When I’m working with out-of-town home-buying clients in Bend, we’ll often spend a full day checking out properties, from breakfast to dinner. Inevitably, they’re trying to cram in both shopping for a home and scaling a mountain or some-such into maybe three or four days (after all, our incredible Central Oregon setting is one of the reasons many folks move here). Since we’re typically on a pretty tight schedule, a leisurely lunch is not in the picture.
So I’m always on the lookout for good, casual lunch spots in Bend — something fast but not forgettable. Which can be a pretty tall order. I’m happy to report I’ve found a new option in mid-town.
Don’t call the fare at the recently opened Laughing Planet Cafe “fast food.” It’s “quick-service” dining. That’s a major distinction if you’re the folks behind the Portland-based restaurant chain, which was founded in 1995 on the belief that “nutritious, delicious food should be available to all.” And for Central Oregonians craving a healthy, tasty alternative to Big Macs, curly fries and Super Tacos, it’s a welcome addition to the food scene.
Laughing Planet Cafe Opens in Bend, ORThis well-established regional chain (with more than a dozen locations spread throughout Oregon and a few more springing up in nearby states) certainly seems to have a devoted following. When I first visited Laughing Planet (located at 913 N.E. 3rd St.) a few weeks after its summer opening, I had to circle the block a couple of times to find a place to park — and I wasn’t alone. Inside, the packed space was sheer bedlam, with every table full and a line out the door. No, this isn’t the place to go for a quiet respite; the noise level when it’s crowded can be deafening. But they sure do put up some good-tasting food at very reasonable prices (I couldn’t find anything priced above $10, with most staples in the $5-$7 range). And the bulk of the options are not only good but good for you.
Laughing Planet Cafe Opens in Bend, ORThe menu touts a wide variety of locally sourced vegetarian, vegan and meat-based options — including burritos, quesadillas, soups, salads and side dishes, plus all-fruit smoothies, a juice bar and microbrews on tap (of course). But the Planet is perhaps best known for its array of globally influenced “bowls,” which marry a half-dozen or so ingredients into a hearty one-dish meal. The “Bollywood Bowl,” for example, features grilled natural chicken breast, veggies, garlic green beans, spinach and sweet potatoes on a bed of brown rice served with a Southern Indian spicy coconut sauce; the “Korean BBQ Bowl” boasts local braised 100% grass-fed beef or baked organic Surata tofu, along with broccoli, brown rice, cilantro-lime slaw, quick-pickled cucumbers, toasted sesame seeds and Korean barbecue sauce.
Laughing Planet Cafe Opens in Bend, ORHere’s another Living Planet staple that sets it apart: its “living” walls, (which are walls filled with plants), a game area, chatty signage that helps direct newbies, and collectible toys scattered throughout the space. This is very much a place with not just a sense of place but a sense of humor.
Vital info: Laughing Planet, 913 N.E. 3rd St., 541-306-3995; open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.