Amy Belasen
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Category: Chow43 Bent1

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Must-See Seafood: Baltazar's Restaurant gives Mexican food a high-end twist A hopeful night of tasty seafood becomes fulfilled. January 11, 2012

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  • Nosh in the Neighborhood: It's worth searching out Letzer's new downtown deli

    Popular Jewish-style deli serves authentic sandwiches and large proportions.
      What better place for two native New Yorkers to hold a business meeting than a downtown deli, in this case the relatively newly opened Letzer's. Finding Letzer's deli is a little difficult the first time, but if you ask me, that's part of the charm. Walk down the correct corridor off Franklin Avenue and a crisp, black and white striped awning announces that you've found Letzer's, a popular Jewish-style deli that initially put down stakes on south 3rd Street and quickly gained acclaim for authentic sandwiches and ample portions. The new downtonn satellite location, which quietly opened in the Re/Max building in December, has put Letzer's on the roster of go-to restaurants for downtown diners. The interior design is simple; a tall counter along the right side of the restaurant separates the clientele from the small staff. A long bench lines the entire wall to the left. Tables are set close together, but not too close. The space is brand new and correspondingly neat with an upright glass cooler providing beverage options and tri-fold paper menus.
  • Must-See Seafood: Baltazar's Restaurant gives Mexican food a high-end twist

    A hopeful night of tasty seafood becomes fulfilled.
      There are a few highly regarded restaurants in Bend that are often considered destinations due to their reputation for upscale dining and upscale prices. Among these restaurants, loyal followers book reservations in advance to save themselves a seat for an experience worth a little extra. One such restaurant is Baltazar's, which I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago. We weren't celebrating a special occasion, but the atmosphere transformed our ordinary night into a festive evening. The warm, rich colors of the dining room complemented by bright fiesta ware and colorful margarita glasses begged for celebration. There's a certain authenticity about the space itself that took me back to my years living in the barrio presidio neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona, flanked by generations-old Mexican restaurants. And yet there we were, surrounded by a bike shop, smoothie shop, a coffee hut and the cyclopub amid authenticity right here in Bend, against all odds. Baltazar, the owner, greeted us warmly as we walked through the door. We were impressed by the high ceilings and the rich smells coming from the kitchen.
  • Locally Sourced and Locally Adored: The Depot Cafe in Sisters is right on track

    Rediscovering the Depot Cafe in Sisters.
      When you walk into the Depot Café in Sisters, the old town, dark wood exterior gives way to a casual dining room and seasonal outdoor seating area behind the restaurant, which plays host to live music during the summer months. My companion and I arrived on a Saturday evening, reflecting on our last visit, which was over the summer after day spent playing tennis and walking around Sisters. We were hungry, but not starving, and thought we'd stop into the Depot Café (formerly the Depot Deli, the name by which some locals still call it) for a small bite to eat. Chris Wavrin was smoking filets of salmon on the outdoor smoker while his co-owner and wife, Pam Wavrin, ran the dining room that evening. We started with a Mediterranean-inspired appetizer: Hummus, pita and a variety of roasted veggies before sharing the salmon. The salmon was so delicious that on the way to Sisters just last week, I hoped that the salmon might once again appear on the specials menu that evening.
  • Now Serving Spicy: Digging into the big portions and small prices at Los Jalapenos

    Los Jalapenos offers good food at a great value.
      Since moving to Bend, I've noticed some things about well-established, long-standing eateries around town. Many reject social media and the internet, bypassing a website for word-of-mouth reviews and print advertising. I've also found that restaurants in Bend serve specific niche markets including the business lunch crowd, the hungry student crowd and the stay-at-home mom crowd. I often find myself in the thick of it: lunching amongst Bend's tie-wearing elite and hitting happy hour among value-seeking students later that day. Each niche group would probably argue that they go to the best restaurants, but "best" is subject to personal opinion. For some, the best restaurant might be the one that serves the most food for the least amount of cash. For others, it's the one with the most organic options, while the status seekers believe the best restaurant is that one that drizzles truffle oil on everything. I'm regularly surprised by the many options for the best food in town. Having heard that Los Jalapenos serves some of the best Mexican food, I visited it on a Saturday afternoon.

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