High Camp Taphouse – feeding Sisters and serving Nepal
Last updated 2/14/2023 at Noon
As drivers head into Sisters on Highway 20, they might look to the south near the 76 station and see High Camp Taphouse, (at the former site of Hop & Brew). They are offering delicious food from Nepal. Dishes are enhanced with locally sourced beer and ciders from twenty rotating taps. It’s all served in an open, welcoming atmosphere. There’s a couch, cozy chairs and tables, and a bar for guests.
Pema Sherpa says she and her partner, Nurbu, enjoy introducing new flavors and seasonings to diners. “Once customers give them a try, they’re smiling and proud to add something new to their list of favorite foods,” said Pema.
Nurbu and Pema Sherpa opened High Camp Taphouse last summer. Their reasons for opening the business were twofold: First, they love offering food that expands the horizons of American palates. Second, the couple’s longtime efforts to help those in need required an income source. For them, sharing the tastes of Nepal and the Himalayas is a perfect way to raise money and awareness about the needs of the region’s most vulnerable.
Pema says a neighborly feel and strong sense of community drew the couple to Sisters. “We are very thankful for the support the Sisters community has showered upon us. Recently, a customer who was vacationing at Suttle Lake told me that businesses, locals, and tourists they met recommended High Camp. They loved our food and hospitality, and said they’ll visit us every time they’re in Sisters. We’re so happy we’re able to bring Himalayan hospitality to Sisters,” said Pema.
Being a citizen of the world is one of the couple’s focuses for the restaurant. They also see food as medicine.
“We believe our thoughts and energy flavor the food and enhance its nutritional value,” said Pema. “Therefore, we cook with gratitude, joy, and love.” Having moved from Nepal and traveled to other places around the world, the couple also uses their philosophy to describe the work they’re doing to make life better for those in need.
Educational opportunities changed Pema’s life. Offering that gift to others tugs strongly at her heart.
“I believe educating kids is one of the most valuable things we can offer to the children of the world,” said Pema, who moved to Bend in 2000. “I left to go to dental hygiene school and travelled to do humanitarian work in Nepal as well as temporary hygiene work around the U.S.,” she said.
Pema also volunteers at Central Oregon Community College and Kemple dental clinics.
It was working in Sisters’ dental offices that first got Pema interested in Sisters.
“I never stopped on my way to Portland. But when I worked for Dr. Rheuben and Dr. Frideres at Sisters Dental, I really enjoyed the people I met. It reminded me of my village, where people cared for each other and were supportive and much more calm. It made me feel more at home. When we were looking for a house to buy, we met Art Pope and Leslie Kent from Sisters, who’d traveled a lot in Nepal. They gave us many of the photographs we have in the restaurant. They treated us like family and invited us into their home where we met many of their friends,” said Pema.
Another local person who has gotten involved with the Sherpas’ humanitarian work is Ann O’Leary. She’s helping the couple establish their 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit organization. With that in place, they’ll be able to raise more funds to provide for those most in need.
On March 4, High Camp will celebrate the Sherpas’ New Year, called Losar. The traditional Sherpa’s meal will be served as guests celebrate positive changes made in the past and a chance for a new beginning. The celebration will benefit children of the Musahar community in Nepal. Tickets are $75 per person for a four-course Sherpa meal and a drink. Guests can RSVP until March 3.
The couple has a long history of donating a portion of their business profits locally and to marginalized populations in Nepal.
“Throughout our lives we’ve tried to help the less fortunate, by taking resources over to Nepal. Students don’t have mechanical pencils, pens, toothbrushes or balls to play with. There’s also a need for basic medical supplies like Band Aids, Neosporin, aspirin, and Aleve.”
They also collect clothing and shoes for the elderly and children.
Another pressing need they discovered while in Nepal was a foster home for the elderly who either don’t have family or were abandoned. When Nurbu and Pema went there, the situation was terrible.
“They were sleeping on cardboard and had one basic meal a day. There were 220 people in that place at one time. We purchased meal replacement drinks that provide many of the nutrients they need, multivitamins, and blankets,” said Pema.
Currently Pema and Nurbu are implementing programs that provide educational and income-generating opportunities for the Musahar, an impoverished Untouchable community in Nepal who suffer significant discrimination.
“They’re our main focus. Being on the bottom of the Hindu caste system, many people don’t even know they exist. It’s not a place the tourists go. The Musahar don’t even know the Nepali national language, which isolates them even more. They’re oppressed and unable to communicate outside their village, so they’re stuck,” said Pema.
By investing wisely in the community, they hope to improve health and well-being for Musuhar women and children so they can break the centuries-old cycle they’re caught in.
Nurbu played a significant role in the eventual creation of Ten Friends, a nonprofit started by teachers Rand Runco and Mark LaMont.
“In 2002, we took high school kids to Nepal. The goal was to educate the students as well as teachers while volunteering. We collected school and medical supplies for the trip,” said Nurbu.
Living in the U.S., Nurbu found that many American teenagers tended to be self-centered.
“We wanted to open their eyes to the world and hopefully help them be more grateful and not take things for granted.” In Nepal children walk up to three hours each way, just to go to school.
“You have to walk many miles to get medical treatment, so the kids we took saw that. They did homestays and visited schools and clinics. It really opened their eyes. Runco went with me for two years, then went on his own after forming Ten Friends. Giving birth to Ten Friends is a success in my mind,” said Nurbu.
This November, Nurbu is taking an adult trip to Nepal. There are a few seats still available. Anyone interested in joining the November trip can call the restaurant, 541-639-5322.
High Camp Taphouse offers Himalayan cuisine and Pacific Northwest beers and ciders. Starters include vegetable samosas, which are pastries with spiced potato and vegetables, or Himalayan fries seasoned with tomato sauce and fresh herbs. Main courses include curry dishes, Tibetan dumplings called momos and a noodle dish called chau chau. Most dishes can be vegan or vegetarian and many are gluten free. Deserts include Northwest famous Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwiches in five flavors. A kids’ menu is available as well. Musician Rick Smith often plays music for guests.
High Camp Taphouse is located at 523 E. Hwy. 20. RSVPs for the Losar fundraiser can be made by calling 541-904-4694. The event is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 4. Visit https://www.highcamptaphouse.com.