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Pine Tavern dishes up taste of Bend history

By Julie Johnson
Last modified: December 31. 2002 9:00PM PST

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Pine Tavern

Like the stately ponderosa pine tree stretching through its roof, the tradition of Pine Tavern restaurant in Bend flourishes.

It's the destination in Bend for wedding proposals, anniversary dinners and sweet 16 birthday parties, says General Manager Gail Moulton.

It's the place longtime residents remember visiting as children, teenagers, young lovers, parents and grandparents.

Its rich history, Moulton says, is part of its appeal.

"Our pride and joy is our history," she said.

The Pine Tavern is Bend's oldest restaurant, built in 1936 by two entrepreneurial women. Wall Street was then the town's main thoroughfare, and critics thought that at a block away, the restaurant was too far off the beaten path to succeed.

They were wrong.

Though it has been remodeled and expanded in the intervening decades, the Pine Tavern remains true to its original incarnation as a place of hospitality and good food, Moulton said.

Diners come back time and again for its thoughtful dishes and warm welcome.

"I literally have people come in that I waited on when I was pregnant with my 16-year-old," Moulton said. Memories are made here and traditions established.

Known for years as a steak-and-potatoes house, albeit a fine one, the Pine Tavern has in the past 10 years expanded its menu to include the best of Northwest cuisine and exotic seafood, said chef Kirk Jensen, who has set the tavern's menu for the past five years.

Today, diners are as likely to order pan-seared rare ahi, herb- and spice-crusted ($20.95), as the restaurant's signature prime rib, a healthy cut of lean beef au jus served with horseradish ($21.95).

And they'll enjoy their meals in a serene dining room surrounded by knotty pine paneling and windows overlooking a park-like garden above the Deschutes River. Servers are attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and the extensive wine list, featuring plenty of Northwest vintages to match any meal.

Dinners are served with salad or soup, baked potatoes, vegetables and the Pine Tavern's homemade sourdough scones with honey butter.

Jensen said he likes to cook with Northwest-grown produce and ingredients. That means Oregon hazelnuts adorn the hazelnut crust brie appetizer, served with sliced pears and apples grown in the region ($9.50). Two cuts of beef on the menu - the prime rib and the flat iron steak - are from Oregon Country Beef, a Central Oregon ranching operation using environmentally-sound ranching practices to raise its hormone-free cattle. And a Shaniko sheep ranch produces the lamb served at the Pine Tavern as a specialty item.

Buying locally means fresh food for diners, Jensen said, and an ethic that helps area farmers and ranchers.

Community-mindedness is a trait of the Pine Tavern, Moulton says. The restaurant contributes regularly to local charitable causes and believes in being a good citizen, even extending its civic responsibility to caring for the two pine trees enclosed in its dining room.

One of the trees became a victim of pine beetles in the early 1980s, Moulton said. But the other, a 300-year-old behemoth, appears to thrive in its pseudo-captivity. The vast majority of the tree lives out of doors with a nice view of the adjacent Deschutes River and Drake Park.

Many a proposal has been accepted under the trunk of that pine tree and it continues to preside over the celebrations of countless anniversaries and birthdays.

"This restaurant has touched so many people," Moulton said. "I would like to invite people in to make their own memories."

Julie Johnson can be reached at 541-383-0308 or jjohnson@bendbulletin.com.

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