Here’s the thing about the Ale Café at Broken Top Bottle Shop. Even though it just opened in February, it feels like a place that’s always existed here but we’re just now discovering it.
The ambiance of the restaurant and pub, located on Pence Lane at the base of College Way, is a cross between eclectic and classic pub. Light maroon and yellow curtains are draped around the large windows, offsetting the feel that the place is inside a retail building, next door to a yoga studio and children’s clothing store. The pub vibe is heightened by dark cherry paneling framing rows of gleaming pint glasses backed by black beadboard.
The eight or nine tall copper-topped tables are carry-overs from the space’s former incarnation as the Abbey Pub, whose owner sold to partners Andy Polanchek and Jennifer Powell late last year. Broken Top is a laid back, comfortable place, and when Andy and Jennifer opened it they had a mission: to keep the food healthy, to keep small breweries alive and to have a large variety of crazy good beer.
The fact that they allow you to drink beers from the cooler on site, without a corking fee, or mix and match any six or 12-packs you want, is a great start to helping with part of that mission by creating awareness of the smaller breweries around the country. The cooler contains everything from GoodLife Brewing to Coalition and Cascade Brewing out of Portland, to craft beers from Michigan and beyond.
Their variety of barre-aged beer is the finest I’ve seen in Central Oregon and only getting larger, especially once the Bottle Shop opens in the next few weeks. Andy and Jennifer have leased the suite right next door to the Ale Cafe, where they said they will stock over 700 varieties of single bottle and canned beer, basically creating a mecca for Central Oregon hop heads.
Due to the staggering amount of professionalism I am cursed with, I figured the only way to give Broken Top Bottle Shop’s 12 microbrews on tap a fair shake was if I tried all of them, immediately. Because of the varied choices, it was easy to narrow down the beers I liked and disliked, but the expert help of Andy, who worked formerly at Brother Jon’s, helped me to differentiate the reasons why.
From the clove infused Volksvitzen made at the Below Grade nanobrewery here in Bend, to the raspberry bouquet of the Framboise from Belguim, Broken Top’s staff understands just how varied Bendites’ beer palates are and accommodates them skillfully.
Though, at first, the beer appears to take center stage, Chef Bethlyn Rider has done something amazing with the food at Broken Top Bottle Shop. She’s designed a menu that isn’t just good for a pub, it could stack up against any restaurant in Bend. The Hoisin marinated ribs ($9) with pineapple chutney are, quite frankly, the best ribs I’ve tasted in town. To describe them is to insult them. The apple wood smoked chicken wings ($5.50) were also fantastic with the meat falling from the bone and melting in my mouth. All of the meat is smoked on-site, including a house-made pulled pork and a tri-tip au jus, and that freshness is apparent with every bite.
Aside from all of the excellent carnivorous dishes I tried, their vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are equally impressive. My wife is a vegetarian and sometimes we struggle to find a place that can equally serve both of our tastes. But after trying the roasted beet salad ($6.50) and veggie Philly Dip ($10), I can safely say we won’t be having that problem at Broken Top.
I can’t stand beets and still found the combination of pickled onions, candied walnuts and roasted beets to be pretty incredible. The Philly Dip was stuffed with smoked portobellos and came with a delicious vegan au jus. I’m also not a big mushroom guy, but my wife’s contented food coma led me to believe she was very satisfied.
Andy and Jennifer’s mission of serving healthy food, stocking a wide variety of beer and spreading knowledge of small breweries seems to have succeeded in less than three months, evidenced by the frequently packed house. I’m confident that over the next few weeks, more Bendites will discover Broken Top Bottle Shop and after an excellent meal and some expertly crafted beer will count it as a favorite.
Broken Top Bottle Shop & Ale Café
1740 NW Pence Lane, Suite 1
11am to 10pm