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Little Bites: Fresh New Eats 

Bend's notable new restaurants of 2016

(Top) Immersion Brewing has delicious burgers and brews. (Bottom) Ajii be poppin, Ajii be cool. Ajii photo by Sydney Goodman.

(Top) Immersion Brewing has delicious burgers and brews. (Bottom) Ajii be poppin, Ajii be cool. Ajii photo by Sydney Goodman.

Central Oregon has more than its fair share of great eats, but in 2016, a handful of new places rose to the top.

Immersion Brewing took Bend's brew pub scene to the next level with a Brew-It-Yourself experience and a menu that goes beyond normal pub food, including items such as steak and frites, ahi poke and pan-seared duck. Immersion nestle perfectly in the remodeled Box Factory; the natural wood beams and high ceilings complement the large copper brew tanks and garage door front entrance.

Washington brought the team behind Drake to Northwest Crossing this fall. Bend residents know Drake to be a place for a seasonally rotating classic menu. Owner Ted Swigert and Culinary Director John Gurnee's second-born child, Washington, has its own personality though; a daily raw seafood bar and build-it-yourself salad menu. Washington's large patio, outdoor fire pit, and "liquid therapy" menu make it a great place to lounge and dine with friends and family.

Okawa Steak House and Sushi opened at the long-vacant Outback Steakhouse location on south Highway 97 and Reed Market. In addition, nearly six years have gone by since Shoji, the last Japanese-style teppanyaki steak house, closed. This new Benihana-style restaurant is more of a dinner and a show than just a normal sushi meal. Prepare to sit back, watch the chef work, and eat in courses.

Ajii Bend's newest addition to the restaurant scene, Ajii, is a unique and welcomed addition to a market dominated by pubs and breweries. Chef and Owner of 5 Fusion and James Beard Award Semifinalist, Joe Kim is no stranger to Asian cuisine. Ajii's menu is "less fusion and more Asian" with a wide variety of ramens and rice bowls.

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