I'm always looking to try new places, so I asked a chef friend where he likes to eat locally. He's a total food snob with limited leisure time, so I figured whatever he deigned to eat outside of his own kitchen was bound to be impressive. Without pause he threw out Sparrow Bakery as his favorite spot in Bend. Not much for baked-goods myself (I will pretty much always abandon the biscuit or forgo dessert to make room for another pork chop), I was dubious of the suggestion. Knowing the source, I shouldn't have hesitated. Sparrow is far beyond your average purveyor of bread and pastries, though they have a beautiful selection of both. The strongly French-influenced menu of breakfast and lunch items, all under $10, is worthy of the highest praise, even from those of us with an abnormally strong predilection towards the savory.
Open in its current incarnation since 2006, Sparrow has quietly built a passionate following. The tiny, square, brick building covered with vines and buried among warehouses for lease and parking lots near a railroad crossing boasts a scenic view of the Highway 97 overpass just off Colorado Avenue. But instead of languishing in the location, this diamond in the rough has used it and successfully cultivated that cool, industrial air that is a fixture in most urban areas but scarce in these parts. At once prolific bakery, local café with wi-fi and gallery featuring rotating exhibits, Sparrow is one of a couple of hipster pioneers populating the block, along with its neighbor Bend Experimental Art Theater. With ample commercial space available, I wouldn't be surprised if the area becomes a draw for local arts groups and other bohemian types.
The interior has a European feel and consists of a counter displaying the day's fresh-baked treats, a hanging menu board handwritten on an old windowpane and a handful of tables. On warmer days the asphalt out front transforms into a little patio, and if you divert your gaze from Central Petroleum Services Inc. across the street, you can almost pretend you're on a sidewalk in Paris drinking café au lait (in Sparrow's case, it's Stumptown Coffee from Portland). On one visit, I'm pretty sure the folks at the table next to us were actually talking about Kafka.
The menu is limited but contains nothing I wouldn't order. The Bacon Breakfast Sandoh ($7.25)-a poached egg, crispy house-smoked bacon, sliced avocado and arugula aioli on a hand-rolled flaky, buttery croissant-was impossible to put down. The Lox Bagel ($6.95) with cream cheese, red onion and capers featured one of the better bagels I've had outside of New York City. It was just the right amounts crispy and chewy, though not quite as dense as is traditional. The ample pile of lox was smoked to perfection. The quiche of the day on one visit ($5.25/$6.25 with bacon) was green chili and Queso Ibarra, a cheese I have never heard of, but nonetheless provided a nice balance for the subtle heat of the chili. The crust was outstanding, and the consistency of the filling ideal.
For lunch, there are soups that change daily ($3.25/$5.50) and a few sandwich options. I decided to go classic and ordered the Vichyssoise, a nice version of the classic creamy potato-leek puree topped with chives, and the Croque-Monsieur ($7.25), which is basically a fancy French grilled cheese with ham. Sparrow's was made with thick slices of Dijon brioche, ham and a rich shallot-infused béchamel topped with melted Gruyere and arugula. It was excellent.
Probably because of its location, Sparrow is open far less than I'd like it to be, closing at "2ish" daily as it says on the door. Hopefully, if the neighborhood catches up with what Sparrow has started that will change.Sparrow Bakery
50 SE Scott St., 330-6321
Tues.-Sat., 7 a.m.-2 p.m.