written by Julie Lee | featured photo by Meg Roussos
Heading to Eastern Oregon? Plan to eat well; there is a bevy of outstanding restaurants to saddle up to for a memorable meal, from casual lunches and bars with craft cocktails to stake-raising steak houses. Here are a few not-to-miss favorites.
Hamley Steakhouse & Saloon
Steaks and whiskey are king in Eastern Oregon, and for a higher end, finer dining way to get the best of both, Hamley Steakhouse & Saloon is a mic drop. For over a decade, Hamley Steakhouse has delivered mouthwatering, cut-with-a-fork rib eyes, prime ribs and filets to regulars and travelers alike. If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic for a true home-cooked meal, liver and onions with Hamley brown gravy, mom’s meatloaf and grandma’s roast beef dinner are a trifecta of surefire fixes. For more casual fare, you can’t go wrong with the steakhouse cheeseburger, made with a half-pound of ground chuck, or a prime rib dip sandwich. Décor is authentic Old West American, with eighteenth-century bars anchoring the region’s original saloon and whiskey poured by the barrel.
8 SE Court Ave., Pendleton | hamleysteakhouse.com
Cowboy Dinner Tree Restaurant
This former cattle drive stop is a rustic tip of the hat to how good things are when kept simple. Motif is the opposite of fancy, which fits the mood and food here. Cowboy Dinner Tree was once a halfway point for ranchers pushing cattle through Sycan trail and a chance to refuel with buckeroo beans and biscuits, still served today at the restaurant. Expect a straightforward menu with just two options: a 28 oz. top sirloin steak or a whole roasted chicken and baked potato side. Dinners are $30 per person, $11 for grade school buckeroos and splitting meals is forbidden.
50836 E Bay Rd., Silver Lake | cowboydinnertree.net
For a quick bite when traveling east, pump the breaks when you see Hal’s Hamburgers roadside takeout. This 1950’s-style burger joint is as uncomplicated as it gets: juicy burger, hot salty fries and some of the best shakes you’ll find anywhere, served cheap and quick. A variety of add-ons elevate personality to any patty with pineapple, Swiss, teriyaki and ham transforming it into a tropical Hawaiian burger or the cattleman’s burger with bacon, mushroom and Worcestershire. Extra hungry? Try the monster burger with 2 patties, ham, cheese and bacon. For non-meat eaters, Hal’s does a mean veggie burger.
2001 SE Court Ave., Pendleton | 541.276.1383
Prodigal Son Brewery & Pub
Change is brewing in the east, with many a brewery popping up here and there in an effort to keep pace with the rest of Oregon. Prodigal Son Brewery & Pub was first, with a flag on top of the mountain as the original brewery. Dedicated to producing some tasty dry-hopped Northwest IPAs and malt-heavy porters, this is the place to spend an idyl afternoon with some samplers. Awards go to some of the names, from A Beer Named Sue Golden Ale to Responsibility Sucks Wheat ISA. Beers are seasonal; there’s always something new brewing, so visit often. Accompanying bar food is decent, with gourmet burgers and the prodigal Reuben as suggested favorites.
The Snaffle Bit Dinner House
Craving a mouthwatering fire-grilled steak? Head to The Snaffle Bit Dinner House in John Day. This is as homey, local and friendly as it gets. Breakfasts are the bomb with good ole’ fashioned biscuits and gravy, hash brown casserole and eggs Benedict. Lunches are affordable with a great burger to be had for under $10. Steak, though, is tops, with an 8 oz. tenderloin or an 8 oz. copper cricket steak for under 24 bones. For sunnier times, there is a sweet patio to relax the day away.
830 S. Canyon Blvd., John Day | facebook.com/thesnafflebit