What's always deeply impressed me about the The Stihl Whiskey Bar is the ability of its management, kitchen staff and bartenders to calibrate the space, cocktails and food to reflect downtown Bend back at itself. During the day, The Stihl is bright and welcoming, while at night the corners become darker and the urban speakeasy vibes are more pronounced.
The Stihl, that mirror to downtown Bend, has been around for almost nine years. Since it opened it's had the swagger of a place that's always been there. I've had reunions with old friends there, multiple astonishingly romantic dates and too many post-work drinks to count, yet each of those seemingly disparate experiences didn't feel out of place. The Stihl proves a place can be romantic, while also being convivial and chill at the same time.
While the cocktail inventions have always been in the top tier of Central Oregon (you try the "Blood N Sand" or the "Ginger Cube" and tell me I'm wrong), and its whisky curation is sec-ond to none (just their Rye selection is enough to warrant an entire article), but I think Bend has been sleeping on the quality of the food for a long time. Now, after COVID, with some pivoting and a recalibration of the menu, Brunch has finally returned to The Stihl.
Ever since I walked into The Stihl seven or eight years ago and the chef asked me if I wanted to try his take on rabbit stew, I knew keeping an eye on whatever they had going on in the kitchen was a good idea. Even after all these years, the Stihl Bourbon Burger is a mainstay. With the brunch program finally returning, though, I knew it could be a chance for this place to surprise and celebrate comfort food in a way only The Stihl knows how.
General Manager Davidson Small explains the approach to brunch: "We've never wanted to be that whiskey bar that people think is gonna be bougie. It's not. We want our food to be approachable for everyone. Our kitchen is super unique in that we seek out chefs who want to be able to exercise creativity and execute their own brunch program."
That chef turned out to be Keaghan Lariviere, who had a very specific vision for the menu as a whole. "I wanted a brunch menu that was as approachable as The Stihl is as a whole," says Lariviere. "That speakeasy, comfort feeling. I think the menu really reflects on a lot of that comfort food, but really steers towards the boozy, heavy feeling of The Stihl itself."
Normally after a brunch in Bend, I immediately think of finding a patch of grass, a book and a four-hour nap, but I had to work after the meal and the food didn't hold me back in the slightest. On a recent trip I went with The Stihl Benedict with Guinness glazed tri tip, French bread, poached eggs, red wine braised shallots, a light and smokey hollandaise and potatoes. The tri tip was so tender that it melted when smothered with the yolk and shallots. The flavors were so complimentary and uniquely Northwestern that the dish sat much lighter than one would think. Also, the English muffin I ordered on the side was probably the best one I've ever had. Thick, fresh and light, it tasted like it came out of the oven only moments before.
I couldn't get brunch at The Stihl without an alcoholic beverage, but I felt like a mimosa or Mary would make my workday tougher, so I went with "A Proper Donny Brook," a buttered bourbon over ice with Irish cream and a cold brew pour-over. Somehow, Davidson managed to make it stiff as hell without sacrificing any of the complexity of Megaphone Coffee's always flawless roast. Locally, I've found that cocktails struggle greatly to make truly memorable coffee-based booziness, but I shouldn't have doubted The Stihl for a second.
Bend being such a brunch town, it can seem like there are almost too many options sometimes.
"Come try something! You'll have something that you can't get anywhere else," Lariviere advised. "Something unique. Good cocktails, and good food that you don't have to wait two hours for over the weekend."
Personally, I can't wait to go back and try the Kahlua/Bailey's French Toast with Bananas Foster or the Southern-Chipotle Biscuits and Gravy, or even the Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Omelet with Brie. Now I'm hungry and wish I was day drinking. I bet The Stihl knows how to change that.