Bend, Oregon, has a well-known foodie secret; well known at least to locals. It’s Pilot Butte Drive-In Restaurant, a truly old time restaurant serving incredible Angus burgers and more. This classic restaurant has been named for the Best Burgers in Central Oregon for more years than we can count and it’s a well-deserved honor.
Since 1983, the folks at Pilot Butte have been making their mark on this high desert community’s food scene by making burgers, sandwiches, classic favs like chicken fried steak, and a surprisingly extensive breakfast menu the old fashioned way— big portions made-to-order with quality ingredients. There are no short cuts here, which is why you can expect to wait 10-15 minutes for your order. But it’s worth the wait; really worth it.
The first day we visited, we ordered one cheeseburger and fries. The food here isn’t cheap. The cheeseburger will set you back $8.95, but it’s big enough to share, which is exactly what we did. It comes with a six-ounce, 100% certified Angus beef patty, two thick slices of tomato, shredded lettuce, onions (grilled or raw), and your choice of Swiss, jack, cheddar, or pepper jack on a special bun (that doesn’t get soggy). The folks at Pilot know their burgers are big. They serve a sharp knife with every burger.
Our Angus cheeseburger was delicious—juicy, flavorful, and filing. We also ordered a cup of fries, which was plenty for two.
Big, Big Portions
However, once wasn’t enough for us. We came back the following day and, with the tasty memory of yesterday’s burger in our minds, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We each ordered a cheeseburger, but no fries. And this one was equally delicious. However, it was too much to eat. We both ended up saving half for later.
Pilot Butte is also famous for their massive, 18-ounce burger. It’s 18-ounces of ground chuck served on a handmade bun with all the trimmings for $21.95 (cheese is $2 extra). Someone ordered one of these mammoth Pilot Butte Burgers while I was there and it’s huge. It’s the size of a dinner plate and at least 5 inches tall. The man was sharing it with his son and wife, but I’ll bet they’ll be taking some of it home.
For those with a more modest appetite, Pilot offers a kid’s size burger, fries and an Oreo cookie for a modest $4.95. This burger is the same size as a regular, fast food burger you’d get elsewhere, but it’s the same hand-formed Angus patty with lettuce and tomato. Next time, this is the one I’m trying.
You can also get a deal by ordering during the drive-in’s happy hour (2-5 pm daily). They knock $2 off the cheeseburger and throw in an order of fries for free. It’s a bargain.
If burgers aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other selections. Pilot Butte offers big sandwiches—Rueben, chicken, ham and cheese, French dip, Pastrami, and more. Their platter selections include meatloaf, chicken fried steak, halibut and chips and the old diet favorite—the low-cal plate with hamburger patty or chicken breast, cottage cheese, tomatoes and a green salad. That one is definitely a thrown back to 1960.
Breakfast is a favorite around Pilot Butte. They serve everything from a traditional country breakfast (eggs, hash browns, meat, toast) for $9.95 to biscuits and gravy, pancakes, build-your-own omelettes, and even huevos rancheros.
Real Bottom Line: If you’re hankering for old time service and great classic food served in giant portions, Bend’s Pilot Butte Drive-In Restaurant is definitely worth a stop. It’s the kind of place where they call you ‘honey’ and mean it. I know we’ll be back and soon. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor
Pilot Butte Drive-In Restaurant has two locations:
9th & Greenwood (highway 20 East)
Open 7 am-7 pm
SE corner Century & Simpson
open 7 am-8 pm