Mount Hood Guide: Where to Eat

Timberline’s Après-Ski Dining Options, Ranked

The good news: being cold and hungry still amplifies flavor in supernatural ways. The other news: the food scene at Timberline remains a mixed bag.

By Benjamin Tepler November 20, 2017 Published in the December 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Timberline’s upper floor, home of the Ram's Head Bar

We rate all five of the iconic lodge's avant- and après-ski offerings on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 the best.

Cascade Dining Room

Food: 3 Value: 1 (5 for breakfast) View: 4
Let’s get this out of the way: dinner at Cascade Dining Room is unbelievably expensive. We’re talking $54-per-rib-eye, we-belayed-the-cow-up-the-mountain expensive. Yes, the views are beautiful, with dusky sunsets behind Jefferson and Broken Top. But the food just isn’t there. No amount of black-truffle foie gras butter or proprietary, Maupin-raised beef (it is actually quite good) can mask the freshman-year Cordon Bleu execution. The George Michael sax vibes and robotic service don’t help, either. If you must, split a hefty cut of just-butchered beef, which comes with a full portion of sides for $5 extra (around $25 per person). For the same views, head upstairs to the Ram’s Head bar.

The breakfast buffet, however, is the best deal above 6,000 feet. For $18 ($11 for kids) go hog-wild on a spread that’ll bring you back to your gleeful first encounter with a waffle-maker. Syrupy pancakes, an “artisan” bacon sampler, a DIY meat-slicer, and a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar are a practice in self-control, even if the food itself is closer to Denny’s than Country Cat. 

Blue Ox Bar

Food: 4 Value: 3 View: 2
A last-minute addition from Timberline’s architects in 1937, Blue Ox was originally a wood storage shed, decorated with glass mosaic murals of Bunyan and Babe, and slotted between a bathroom and a stairwell. There is something to being jammed elbow-to-elbow in a pizza-perfumed nook while snow piles up outside, although there’s no view, and the lighting is harsh as a single-bulb broom closet. Twelve-inch pies are hand-tossed with special Pendleton-milled flour; it’s a totally inoffensive dough, but without any semblance of char, it certainly won’t have you gnawing at the crust. The tiny $14–18 pies come heaving with toppings; a number with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, Mama Lil’s peppers, and cured black olives sunk in the middle, like a dairy subduction zone. It’s a messy, satisfying pie after a day on the mountain. No matter where you sit, you’re usually at arm’s length from the tiny bar, dispensing suds and a strange draft cocktail with bourbon, huckleberry syrup, and apple shrub. 

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Timberline’s mid-mountain Phlox Point Cabin

Phlox Point Cabin

Food: 4 Value: 4 View: 5
Phlox Point is Timberline’s newish warming hut—the place to go when you can’t feel your fingers or toes but refuse to throw in the towel. And it’s your best bet for an affordable, belly-warming lunch on the mountain (if you’re clipped in). The tiny A-frame, formerly an overnight shelter for Boy Scouts, is midmountain, accessible only by skiing down from the Wy’East Day Lodge on the West Leg Road run, followed by a left on Walt’s Baby. A few glorified chafing candles keep four taco options simmering, from goat chorizo to Timberline’s proprietary slow-cooked beef, with roasted tomatillo hot sauce from legendary skateboarder Tom “Wally” Inouye. At $3.25 a pop, it’s close to Portland’s gentrified taco racket, but dirt cheap for resort pricing. Beer, Smith tea, and the roaring fire work every time—or head outside to the steel drum fire pit and demolish your meal under snow-caked evergreens. 

Ram’s Head Bar

Food: 1 Value: 2 View: 5
Ram’s Head provides Timberline’s starkest polarity. It’s the best seat in the house by a long shot; upper-floor views of Oregon’s Cascades to the south, and Hood’s ice-crusted peak looming to the north. You’re also looking down on Timberline’s gargantuan wood-and-stone furnace, plopped in cushy, double-wide lounge chairs fit for a Tolkien dwarf king. You might expect mighty steins of mead and rich stews at this point, but it’s closer to grab-’n’-go airport food. A sad eye-of-round roast beef sandwich with a single slice of Tillamook cheddar was DOA, with a side of mayo-slicked, uncooked frozen peas and bacon. A bowl of sweet corn chowder tasted straight from the can. If you’re starving, a plate of Olympia Provisions charcuterie is guaranteed safe, although it’s $20.

You might be tempted to relive the famous “Lloyd” scene from The Shining at the seven-seat bar, but it’s far too cozy for psychotic breaks. Instead, snuggle up to a totally sessionable Ice Axe IPA from Mt Hood Brewing Co, or a “Snow Cap Dream” hot cocoa with whipped cream and English toffee bits. Don’t even crack that cocktail menu, an expensive list run amok with three too many ingredients per glass and watery ice from a machine. 

Wy’East Café and Y’Bar

Food: 2 Value: 4 View: 5
In 2016, Timberline’s ski rental hub, the Day Lodge, underwent a million-dollar remodel from Skylab Architecture, the same folks who built East Burnside’s aggressively angular, sci-fi Yard building. It’s unsurprising, then, that the new Wy’East Café looks like the inside of the Death Star: an octagonal holding cell of blacks and grays and glowing LED backlights. When the Black Iron Grill and Market Café reopened last winter as Wy’East Café and Y’Bar, it mixed up the usual chicken tender game with Korean BBQ steak bowls tossed with collard greens and brown rice, and topped its french fries with garlic white wine sauce, truffle oil, and pastrami. At the time of this printing, Wy’East had reverted back to the prepubescent palate: cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza. And despite the cash infusion and shiny new kitchen ... it’s ... well ... cafeteria food. Down the hall, the Y’Bar fills the sports bar void with big flat-screens, a full tap list, food from next door, and access to an outdoor sundeck, where you can soak in those same, sweeping southerly views in the crisp, high-alpine air.

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