"It kind of started off in a delicatessen, local-sourced view," James Fink recounts, as he presses a bison burger into the flat-top grill in the kitchen of Wild Oregon Foods. Seven months later, he says, "it's kind of more steered towards a diner—nostalgic, classic-style foods."
When you're a rookie restaurant, shifting with the tastes of your clientele can be key in ensuring success. Peek at the regular menu and you'll find a host of deli-style items, including Reuben and Rachel Sliders—sliders that Source resident foodie, Lisa Sipe, admitted she continued to crave days after eating them—as well as salt and vinegar chicken wings and the Wild Smashburger, a bison or Impossible Burger served with Tillamook Cheddar.
Fink, who opened the spot in September 2017 with his wife, Sarah, is a classically trained chef, with 25 years' experience, as he puts it, "playing restaurant," most recently serving as sous chef at Deschutes Brewery, as well as previous stints as Jackson's Corner and Brasada Ranch. Also on staff is Fink's brother, Michael, who was on hand when they selected their location, in the same shopping center as the Bend Factory Outlet Stores along S. Hwy 97. A location in a shopping center might seem like a drawback, but the owners see it as a positive.
"We walked in and it kind of just felt right," Fink says, recalling how the spot reminded him of a deli in a strip mall in the Bay Area, to which he and his brother would drive 30 minutes to get a killer sandwich. "It's new territory for Bend, away from downtown," but that could be its strength, Fink says.
"I decided to take a chance and bring healthy home-cooked food to the south side of town. You've got KFC and McDonald's and Shari's, Subway, everything that's down here. We decided to try and put out a little love into the food world. It was a big gamble, and still scary as can be," Fink said.
With an outdoor seating area, a full bar and a varied, inspired menu that puts a focus on sourcing ingredients from local farms, it might be time for you to give this south-side rookie a try.