Downtown Medford has a new night life scene at The Rocky-Tonk Grill & Saloon.

Downtown Medford has a new night life scene at The Rocky-Tonk Grill & Saloon.

To go with line dancing, karaoke and lots of live music are lunches and dinners that should surpass most customers' expectations of the country-western theme that owners have cultivated.

Glenn and Megan Beatty even lured chef Jon Henry from Eugene's farm-to-table restaurant, Marche, to head their kitchen on the upper floor of the Hubbard's Hardware building, formerly home to Highwaters and Oxygen nightclubs. Henry's expertise isn't wasted on The Rocky-Tonk's menu of steaks, ribs and burgers, either. The dishes I tried were carefully prepared with a chef's sensibility using quality, seasonal ingredients.

Among them was okra. Even though this appetizer ($5.99) was deep-fried in the Southern style, the rounds appeared to have been breaded in-house rather than in a factory that produces deep-fryer specialties for restaurants. The vegetable inside the crispy coating was tender to the bite, not overcooked, its characteristically large seeds still intact. My friend, who has eaten this dish around Kentucky and Tennessee attested that it measured up.

So did the wild salmon for this coastal native who has eaten more than her fair share. Oven-roasted to the perfect doneness, the fillets were topped with a vinaigrette of fresh cherry tomatoes and basil that added a vibrant note to the rich fish.

We ordered the small portion ($19.99), intended to serve two to three people. The Rocky-Tonk's "Headliner" dinners also come in a large size that feeds four to six people. The price covers just the featured protein, with vegetable and starch side dishes an extra $3.99 for braised greens to $13.99 for grilled summer vegetables, depending on portion size. We found the quantity of salmon perfectly adequate and would have considered a side dish if we weren't so stuffed with okra. Served with a choice of fries or salad, The Rocky-Tonk's burgers may seem a better value at $7.99 to $10.99 for some diners. Three types of beef burgers — barbecue, chipotle-spiced or basic — join a buffalo burger and breaded pork-loin sandwich.

While the lion's share of the menu is designed to entice meat eaters, Henry isn't haphazard with vegetables. I returned on a recent weekday for a lunchtime salad and the "pesto loco" pasta.

A grilled Caesar is one of three salads The Rocky-Tonk serves, along with mixed greens and iceberg wedges. Prices are $6.99 and $10.99 for small salads to $10.99 and $14.99 for large at dinner. Prices drop to $4.99 at lunch.

Usually indifferent to Caesars, I'm more inclined to try them grilled, a technique that caramelizes the lettuce's crunchy heart and slightly wilts the outer leaves. This version could have used a bit more time on the heat, but the lettuce itself was impeccably textured and flavored without a trace of bitterness. Topped with a mountain of freshly grated Parmesan and a few tasty croutons, it easily would make a meal with the addition of chicken or salmon for a few dollars more.

Also a good value at $8.99, the pasta similarly was heaped with more freshly grated cheese and chock-full of vegetables beyond the predictable summer squash. Fresh green beans had been frenched and nicely blanched to accompany barely grilled zucchini that still maintained its shape and toothsomeness. Cherry tomatoes and roasted bell peppers added sweetness and color. I would have been pleased even without the pesto.

With more food than I could consume, I still couldn't resist the summer-berry slump ($6.99), among several desserts that included Coke cake (that also can be served with a shot of Jack Daniel's), a porter-vanilla float and barbecued apple slices in pastry. Because I mentioned that I was due back at work, the server rushed out the slump, which only would have been better if heated a bit more. Topped with pillowy dough and vanilla ice cream, the dessert combined blueberries, blackberries and, unexpectedly, cherries, all of which held their shape and played off of a nice citrus-zest tang.

Although both times I visited The Rocky-Tonk it had few customers, the staff was pleasant, helpful and extended a little extra effort to make the meals much more enjoyable. If they keep it up, the restaurant soon should have plenty of patrons.

— Sarah Lemon