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Rookie of the Year 

Lemon Tree: Downtown delight

An internationally focused menu and a central location spell success for Lemon Tree

  • Daniel Robbins

Co-owner and co-chef Betsy McDonald is outside The Lemon Tree when I arrive, arranging chairs and adjusting the delicate flowers that adorn each table. It's been raining off and on in Bend this week, but McDonald is sure people will dine outside anyway. With the popularity of this downtown breakfast and lunch spot, I'm pretty sure she's right.

Since its opening, The Lemon Tree has seen a steady stream of visitors, and nearly a year in, a host of loyal followers—making it a natural choice for our Rookie of the Year. The location, on the corner of Bend's Franklin Avenue and the Brooks Street alley, certainly has something to do with their success—but the varied, international menu and the care the team puts into its drinks, pastries and overall presentation also helps.

McDonald, who opened the Lemon Tree with her husband, Mac McDonald, last May, is joined by Panamanian chef Jaclyn Perez. The trio met while working as crew members on high-end mega-yachts cruising around the world—Perez and Betsy McDonald in the kitchen; Mac McDonald serving as captain. The menu reflects the team's international experience. When they cruised into various ports, Perez and McDonald say they'd be tasked with gathering ingredients from what was locally available—and crafting dishes that suited the palates of their international clientele.

  • Daniel Robbins

"You're literally going to step off the boat, and go to that port, and grab what's right there," McDonald explained.

That method continues today—minus the exotic ports of call. "All our inspiration is based on what we find on the market," says Perez.

In Central Oregon, a focus on something beyond burgers and pizza has been well-received. In other words, locals seem to like some variety in the dining ecosystem.

"The top-selling items are probably the two most eclectic items, which are the Tunisian Shakshuka and the Indonesian Nasi Goreng," noted Betsy McDonald. Still, sourcing world-cuisine items can require some creative thinking.

"We couldn't find the chorizo we wanted for the shrimp and chorizo, so Jake at Primal Cuts— a righteous guy... he'll make what we want," McDonald notes.

As The Lemon Tree prepares to move into its second year, the team—not unaware of the popularity of its breakfast and lunch—is slowly looking toward dinner. Normally closing at 3 pm daily, they're open just one evening a month, on the ever-popular First Friday, serving an international tapas menu. Eventually, chef Perez hopes to add a couple evenings of dinner service—slowly, at the right time.

  • Daniel Robbins

With a combination of a unique concept and a great location, The Lemon Tree has sailed into success in Bend.

"We are completely stoked now that we've got our feet under us, because last summer was a wing and a prayer," Betsy McDonald joked. "Every night over a glass of wine, we were like, what just happened?"

The Lemon Tree
718 NW Franklin Ave., Bend
Tue-Sun 8am-3pm

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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