Burns and Harney County, OR, Report
Hey, it's about time someone touted the great food you can have in the outback of Oregon. Harney County is a wonderful, undiscovered vacation destination. I went there on a week-long camping trip with my son in early August. Harney County has the highest mountain in eastern Oregon, Steens Mountain, that juts out of the Alvord Desert. It has the highest road in Oregon that takes you to the top of the Steens at 9,700 ft. It has the marvelous Malheur Wildlife Refuge with amazing birdlife, and the remains of what once was the largest cattle ranch in the US, including a fascinating round barn. But the chow you can find here is surprisingly good too.
Starting in Burns, the county seat, we enjoyed our dinner at the Meat Hook Steakhouse which features all Harney County grass-fed beef. If you are hungry you can have a 16 oz. rib eye or t-bone dinner, but we opted for the 8 oz. sirloin. The quality was superb and it came with salad, soup, potato, vegetable and dessert, all at a reasonable price. The next morning we had breakfast at the Pine Room. This place has been here for a long time. It only recently stared serving breakfast. They seem to specialize in pancakes including special Danish pancakes and German pancakes (aka Dutch babies). We opted for the shirred eggs (picture below) and they were delicious, served with home fries and meat. They had side pork on the menu as one of the meat choices, but they were out. Too bad. Still, we had a great breakfast.
Heading south from Burns toward the Steens you get to Frenchglen and the wonderful Frenchglen Hotel. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, You need to make reservations for dinner and you may have to do that a day or two ahead of time. They serve family style. We had great baked chicken, rice pilaf, salad, homemade dinner rolls, spinach and cheese casserole, and marion berry cobbler and ice cream for dessert. All for $20.
Heading further south toward the Nevada line you come to Fields and the Fields Station. They serve a fine breakfast and lunch. At lunch the thing to get is the 1/2 lb. burger (picture below) and a shake. If you're not too hungry they don't mind if you split an order like we did. Sit and the counter and talk to the cook. There are no strangers in Fields.
We didn't get to try the Diamond Hotel in the tiny town of Diamond, but they are supposed to have good food too (the same family that runs the Pine Room, I believe). And we walked by a place called Rhojo's in Burns which was packed. We saw their menu and it looked very interesting.
Who'd a thunk there is lots of great chow in Harney County, Oregon, but there is.
We went through that area a couple of years ago (in May), but didn't find as much. But we were eating most of our meals in camp, and paying more attention to groceries than restaurants.
From Ontario we worked our way south to Jordan Valley. We had lunch at one their 'Basque' restaurants. But we hit town right after the rodeo, and they were out of the Basque specialties.
The next day we drove to Steens Mtn by way of Fields, and got the obligatory shake. Blueberry I think, and pretty good. We stopped and looked at Frenchglen, but stayed at the nearby BLM campground.
The next day we looped though the lava fields to the north, and then west to Harts Mtn Wildlife Refuge. The following night was at Summer Lake Hot Springs (we did 3 hot springs this trip), followed by a nice breakfast in Paisley. Didn't get to Burns.
As for groceries I didn't find much of interest until we got to LaPine. We'll have to stop in Burns the next time we head that way.
Great post! It's beautiful country out there, but meals can take a lot of driving to get to.
I can comment on the Diamond Hotel--I stayed there several nights in August 2009. If there are sweeter, more hospitable people, I have not yet met them. I think you're right that the same family are also the current owners of the Pine Room in Burns. They recently added a cafe to the backside of the Diamond Hotel. Frazier's (http://www.central-oregon.com/hoteldi...) is in their old ice house and is a great casual lunch stop (11a-2p). Again, the local beef is really the thing here. Great burgers, some good bottled beers.
For dinner at the hotel, you need a reservation. It's served family style and is just as you described your Frenchglen dinner. Salad and bread, a big main course with a vegetarian option (e.g., bean stew with sausage/peppers for the top), and always dessert. (http://www.central-oregon.com/hoteldi...). It may be possible not to overeat, but I never figured out how. There are several big communal tables and things get pretty crowded on weekend nights. Conversation with other random travelers is luck of the draw, of course. But I found the smaller groups during the middle of the week to be pretty fun--interesting people with good stories. We encountered writers, teachers, artists, and nature enthusiasts on the nights we were there.