied by Giuseppe's. The quiet of the front room is deceiving. Walk through the booth-lined dining room to find the heart of Caldera, a small bar festooned with elaborate woodwork and leading off to a well-populated asphalt back patio facing the parking garage.
Caldera is comforting in its consistency. Bar manager, Stacey Caito (formerly a favorite bartender at D&D), seems to always be on the clock as is his trusty server in her traditional barmaid's costume of white top and black pants. The bar conjures up feelings of a blue-collar cruise ship. Maybe it's Stacey's ubiquitous Hawaiian shirts or his equally frequent silky, Chinese dragon numbers. He says things like "badda-bing-badda-boom" as he juggles tumblers and pint glasses, makes a Long-Island iced tea in two swift motions, clears the bar and pours a shot balanced on the waitress' shoulder.
Caldera has an oddly extensive menu; a three-fold, double-sided menu, a happy hour menu, an early bird menu, a slider menu, blue-plate specials and a section of former Giuseppe's favorites. Everything is available all the time. Nevermind the vacationers trying to politely end conversation with the blotto long-haired local, hell, you can still order manicotti, steak and eggs, razor clams or cobbler. That is the beauty of Caldera.
Admittedly, I am no stranger to Caldera, but on a visit there this week a friend and I decided to go with one lavish breakfast and one hearty dinner. We chose the oven-roasted chicken dinner simply because of the amount of food it offered for $8.95: Half a chicken with broccoli and macaroni and cheese and the california benedict ($9.95) which came with bacon, turkey, tomato, avocado, chipotle hollandaise and a side of hash browns with gravy. Intrigued by the inclusion of the ever-ambiguous "cheese sauce" we also ordered a Philly Cheesesteak Slider ($4.50/$3.50 happy hour) as an appetizer.
Having a good meal here means knowing what to order and what to avoid. Prices are reasonable on everything, but the Chicken Dinner proved that more meat for your buck is not always the way to go. The chicken was a little bland, but the macaroni and cheese was out of this world with a rich creamy sauce and golden crunchy breadcrumb topping. In fact, on my second visit I decided on a full order of macaroni and cheese to accompany my gin and tonic for the perfect late-night food fix. At $5 it's hard to beat.
For satiating your late night cravings I recommend going with any of the sliders ($4-5), a hearty stack of pancakes or waffles, or one of their burger offerings like the Caldera burger (smoked cheddar, bacon, jalapenos, grilled onions and wing sauce). Caldera's extensive menu is under-used by partiers and sober folks alike, open from 5:30 to 2:30 a.m. this is essentially an all-night diner, right in the heart of downtown, and it has liquor (oh so much liquor)!
932 NW Bond St. Bend, OR
Hours: 530-230 a.m. daily