The restaurant space at the southwest corner of Greenwood Avenue and Bond Street in Bend has been a classic underachiever since it first opened as the Decoy Bar and Grill in late 2007.
Initially as the Decoy, later as the Bond Street Grill, it presented a warm and hospitable face but never attracted sufficient business to make it a commercial success.
Purchased last year by Brother Jon’s, a west-side Bend pub that has earned a dedicated local following after making its debut in 2009, the restaurant was rechristened Brother Jon’s Alehouse. It opened three months ago, on Jan. 31 — bringing with it a faithful patronage that has continued to grow.
New owners John Machell and Steve Barnette made only minor changes to the club-like, dark-wood decor of the establishment, significantly removing window coverings to allow outside light to stream into the restaurant.
A collection of international beer platters has replaced historic hunting-and-fishing photographs on the brick walls, beneath a classic pressed-tin ceiling.
The Alehouse attracts a broad demographic. Men and women from their 30s into their 60s were in animated conversation on each of my visits. Rock music, playing in the background, was turned up loud to balance the din of voices; six televisions were tuned to sports events in various corners of the room.
But in my first two visits to the new Brother Jon’s, I had issues with both the food and the service. It wasn’t until my third visit — when I sat at the bar rather than at a booth or high table — that I was pleased with both.
It started when my dining companion and I arrived for dinner. Our server, who was pleasant, confused our table with another when delivering orders. We heard a server at an adjacent table ask her party, “How’s everything tasting?” Ours never checked in.
To start, we shared a Caesar salad. No complaints here; fresh and crispy hearts of romaine lettuce were tossed with house-made croutons (it appeared that several types of bread, including marbled rye, were used) and shredded Parmesan. Lemony house dressing displayed a hint of anchovy paste, as any good Caesar dressing must have.
It was the dinner entrees that we questioned. Specifically, we wondered why the kitchen plated two very different main courses, rib-eye steak and blackened salmon, with the same potatoes and vegetables — right down to the turkey gravy.
In both cases, a medley of freshly sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, red onions and red bell peppers was served with a scoop of skin-on red potatoes, generously covered with gravy that didn’t seem appropriate for either entree. The steak and fish, in each case, were carefully laid atop the gravy-laden potatoes. Talk about a clash of cultures!
My 14-ounce steak was cooked to order, medium rare, but it was quite fatty. It came with a side of creamy horseradish. My friend’s coho salmon, which the menu proudly said was wild-caught, was thin and cooked more than she would have preferred.
For my friend’s teenage son, we took home an order of the pub’s much-talked-about creamy macaroni and cheese. Neither he nor I found it anything different than ordinary. Another friend later told me that she orders it with bacon at the original Brother Jon’s on Galveston Avenue, but that wasn’t an option here.
We shared a dessert of white-chocolate banana-bread pudding. “This is the best thing I’ve had all night!” quipped my companion. French rolls, made by the Sparrow Bakery, were baked with custard, bananas and white chocolate chips, then topped with a bourbon glaze and whipped cream.
Things started badly at lunch, when I ordered corn chowder and was instead delivered the Alehouse’s other soup du jour, andouille barley.
I thought about eating the one I was delivered. But there was precious little peppery sausage mixed into the grainy potage, which also featured carrots and green onions. A good 10 minutes passed before my server (a different one than had attended me at dinner) noted that I had pushed the bowl aside. “This is not what I ordered,” I said.
“You know what?” she responded. “They’re all backwards in the back (the kitchen).” It seemed to me that a fully aware server might have noticed the difference between two soups of very different appearance before she carried it to the table.
When my chowder did arrive, complete with a saltine, I did find it satisfying. It was made with heavy cream as well as potatoes, red bell peppers and green onions.
But I did not appreciate my server taking the initiative to “put your pork sandwich back a bit,” as she told me. As a result, it didn’t arrive for another 15 minutes after I finished the already-delayed soup.
The Cuban pressed pork sandwich was much like a panini. Four slices of roasted pork shoulder and two of Black Forest ham were layered with provolone cheese on a hoagie bun, dressed with Dijon mustard and a delicious habanero rum glaze. But I would have liked the sandwich better had there been fewer dill-pickle chips. Not only were there way too many between the buns, another half dozen were added to the side, in case I needed more.
I took home another sandwich and a salad. The Reuben had so much sauerkraut that the taste of a half-dozen slices of pastrami was completely overwhelmed. What’s more, the marbled rye on which it was served was not grilled, and was barely even toasted.
On the other hand, a Cobb salad — made with mixed baby greens rather than iceberg lettuce — was excellent. My friend just wished there had been more greens, which seemed a little short in quantity. The salad included smoked chicken, a sliced hard-boiled egg, avocado cherry tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles and lots of chopped bacon.
Fish at the bar
I can rave about one dish: the beer-battered fish and chips.
Four big pieces of Alaskan cod were deep-fried in a thin but crispy crust that locked in their moisture and flavor. They were served with an ample portion of hand-cut fries made from firm Kennebec potatoes, along with tartar sauce, lemon wedges and coleslaw that was tasty but a little too soupy for my taste.
I sat at the bar for this meal, and although the restaurant was packed, the two bartenders pouring drinks (there are 16 local and regional beers on tap) were fast and accurate in providing my food and beverage.
I think that spacious bar is the perfect place to appreciate Brother Jon’s.
The Liquid Lounge & Club opened last Friday in the former location of Boondocks Bar & Grill. A happy-hour food menu, with items priced at $2, $3 and $5, is served Tuesday through Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. 70 N.W. Newport Ave., Bend; 541-382-7836, www.liquidclub.net.