Bend is a beer town through and through (see this week's feature). The downtown drinking and dining scene is awash in tap handles and IBU scales. So when Dogwood Cocktail Cabin hit the scene last month with a distinct lack of beer selection and an emphasis on craft cocktail creation, we had a moment of doubt. Would Bend embrace these Crested Butte, Colorado, mixologists' second location?
Embrace, Bend. We beseech you. The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin is a highly evolved addition to downtown with a focus on farm to shaker cocktails and fresh, locally sourced dishes.
First off, the décor is phenomenal. The remodel of the two-story former Astro Lounge space is hip and homey, full of reclaimed wood paneling, lodge poles and a touch of cosmopolitan art, our favorite piece being a massive anthropomorphized animal mural that looks like a debaucherous wedding from Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Dogwood has its biggest assets in the details. Delicate lighting fixtures, a beautifully finished wood bar, and the newly installed garage-door style windows that add a street-side charm to the space. Likewise, the menu of cocktails and food is nuanced and upscale right down to the cucumber infused water we were served upon arrival.
With a myriad of delicious sounding options, it took us almost as long to read the cocktail menu as it did to decide what we wanted to drink. Clearly, the focus of the bar's options are nothing but artisan, one-of-a-kind specialties. The lavender martini was a vision of summer simplicity. With just gin, lavender syrup and lime, the fresh herbal flavors rise to the surface. While some martinis can be overpowering in their sweetness or, alternately, booziness, this martini was well balanced. Easy to drink, with a flavor that inspired savoring, it was just strong enough.
The Poco Loco martini was all about pleasing the palate, combining the perfect ratio of vodka and pineapple with a kick of habanero and a sweet honey finish. We were extremely intrigued by the rest of the menu which included tobacco infused rum, chipotle bitters and cardamom orange tequila offerings (that's some weird shit). It's a dangerous place to try everything in one go, but the diversity merits several trips to the Cabin if you're looking to sample the whole menu. Bonus: All martinis are $4 off during happy hour.
Dogwood's bar menu is short, but creative with light options like a watermelon salad, marinated olives and spiced nuts along with small plates not limited to a Mediterranean wheelhouse like the tandoori chicken wings and a lamb gyro on steamed buns.
When we placed our order the chili-smoked ribs were tempting, along with the seafood andouille (with sweet corn grits, braised greens and bacon jam, yes BACON JAM) but we settled on the fried mac and cheese and an order of steam buns, we received a trio of each.
The menu boasts local product sourcing from DD Ranch, Good Earth Farms, Juniper Grove Farm, Ancient Heritage, Tender Greens and Sparrow Bakery. In fact, as we were eating, a friendly fellow passed our street-side table and exclaimed, "Hey! I grew that lettuce!" A solid vote for the freshness of the mac and cheese accompaniment. Lightly dressed with a citrusy vinaigrette, we want to say thank you to the friendly farming stranger (who disappeared as fast as he appeared) for the delicious greens. They were lovely.
The mac and cheese is, dare we say, a revelation. Consisting of three nearly tennis ball-sized fried orbs filled with al dente elbow pasta, gruyere, a delicate dash of truffle oil, and just enough sage to make you sit up and take notice, this is not an Applebee's fried mac appetizer. Served with crisp green apple slices and lightly dressed greens, the balls are held together by a crispy outer crust that is more reminiscent of the crunchy breadcrumb topping that often accompanies the casserole version of the dish, than the wall of greasy carb crumbs that encases lesser apps. Topped with the fruit, greens and herbs, Dogwood manages to make fried mac and cheese almost taste healthy—in the best possible way.
An amazing BBQ sauce, or perhaps that was just the marinade, topped the moist lamb that was more like a pulled pork slider with a roasted tomato accent. The steam buns were adorable, about the size of a business card, but stuffed full of savory lamb and were melt-in-your-mouth soft. The plates were the ideal size for ordering a sampling and sharing and were a great compliment to the expansive cocktail listings.
With a price point just above the standard downtown fare, the extra few bucks are worth the locally sourced emphasis and flavorful and unconventional drinks.
The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin—Bend
147 Minnesota Ave.
Open at 4 pm Tues-Sun.