Bethlyn Rider has earned a reputation as one of the most friendly and experimental chefs in town. But along with curiosity and creativity sometimes comes relentlessness.
Rider established her reputation (and following) as the executive chef for Broken Top Bottle Shop, which won the Source's Best of Central Oregon for Vegetarian Food in 2014 under her leadership, and then branched out to start her Global Fusion Farm to Street Food Truck late last summer. And, less than a year later, she has now opened the doors to a brick-and-mortar restaurant—which, although sharing the "Global Fusion" name from her food truck and carrying the same attention to detail and postmodern sense of yummie food mashups, presents an almost entirely different menu and scene.
On a recent post-lunch hour, her new brick-and-mortar Global Fusion, tucked away on 2nd Street in Bend's burgeoning Maker's District, was abuzz with activity. The small eatery—formerly home to 2nd Street Eats—only seats about 20 people, but was nearly full at 1:30 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.
Many of the visitors made a point to peek behind an artfully constructed dividing wall to say hello to the chef. Others sought out their favorite dishes from Rider's popular food truck on the new menu. And indeed, there are a few crossovers, but for the most part, the menu in her brick-and-mortar restaurant is brand new, focusing on breakfast and lunch, and borrowing as heavily as Marco Polo from all corners of the earth.
While Rider's food truck trafficked heavily in fried avocados, for example, they only appear in one item here, the Global Fusion benedict. Instead, she makes creative use of waffles, including them on both the breakfast and lunch menu.
A big screen TV playing BBC America offers an international feel, and flags crafted by Rider's Maker's District neighbor Sara Bella Upcycled add bright bursts of color. The menu features other local makers, including Humm Kombucha, One Sky Chai, and Strictly Organic Coffee.
The Spanish bowl is a kissing cousin to Italian pasta. On the lunch menu under the heading Big Bowls of Heaven, it features skinny vermicelli noodles, seared kale, bits of fried and battered eggplant, pesto, curried garbanzos, feta cheese, and a smoky saffron-infused broth. Not the most graceful dish to eat, but delicious and (with the possible exception of the fried eggplant) likely nutritious.
The basil pesto tofu scramble, one of the restaurant's most popular items, is a solid breakfast (or breakfast-for-lunch) option for vegetarians and those who aspire to their healthy ways. The savory tofu is herb-heavy with creamy pesto and comes with a generous helping of vegan sausage, homestyle potatoes, and grilled toast. A little smoky and slightly spicy, the flavor profile is unexpected but tasty.
The Korean waffle bowl with Asian meatballs lives up to the restaurant's name, and is a beautiful and scrumptious mess. This is not the International House of Pancakes, but truly an international dish; built on a foundation of waffles melting under a hot-and-spicy sauce and topped with a lattice of bean sprouts that provide a crunch and texture to the soft topping of meatballs and a fried egg.
Our calendar editor Hayley is a particular fan, and thrilled that Rider is always incredibly gracious for accommodating different diets (she orders diary-free), and always seems more than happy to add or subtract ingredients. Hayley order the slow-cooked smoked pork panini—smoked in coffee and molasses, with provolone, garlic aioli, pineapple mango chutney, caramelized onions, and served on brioche bun.
"I didn't miss the cheese as I normally do," she commented, "and the meat was incredibly tender and juicy, and didn't have a barbecue sauce, which was nice because you really got to taste the flavors of the roast."