Downtown bites on a fast-food dollar

The deluxe cheeseburger at The Burger Spot comes with fresh cole slaw and a choice of fries or "Spot Tots."Photo by Nick Morgan

The leaves are changing and downtown Medford is bustling again with young people carrying backpacks and hurrying across Central Avenue. Some of those folks are going to want to eat something, and I know I was never the type of student to pack sandwiches.

There's never a good time to be a poor college student, but those needing a study break outside the SOU/RCC Higher Education Center have some tasty places that won't break the bank — all within a block of a Medford student's next class.

Word of Mouth

Dining out with

the Mail Tribune

Tacos Mi Tierra

135 S. Central Ave.

541-779-8226

Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday through Friday

and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

The Burger Spot

141 S. Central Ave.

541-734-9996

Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Monday through Friday

and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

We've raved in the past about the by-the-slice options at Paisans Pizzeria, and their $3.75 cheese slice and soda special, but pizza isn't the only option — even if it is a popular one. With that in mind, we checked out a few budget eateries.

I'd seen Tacos Mi Tierra and its dry erase sandwich board sign of specials when I'd walk to the library on lunch breaks, but I hadn't made it in before.

The interior was festive if basic, and the booth where my friend and I sat was comfortable and broken-in, but frankly at a taqueria ambiance is secondary to the food — and that's where Tacos Mi Tierra excelled.

My friend and I checked it out on a Monday, the special being a burrito with our choice of meat for $4.50. Meat choices included beef, chicken, steak, carnitas, chorizo or tilapia fish.

As adventurous as some of those choices were, I chose steak, and my friend went for beef. I added a Diet Coke and my friend was pleased to see they served Jarritos Mexican sodas — his favorite at taco carts. He ordered an orange one.

In addition to our meat of choice, our burritos came loaded with rice, beans, tomato, sour cream, guacamole, onions and cilantro. Everything was well grilled before being served on a plate with lettuce and a side of fresh corn tortilla chips.

The steak in my burrito tasted fresh and freshly grilled, and my friend liked the spices in his beef, but most of all I was impressed with the hearty meal we got for the same cost as most drive-thrus.

The budget-conscious can look forward to a special each weekday, Mondays being $4.50 burrito day, Tuesdays offering $1 tacos (minimum purchase of two required), Wednesdays $4.50 quesadillas, Thursdays $4.50 nachos and Fridays another round of dollar tacos.

No, you probably won't get in and out as quickly as Taco Bell, but you will get something a lot better.

Tacos Mi Tierra is at 135 S. Central Ave. and it's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-779-8226.

Situated at 141 S. Central, the location of the former Burger Cafe, the newly opened Burger Spot can be easy to overlook the first time. That would be a mistake, however, especially for fans of a good burger such as myself.

With its freshly-painted chartreuse walls and trendy vintage-style wall decorations, the place makes a sharper first impression than many burger joints of a similar bend.

Although there's a $5.99 regular burger basket on its fairly simple menu — adding pepper jack, swiss, cheddar or colby jack adds $1.60 — my friend and I both wanted lettuce and tomato on ours so we ordered deluxe cheeseburgers with cheddar. At $7.49 per basket, the cost arguably hovers over the fast food budget I sought to keep, but my friend and I were impressed with what we got at that price.

Each burger came nicely grilled and piping hot with the cheese thoroughly melted. The menu said the buns are freshly baked, and they seemed eggier than buns anywhere else locally with a glossy thick crust and black sesame seeds. Better yet, they bun halves are grilled to a crisp before everything comes together and stays together with the help of a steak knife.

The basket comes with a serving of fresh cole slaw and a choice of fries or "Spot Tots." I went for fries, and my friend went for tots. It might be a mere matter of preference since both were well prepared, but I told my friend I'd order the tots next time as I grabbed a second one of his.

The Burger Spot is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-734-9996.

— Nick Morgan


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