My last post on Bend, Oregon might have been a little narrow-minded in the way the people who have lived there for a long time thought about how their town has exploded over the last couple of decades, so I went back to Bend yesterday evening to see old friends and enjoy the downtown area. I would like to give my opinion of that area of the town that does not involve the jaded view that comes from people when their town get crowded. Instead, I would like to look at from the point of view from the business owners who look forward to the busy tourist seasons that bring people to their stores, and how the downtown area caters to those people.
I visited two great locations while there, one to get a drink at, and the other to have dinner at. The first one was a Mexican restaurant called Hola!, and even though the food there looked good, I was really only there to get a margarita. It is almost impossible to find a good margarita in South Korea, so when I have the opportunity to have good one while I am in the United States, I do not turn it down. Hola does a great job with their margaritas, and it even comes in pitcher form. That can be dangerous, but when you share it with three different people, it is fine. We went for the blood red margarita which did not come with the usual off yellow color, but was still delicious. Also, being a Mexican restaurant, they served us chips and two different kinds of salsas. The strange thing about this side though was they used home made potato chips instead of corn chips. They were good potato chips, and it was good salsa, but the combination of the two didn’t really work for me, but I was able to forgive that fact considering the further north I get from Mexico, the weirder the Mexican food gets.
For dinner, I wanted a good hamburger because I have not had one yet all during this trip, and once again, it is an item that is not easily come by in South Korea, even though they are easier to find than a good margarita. I, of course, instantly thought of the many brew pubs that are found the downtown area of Bend. I first went to the Deschuttes Brewery because it was right down the street from where I was, and I remember them having really good food there. But I showed up to one of the major tourist destinations of downtown Bend at 6:30 on a Friday night during the height of the tourist season. I would have starved to death before I ever got a table in the place, so I went down to the other brewery that I knew had great food and was a little more off the beaten path, the Bend Brewing Company, and let me tell you it made all of the difference.
I found a place at the bar, and order an Exploregon, which they market as a hoppy lager. I usually enjoy the hoppier beers, such as IPAs, but the heat that Central Oregon is experiencing lately, made me want to have something a little lighter. This was the perfect choice because it still has a little bit of a bite like an IPA, but gave me that refreshing feeling that I was looking for in a beer. The food there was really good too. I was able to find that hamburger that I was looking for. But the nice part of the evening was that our beers were comped for us because the friend that Christine and I were meeting down there was also in town, but used to live in Bend for over ten years. She was really good friends with the bartender, and he was happy to see one of his old regulars back in town. It was nice to see that some things remained even through all of the growing pains that the town had been through over the years. This bartender was also really excited that things had picked up over the summer. He talked about how it was his favorite time of the year because it got easier and easier for him every year as business continued to grow.
The Bend Brewing Company has gone through a lot of change too since I first walked through their doors. There used to be two large buildings crowding it on either side. They were bought and torn down by another company who wished to create some housing, but the last recession put an end to that idea, and the lots remained empty while Bend Brewing Company continued to do great business. Apparently business had been really good lately because those two lots have now been added to the bar’s grounds. They now have a parking lot, and nice patio that looks out over the river behind its building. It is nice to see that the growth has helped companies that treat their employees well, and create a great product.
After dinner, we wandered down the river and were able to catch a live band that was set up for the entertainment of anybody who decided to come down to the area for the evening. There was an added bonus of them being a Grateful Dead cover band, and we caught two songs of their set, which means we watched about a half an hour of it. They were pretty good, and the lead singer sounded exactly like Bob Weir, so much so that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t him. They had set up a booth where you get one of the many craft beers that Bend has to offer, and another booth that boasted Oregon’s newest industry, marijuana. It created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect evening. So even though there are many people who are angry about the growing pains that the town is going through, there is still a corner of Bend, the downtown area, that has been able to hold on to that small town atmosphere and create a beautiful place to hang out, and meet friends both old and new. It will be hard to keep people away when the town has a place like this to boast about, and maybe it is the duty of the ones who do not like it to try to figure out how to live with it and grow along with it. The fact is that it isn’t going to change. Too much has been set in motion that it would be impossible to go back to the way it once was. I know change might be a scary thing, but it could also be the answer you are looking for. Embrace it and maybe the change that is made is one you are more comfortable with.