What happens when two chefs travel the world on mega yachts then decide to plant roots in Bend? They open a restaurant and express their international travel through food.
Jaclyn Perez and Betsy McDonald started the Lemon Tree, a breakfast and lunch cafe located downtown on Franklin Avenue in the previous Bend Burger Company location.
Sidewalk dining hugs the exterior of the building—each table topped with fresh flowers and a grass green umbrella. A vibrant lemon yellow striped awning highlights the entrance, enticing you to walk on in.
The interior is bright and quaint. One side of the restaurant has a wall covered in warm brown wood panels and the opposite wall has a hand-painted mural of an arched window looking out to a courtyard with a lemon tree by local artist David Kinker. You can't miss the dessert case filled with small lemon meringue tarts, cakes and cookies. The dining tables are covered with white linen tablecloths, wrapped in white paper and topped with fresh flowers. This cafe would be perfectly at home in Norway or France.
I visited The Lemon Tree for breakfast with two friends and we sat at an inside table next to the window. Our server was attentive and immediately filled our glasses with orange rosemary water. The breakfast menu is simple, with nine international dishes to choose from. Visit Italy with the frittata, France or the Roman Empire with the French toast, New York City with a crab cake or steak benedict, Tunisia with the shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato sauce with chili peppers and onions) and Indonesia with the nasi goreng or fried rice. The breakfast special was a Southern favorite: biscuits and gravy. Pair any of those worldly meals with espresso drinks or breakfast cocktails like a mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary.
I always have a hard time deciding what to eat for breakfast because I can't decide between sweet or savory. I came up with a way to get both. We ordered the amaretto French toast as an appetizer. Brilliant, right? Let's start a breakfast appetizer trend in Bend.
While I was waiting for my morning appetizer to arrive, my Metolious chai latte with a shot of espresso, or what is commonly referred to as a dirty hippy, came with a powdered sugar covered cookie. The delicate amaretto cookie was an unexpected nice touch.
Our French toast came topped with fresh berries, slivered almonds, drizzled with an amaretto syrup and topped with a dollop of cream, a mint sprig and a fresh Peruvian lily. I love edible flowers so I asked my friends if they thought it was edible and they both quickly said, "No." They were right. According to the University of California's safe and poisonous plants website, the Peruvian lily has minor toxicity if ingested. If I accidentally ate it I wouldn't die but I could suffer from vomiting or diarrhea. I prefer the rule that if it's on your plate it's meant to be eaten. Regardless of the flower, the French toast and its almond flavored goodness quenched my sweet tooth.
Next up was the Mt. Bachelor Breakfast Sammy. Scrambled eggs, bacon and creamy havarti on an over-sized English muffin. The buttery havarti was a nice touch but wasn't rich enough to counteract the lack of flavor in the English muffin. It reminded me of eating bread in Florence, Italy, and wondering why it tasted so bland. Tuscan bread is made without salt and I was getting the same vibe here. A smear of some salty butter would have helped.
The creaminess I was looking for came in the form of a jumbo lump crab cake benedict with the yolk from the poached egg and the hollandaise sauce. The Lemon Tree makes a good traditional benedict. The menu says it's a citrus hollandaise but I wasn't getting any citrus-forward notes.
When I asked the owners if they missed the adventure of travel, McDonald said, "We're not missing the boat, we have a big spirit of travel but we're exercising that through food." I also wondered if their clientele was embracing the eclectic menu. "People are stepping outside their comfort zone and loving it," McDonald told me. "Shakshuka, nasi goreng and the benedicts are the most popular."