Ariana's makes a strong case for best restaurant in Bend
I’ve lived a few blocks away from Ariana for years, but never gone in.  Something about it screams, “Don’t bring your buddies and ask our server to split the bill”.  So, I’ve been holding out for one of those special nights, i.e., when my parents are in town and offer to tackle the bill.  Surprisingly when I confessed this to co-owner, Ariana Fernandez, she wasn’t put off.

 “At first, we tried to be like, be everything for everyone,” said Fernandez. “Then we were just like, ‘You know what? If people have that preconception that we’re a special occasion place, then that’s fine. We’ll just do special occasions.'”

One look at the menu confirms – Ariana doesn’t serve-up cheap meals. But Fernandez says they don’t use cheap ingredients and well...you get what you pay for. Local ingredients are used when Central Oregon’s short growing season allows.

“Even if we can only get a little bit of something, we’ll just special-it that night,” said Fernandez. “We might only have five orders of it.”

Fernandez prides herself on specials that are really special -- not what’s starting to turn. The quaint restaurant has limited space, so keeping bulk ingredients just isn’t an option.

“We only have about two days of product at a time. We don’t have a walk-in or a freezer, so everything turns over really quick,” said Fernandez.

That means a constantly changing menu with a few staples like Fernandez’s father’s homemade tomato sauce.

“We have big seasonal changes where most of the menu will change,” said Fernandez. “But we can change it on a whim, when we have something that is really good even if it’s for a short time – we change the menu.”

Fernandez’s husband, Andres, does all the cooking and when I say all, I mean ALL. This is good for you because if you go there one week and absolutely love one of their dishes, it will be exactly the same the next time you go.

As I was asking Ariana and Andres if they’d caught on to the gluten-free craze, a woman walked in wanting a gluten-free meal.

Andres asked her a little about what she liked, then told her to take a seat and said it would be no problem.

“Most of our menu is already gluten-free, but if someone calls us one day ahead of time...We’ll figure out what to do for them,” said Fernandez.

Ariana’s reputation for being a special occasion hot-spot helps the restaurant because reservations take up their entire floor. You can drop in and find a spot at the bar any night, but the tables inside and outside, especially with Summer fast approaching, are almost all accounted for before they open their doors.

Despite most their clients coming in on date-nights – at the core, Ariana is a family restaurant. Ariana’s mother and father are co-owners with her and Andres and they all play their part.

“We have the end goal in mind, if someone needs help setting a table or clearing a table we’re going to jump in there and do it because it needs to be done,” said Fernandez. “It’s more important for the customer to be happy.”

One thing that’s definitely keeping customers happy is Ariana’s mother’s white cosmo cocktail. The drink has become so popular among the regulars, they’re making their own at home when the restaurant is closed.

“When I went over to the liquor store, (they have little bottles of St. Germaine -- which Susan uses in her white cosmo), he said, ‘I can’t believe how many people are coming over here, getting stuff to make your drink’,” said Susan Asti.

After you have a decadent drink and meal, the staff says the best way to end your night at Ariana is hands down with their Buttered Caramel Budino.

“It’s like the best pudding you’ve ever tried and it has a little caramel sauce and Sea Salt on top,” said Fernandez. “I don’t think anyone has ever said they don’t like it.”

The only problem is finishing it. One of the long-time servers, Stephanie O’Brien told me customers usually complain that they need a spatula to finish the huge dessert off.

“So...I offer them this,” said O’Brien holding a miniature green spatula.

What more could you want? Ariana has overly prepared servers, an up-scale family dinner feel and a full-bar.

For the perfect night out -- call ahead and enjoy a night full of ambiance at Ariana on Galveston Avenue.