(Photo | by Sean Verbeek)
The east side of Bend has long been the place where Central Oregonians run errands, visit friends or exit the city to head to Idaho. As far as places to dine, the east side has been slowly but surely catching up over the years to other parts of the city. Jessica Swartz and Paul Shorey, owners of the east side’s newest food truck pod and tap house are happy to introduce their one of kind compound, River’s Place, nestled on a corner street across from Costco.
“We have lived on the east side of Bend for almost six years. When we first moved to the east side, we noted that eating and drinking options were limited [that]side of Pilot Butte. In particular, there was a lack of gathering places that fostered a sense of community like you see so much of on the west side of Bend. We frequented and enjoyed the numerous food options and atmospheres of the food truck pod business models and thought it would be perfect for our side of town,” says Swartz.
During the process of formulating their business plan and design for River’s Place, named after their beloved mini Australian Shepherd, the pair visited almost every food cart pod in Oregon and used their notes from these experiences to create a list of what they considered to be the best features for their vision. The company was built from the ground up which started with a two year process of drawn plans, city approval and finally construction.
Both world travelers, Jessica and Paul settled in Oregon before the financial crisis of 2008 and after a few years of living in Eugene, they decided to resettle in Bend. Jessica started Epicenter Pilates near downtown and Paul taught high school English, first in Spray, OR and then online at Baker Charter Schools. The couple both recently stepped away from these professions to go all-in at River’s Place.
As with most of us who settle down in Central Oregon, the couple was drawn to the outdoor lifestyle and the plethora of year round activities available. The lifestyle in Bend is definitely reflected at River’s Place with its dog and kid friendly atmosphere, picnic tables, corn hole boards and a large natural gas fire pit to sit around.
Community is Everything
“One of the most important aspects that we wanted to incorporate into River’s Place is a sense of a community where people feel comfortable hanging out and meeting new people. We coined the term ‘food cart yard’ to describe the outdoor play area that is surrounded by the food carts,” says Swartz.
River’s Place boasts five food trucks: We’re the Wurst, Hogan’s Hoagies, Wubba’s BBQ, The Jerk Kings and Red Road Pizza Co.
The most unique aspect of River’s Place is the tap house, which serves as pod’s flagship. It’s a fully-enclosed 1500 square foot building with central heating for winter months and air conditioning for summer. “We want people to feel comfortable inside our building so that they can take their jackets off and stay awhile. We have fourteen taps with beer, cider and kombucha as well as an extensive wine list. We are promoting a gathering space; a long juniper slab bar and communal tables allow folks to settle in and get to know their bartenders and neighbors. When it’s nice outside, three large garage doors roll up creating an open-air space where people can mingle freely between the bar and the play area,” says Swartz.
Currently, River’s Place hosts weekly local, live music inside the tap house and features rotating installations from local artists. This year, the pod will be adding Trivia on Sundays from 4pm-6pm, Brewery Bingo and Chalkboard Drawing Contests. The contest is unique to River’s Place as the menu board is a piece of artwork in and of itself. When spring and summer arrive, River’s Place plans to feature small events, performance groups and more local bands to the outdoor scene.