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Flexing New Muscles: New chef and lower prices revitalize Scanlon's 

click to enlarge chow_filet_mignon.jpg

The location of Scanlon's is perhaps an apt metaphor for a restaurant that's trying to play a lot of seemingly contradictory roles. It's fine dining, but it shares a building with the Athletic Club of Bend. It's a place where "fancy" dishes like rack of lamb with a side of ratatouille rub shoulders with Nikes, gym bags and nachos.

"We've been so well branded as the fine dining, date-night restaurant and we want to still be that for people, but we want to be economical, too," says club general manager Kip Heilman. "We want everybody to understand that you can come in here and get an affordable meal in a very nice setting."

Though guests enter through the gym's main lobby, low lighting and wood paneling mark the entrance to Scanlon's. The cushy booths are more reminiscent of a family restaurant than a posh steakhouse, but the overall effect is pleasant - it's easy to envision settling in for a few glasses of wine and a good dinner.

That's exactly what my companion and I did. After ordering generous glasses of pinot noir, we started with the addictively herby marinated mushrooms ($4) and sourdough flat bread with roasted garlic, romesco and goat cheese for spreading ($4). I'd have preferred the bread not be salted, since it overshadowed the more subtle savory flavors of the spreads.

Since Scanlon's dropped prices across the board a month ago, it wouldn't be too hard to get out for under $35 for a simple dinner for two. Most places where that's possible don't also have an appetizer featuring house-made charcuterie, or a filet mignon one can enjoy with a nice bottle of wine.

The filet, by the way, is solid. Served au jus with Brussels sprouts (which I swapped out for the garlicky sautéed spinach - never quite got over that childhood aversion to the infamous sprout) and silky, buttery potato puree, the soft, fist-sized cut was heavy and rich, a bit red in the middle and complemented by the herb-salt crust. At $29, pricing is on par with other spots in town.

The bar menu features some good options for a diner looking for a lighter dinner or a late (after 3 p.m.) lunch. Standard bar and grill offerings include burgers, nachos, chili and pizzas in the $7 to $12 range. The grilled chicken sandwich ($9 on the bar menu) was a bit on the salty side, but the garnishes do include prosciutto and aioli. The house-made focaccia it came with was just right and the fries were hot and crispy (but oddly not salty).

The old fine-dining staple is in the midst of a reinvention. The big changes started a little over two years ago, when Scanlon's changed chefs. The Bend institution came under the direction of chef Brad Wood, whom some may recognize from his tenure at the now-defunct Merenda with chef Jody Denton. Wood worked at LuLu in San Francisco for about 10 years, earning his chops under Denton as a line cook and administrative chef while he tried to make a go of a career in music. Somewhere along the line, cooking French and Italian country food became his art of choice.

What's in season and what can be procured locally play a huge role in the menu these days. Wood and Heilman believe strongly in supporting local farmers and ranchers; it shows in the flavors and is noted in the menu.

"You can come in and order rack of lamb and a $50 bottle of wine and have a wonderful, intimate dinner for two, but please, by all means, come in and have a big plate of nachos," says Wood.

Scanlon's, 61615 Athletic Club Drive. 541-385-3062. Dinner daily, 5 p.m. - close. Lounge open daily, 3 p.m. - close.


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