If you worship beer — if you love to drink it, critique it, talk about it, and especially make it yourself — by all means, hasten to The Brew Shop on Third Street in Bend.
Occupying the former sanctuary of what was once a Nazarene church and later a series of restaurants that included the Black Forest and Ernesto’s, The Brew Shop is heaven for serious home-brewers.
Careful shoppers will find everything they need to whip up a batch of hefeweizen or India pale ale, from grains and yeast to machinery to do-it-yourself instructional books. What’s more, an extensive selection of nearly 600 bottled beers from throughout the world fill a room-length cooler.
You might also want to wander down to the Platypus Pub in the basement of the old church, where 15 taps dispense a well-considered choice of draught beers and ciders.
I don’t recommend that you come for a meal, however. For all the props deserved for the beer selection, the food, service and atmosphere leave a great deal to be desired.
There are two entrances to the pub, which opened last September. One of them descends from the shop past a tabletop altar to Oregon collegiate sports: The name “platypus” came from a marriage of the Oregon Duck with the Oregon State Beaver.
The second entrance leads off Lafayette Avenue, a stone’s throw from the 2nd Street Theater, through an anteroom into the pub.
This entry takes new arrivals directly past a pair of dartboards. I wouldn’t want to rush in, lest I get stuck with more than a bill.
The darts setup, along with an entree list that includes fish and chips, bangers and mash and cottage pie, suggest an English pub flavor. But the mood ends there. There is little of the warmth of a Yorkshire country pub in this 60-seat establishment.
Despite wood paneling, a concrete floor still feels cold. Even the temperature was chilly; every patron during both of my visits was wearing a jacket or a sweater. What’s more, the choice of contemporary alt-rock, playing loudly in the background, didn’t seem appropriate for a clientele that was mostly 40-plus years old. If this is a British-style pub, think The Beatles or the Stones.
Working solo on a floor that had no more than 10 guests on either of my visits, the server — who attended me on both of my recent visits — seemed distracted and inattentive. Twice she asked me to repeat my order, opting to commit it to memory rather than writing it down. Not once did she check back after delivering an order to assure that I was pleased with it.
When my dining companion and I ordered a soup and a salad to accompany our meals on our first visit, we waited impatiently for our starters until our main courses were delivered. That was when my friend got her salad, but I was still looking for soup. “Most of our customers want everything brought at once,” the server said in her own defense.
I canceled my soup order, as my sandwich had already arrived. In the end, the server also canceled the charge for the house salad, realizing that we had expected it ahead of the entree.
A first meal
As it turned out, the salad was a good one. Mixed greens, tossed with slices of red onions, carrots, tomato and parsley, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese, were served with a house bleu-cheese dressing.
The rest of our meal, however, was not good.
My companion requested traditional English pub fare of bangers and mash, a simple dish of grilled sausages with mashed potatoes. The sausage served was a tasteless variety, like a steamed knockwurst, of which she took two bites and discarded the remainder.
The house-made mashers, probably Yukon Gold, were very heavy, a malady remedied neither by thick brown onion gravy nor by salt that poured far too freely from the shaker on our table. A slab of malty beer bread was very dry.
My Platypus burger, which sounded on the menu like a juicy alternative to an everyday hamburger, was more like dense meatloaf sandwiched between two halves of a ciabatta roll. Made, according to the menu, with “Angus beef and Italian sausage with garlic and fresh herbs,” the burger lacked any ingredient that might have lightened it up a bit.
The sandwich was topped with caramelized onions, a leaf of romaine lettuce, a thick slice of tomato and a slice of melted mozzarella cheese. The accompanying house-made, skin-on French fries were better than the burger itself.
When I returned the following week, the server remembered that I like my cup of soup before I get my entree. It was good.
The New England clam chowder was a creamy, peppery concoction with lots of clams. It also had small bites of well-cooked potatoes, onions and thyme for seasoning. “We believe it’s Bend’s best,” the menu trumpeted, and I believe it deserves consideration for that honor.
Had the Yorkshire-style fish and chips lived up to their own publicity, I would have been delighted. But the dish — two large pieces of fish on a bed of fries — was mediocre. The menu’s promise of “light and crispy” ale batter turned out to be soggy with grease. The cod might have benefited from a little more time in the deep fryer, as the fish didn’t flake easily and parts of it clung together like gristle on a steak.
I left with takeout orders for a hungry trio at home, and the dishes got mixed reviews.
My usual dining companion chose mac-n-cheese, described as “shell pasta in a creamy three-cheese sauce and crunchy topping.” The macaroni were cooked perfectly, although the peppery sauce was decidedly light in cheese, and the topping was merely baked bread crumbs. Still, she called it “way better” than her bangers and mash.
Her teenage son was unhappy with his pastrami sandwich, but his friend was satisfied with her Caesar salad, made with hearts of romaine, chopped hard-boiled egg and a sprinkle of cheese tossed in tangy, house-made dressing. However, the “fresh Parmesan” topping promised by the menu turned out to be a very salty Parmesan crisp.
Should you venture to this chapel of beer and want a little food with your suds, your best bets may be soups and salads. Nothing else on the menu inspires me to sing a hymn of praise.
The Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Cafe opened Feb. 4 on Bend’s west side, in the former Abbey Pub. Chef Bethlyn Rider, formerly of Common Table, offers a menu that includes soups, salads, smoked meats and daily vegetarian entrees such as tempeh curries and stuffed portobello mushrooms priced under $12. The bar features a rotating 12-tap selection of craft beers. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. 1740 N.W. Pence Lane, Bend; 541-728-0703, www.btbsbend.com.
Five Fusion & Sushi Bar has reopened for lunches in downtown Bend. Chef Joe Kim’s new midday menu offers dishes like red Thai curry and Korean pork bulgogi, both $8.95, as well as sushi plates for $11.95. Open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to close every day. 821 N.W. Wall St., Bend; 541-323-2328, www.bend5spice.com.