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Sisters' Secret Oasis: Doing it tight, doing it fresh at Poppies 

Poppies in Sisters, Oregon, serves up excellent farm-fresh food.

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In the midst of the faux-Western tourist territory of Sisters lays a hidden culinary gem: Poppies, a gourmet garden market and café. Poppies has been open for a year, but has not gotten the attention this one-of-a-kind eatery deserves.

After being sorely disappointed by a new restaurant in Redmond this week, I can definitively say that there is nothing like going out on a limb to try a new place and having your expectations exceeded. Poppies does everything right that most restaurants do wrong; they do not skimp on what some seem to consider trivial elements of a meal from the quality of the bread to the vegetable toppings and complimentary side items.

They are modest, too. When they say "sandwiches and burgers are served with chips," they mean house-made sweet potato chips seasoned delicately with salt, sugar and cinnamon. When they say "burgers are served with lettuce, tomato, and red onion," they mean lettuce from their garden, fresh tomatoes, non-mealy, soon to be sourced from the greenhouse on their nearby property.


A friend and I shared the blue cheese bacon burger ($12), an egg salad sandwich ($9) and an order of beer-battered fried green tomatoes ($6) for a casual mid-week lunch. I had cautioned against ordering the egg salad sandwich, having been traumatized by the ones I carried around in my lunch pail as a child and the flavorless mayonnaise-saturated versions that are served at so many gatherings and roadside diners. That's the thing about Poppies, though, the freshness of their ingredients, the care put into their unique style of Northwest and Southern fusion cuisine means that patrons can have faith in their craft despite the bad name that your average eatery gives to some classic fare.

The quality of the food at Poppies stands as a testament to the local food movement declaration that gets the most skepticism: you can taste the difference. The blue cheese bacon burger was made with Deschutes River Ranch beef, seasoned with fresh herbs, and in no way let flavor fall victim to grease. The egg salad sandwich was made with local farm-fresh eggs, seasoned with sweet pickle and mixed with a tasteful amount mayonnaise and mustard. The beer-battered fried green tomatoes were a daily special that I simply could not resist, perhaps because they are so hard to find in Central Oregon and neither could most of the surrounding diners. Despite being fried, this plate also managed to maintain freshness and subtle, satisfying spicing paired perfectly with a house-made spicy aioli.

This is a family operation; a young engaged couple and the soon-to-be bride's mother share the duties of running the kitchen, cafe, garden and retail store. The interior is a warm, inviting mix of a café and a well-executed natural foods store that offers a nice selection of wine and beer, local cheese, vegetables, jams. Orders are taken at the counter with drink options including coffee, iced tea, wine, beer, juice and soda lining the walls and counter.

We sat in the serene garden out back with a variety of seating options organically strewn about, choosing the table with a poppy-covered cloth under the wood-slatted sunshade. This garden defies the typical high desert conditions-certainly the Sisters trademark dry, bleak desert appeal. It is green and lush here. People move slowly. There is a teenage girl walking unhurried carrying wooden baskets of yard debris to and fro, dragging a small red wagon.

There is a wooden stage at the far end of the garden that hosts a variety of entertainers in the afternoons and evenings. Poppies serves lunch and dinner, with brunch additionally on the weekends. Keep your eyes open for upcoming events and entertainers here, and consider a visit for real food, real fresh, done right.

Poppies
221 W Main Ave. Sisters, OR 97759
Tue 11am-4pm, Wed-Sat 11am-4pm, 5pm-9pm, Sun 11-3pm

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