On any given Monday night in Bend, a half-dozen retired foresters gather at a large round table in the Silver Moon Brewery’s taproom to quaff beers, tell stories and otherwise reminisce about the good old days.
It’s only right that they should hold their weekly reunions at Silver Moon. Its owner, after all, was a forester himself.
Tyler Reichert began his adult life among the old-growth hemlock and oak trees of southern Vermont. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in forestry from the University of Vermont, he went to work in the Merck Forest preserve in a location sufficiently remote that beer had to be carried in by backpack.
Before long, Reichert began brewing his own beer. He established Silver Moon in 2000, moved it to its current Greenwood Avenue location in 2005, and now produces such national award-winning beers as Snake Bite Porter and Dark Side Stout.
On Monday, locals’ day, when the foresters swarm in, pints are just $2.50 and the taps empty faster than maple syrup from a New England pine.
Good beer demands good food, and Silver Moon, not originally known as a dining destination, has answered the call.
The posted menu has the appearance of a standard bar list, with items like German bratwurst, chicken quesadillas, cheesesteak sandwiches and nachos.
But give it a closer look, and you’ll find that the nachos are made with barbecued pulled pork. The burgers are made with Angus beef and pepper-jack cheese. The “G fries” are sliced and baked, and served with melted Gorgonzola cheese and a sprinkle of chives. Silver Moon is clearly more gourmet than a typical pub.
When I ordered chicken wings and a small salad, I was delighted to discover that my basic greens were fresh young leaves of spinach, served with slices of cucumber and Roma tomato, red onion rings and a choice of dressing served in a large cup on the side.
The wings were smoked with a dry chipotle-pepper rub, giving them a moderate spice level but without the heavy vinegar flavor I often find in sloppy sauces. They were served with ranch for dipping, three celery sticks and a dozen baby carrots. My only complaint was that, of the eight wings on my plate, only one was the meatier drumette.
Fish and beef
My dining companion, on a later visit, was thoroughly impressed that a brewpub would concoct a smoked-salmon salad of the quality served at Silver Moon. Chunks of baked fish were tossed with spinach, pine nuts and dried cranberries, giving it a touch of sweetness that balanced the tangy balsamic dressing. But she insisted the fish must have been trout, given its pale color and mild flavor.
On this visit, I had an excellent brisket royale, presented in sandwich form. The beef cut was braised until tender, with onions and green peppers, in Bridge Creek Pilsner, one of Silver Moon’s most popular beers. Then it was sliced and served warm on a ciabatta roll from Nancy P’s west-Bend bakery. Swiss cheese was melted on top.
A house-made slaw was a terrific complement. Finely chopped white and red cabbage was tossed with slivered carrots, cranberries and cilantro in a honey-lime dressing. Equal parts sweet and tart, neither dry nor watery, it was an almost-perfect slaw.
Another friend settled for a barbecued-chicken pizza when she learned that the pub had exhausted its evening supply of pulled pork. Coarse chunks of chicken breast and thigh meat, along with red onions and pepperoncini, were baked under a melted cheese topping. The crust was medium-thin and tasty, and the pizza was served with a house salad.
Appropriate to a brewpub, service is casual and friendly, and as efficient as reasonably possible in a pub that often deals with standing-room-only crowds.
That’s particularly true most weekend nights and occasional other evenings, when high-powered bands perform on a corner stage, inspiring patrons to dance on any patch of bare floor. With servers coming in and out from behind the bar, the scene can be nothing short of madcap.
Other times, the full-wall murals on the pub’s west wall, behind the stage, offer a pastoral mood. Two flat-screen televisions, on the east wall above a pool table, draw limited attention unless Duck or Beaver sports are broadcast.
Booths and tables seat about 40 guests, with room for perhaps another 20 at the main bar and additional high seats.
Just remember, if you come on a Monday night, you may have to share that large, round, central table with a thirsty bunch of guys from the backwoods.
Panda Express is open on North U.S. Highway 97 near the Cascade Village Shopping Center. Located between Carino’s and Olive Garden Italian restaurants, the 60-seat Chinese fast-food franchise is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily in the dining room; drive-through service will operate 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily. Another Panda Express is being planned in south Bend. 63447 N. U.S. Highway 97, Bend; www.pandaexpress.com or 541-382-2099.
The Maragas Winery closed its Taverna and tasting room in downtown Bend on Jan. 1. Owner Doug Maragas said he is consolidating all of the winery’s operations at its vineyard between Terrebonne and Culver, 25 miles north of Bend. “After attempting to run two tasting rooms with tapas food service, the split efforts became a bit exhausting,” Maragas said. “But we learned quite a bit about food service that we’ll be bringing to the winery this spring.” 15523 S.W. U.S. Highway 97, Culver; www.maragaswinery.com or 541-546-5464.