One of life's best pleasures is discovering a new or favorite restaurant to share an evening of good times and delicious food.
Luckily, the culinary destinations in the high desert are incredibly alluring and inspire one to appreciate all that life has to offer.
With this spirit of adventure, the Source's annual Restaurant Guide presents its top honor this year to Spork, winner of the 2016 Restaurant of the Year award. Spork is co-owned by Erica Reilly, chef-owner Jeff Hunt and Chris Lohrey. The restaurant that once lived in a '62 Airstream surfing the events of Central Oregon, skillfully combines dishes from Asia, Africa and South America, prepared with fresh and local ingredients in unique interpretations.
Next, we feature Chi Restaurant and Sushi Bar, created and run by owner-chef Di Long. Chi, which opened last May, wins the Rookie of the Year Award. This best new restaurant brings the culinary creativity of Long and her husband, chef David Cho, to a spacious and beautiful new restaurant with a view. With decades of the Long family's experience behind it, Chi will be a restaurant to enjoy for years to come.
The 2016 Readers' Choice Award goes to Barrio, which like Spork, began on wheels, as the successful food cart of owner-chef Steven Draheim. The amount of passion people express when discussing Barrio is really what makes this Bend favorite one to put on the bucket list of downtown dining experiences. Drawing from Mexican, Spanish and South American cuisine, with food that is excellent, affordable and fun, Barrio rounds out our globally-inspired winners list this year.
Last, but not least, we share the love for our 2016 Food Cart of the Year. That honor goes to the Jerk Kings, a Redmond food cart providing an authentic Jamaican street food experience.
Central Oregon is raising the bar of what can be achieved by way of culinary ingenuity. With delicious dishes prepared by creative owner-chefs, many wonderful and unique delights await.
Restaurant of the Year
Rookie of the Year
Central Oregon restaurants often have more on the menu than the daily special. Big-hearted chef-owners provide opportunities, use healthy local ingredients, and become an integral part of the community. Being environmentally friendly is important to both owners and customers. It takes courage to provide not only delicious food, but commitment to socially-conscious ways.
Farm to table
The most loved restaurants today care about being local, green and fair, and that strikes a chord with customers. According to the National Restaurant Association, 80 percent of people want dining dollars to support causes they believe in, such as fair labor practices and environmentally-conscious restaurants.
There's a notion today to consider more than the traditional bottom line when measuring success. The 3 Ps, people, planet and prosperity, bring personal values and quality of life to the restaurant business. Spork, for example, the 2016 Restaurant of the Year, supports the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance, a nonprofit with a mission to build a sustainable food system in Central Oregon. It's clearly a pathway to a better future.
Good luck is found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, and some new possibilities are just now being explored, such as reducing food waste, increasing donations of safe and nutritious food to those in need, and training and making accessible work places for people with disabilities. With 90 percent of restaurant owners given their first break in an entry level position in the field, one thing that is always on the menu is hope.