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Falling for the Decoy: A new restaurant in downtown 

I hate to call on a cliché (as well as date myself) but my recent visit to The Decoy Bar and Grill reminded me of

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I hate to call on a cliché (as well as date myself) but my recent visit to The Decoy Bar and Grill reminded me of a real-life version of "Cheers." You know, the 80's show that made Ted Danson, Shelly Long, Woody Harrelson and Kristie Alley famous and where everyone yelled "Norm!" when George Wendt came through the door. It was that mix of neighborhood, preppy, blue-collar, college, yuppie, sporty and regulars that only few places can pull off. The Decoy, at least in its initial impressions, seems to have succeeded in that welcoming atmosphere. It's "Cheers" with a good menu.

Although I never tasted the dishes at Melville's Seafood (the fictional restaurant above Cheers) I can say with 99.9% certainty that the food at the Decoy is better.

The space is best described as bar-ish. Not a smoky, seedy bar or a posh, upscale bar or even a hip, trendy bar - just a bar. One whole wall is dedicated to mixing of drinks, with a flat screen TV mounted off to the side. Square, leaded-glass fixtures hang over the high-top tables with booths flanking the east and north sides of the restaurant, offering views of the intersection at Bond and Greenwood. Watching the traffic come and go is almost, well, urban.

The walls are covered in an historical Bend motif and mixed with some preppy paraphernalia (after all, the logo is a duck decoy). But, luckily, we are spared any hunter green leather couches or Izod-clad wait staff. Actually the wait staff is young-ish, down to earth, and varied in appearance, with long manicured nails on some and tattoos peeking out on others.

The menu is a nice mix of the expected and unexpected, retaining a few offerings of the well-worn "pub food" genre. There are crispy wings, but there is also pastrami and yellowfin tuna on crostini (a strange but very tasty pairing). There is a burger. (One of the best I've had in town.) But there's also a corned beef Reuben that is so gargantuan that making a colossal mess is deliciously inevitable.

The entrées range from chicken served with plum sauce and couscous, to crab cakes served with remoulade, to a grilled thick-cut pork chop. There is definitely a Southern streak in some of the dishes like the white bean soup with bacon and wilted kale, and the jerk chicken tender sandwich. I sampled the baked grits and shrimp, a relatively simple dish that seems to stump anyone above the Mason Dixon line. Not so at the Decoy, the grits were creamy, the shrimp grilled and spiced to perfection and the caramelized onions and bell peppers added nice body to the dish.

The drink menu is impressive in itself, mainly for its featured homemade sours. For $5 you can get a real bourbon (or any other flavor) sour. This is not that mouth puckering citric acid, sugar-laden concoction that comes premixed in a bottle and served in too many bars, but a drink made with fresh lemon and/or limejuice. They also feature a Mississippi Mule (Booker's, lime juice and ginger beer) and the quintessential New Orleans cocktail, the Sazerac (rye, Pernod and Peychaud's bitters).

I was a little disappointed not to see a bread pudding on the dessert menu (in keeping with the slight Southern drawl), but what is offered is worth saving room for. The champagne sabayon brulee seemed like a contradiction in terms (sabayon is like a liquid custard - turning it into a crème brulee seemed to be missing the point), but, to my surprise, it was just that - creamy, fluffy, thick liquid custard topped with a burnt sugar shell that was unique and fabulous. The molten chocolate cake is for true chocolate lovers and is topped with a bourbon chocolate genache. Next time I will try the frozen key lime pie with a pomegranate sauce or the sundae in the cardamom praline cup.

Maybe next time I'll just start with dessert.

Decoy Bar and Grill - $$

1051 NW Bond (at the Corner of Greenwood) 318.4833. 11AM-close, 7 days/week

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