Mac’s Diner in Shady Cove is a lovely, vintage restaurant seated on the banks of the Rogue River. Food is family friendly, filling and familiar. Nestled deep under big trees with lots of local history, film, music and automobile memorabilia to appreciate, Mac’s Diner is well worth the stop.
Breakfast was my objective this morning, and what a breakfast it was.
Casey’s Mess is top left on the menu, in the most prominent position because it is Mac’s Diner’s most popular breakfast order. Though not my choice today, Instagram photos of a freshly made biscuit topped with two eggs, mushrooms, peppers, onions, bacon and covered with country gravy was tempting and seemed a plate suited for sharing. Casey’s Mess runs about $10.25 and includes potatoes.
With something simpler in mind, I tried the French toast made with a fresh baguette, dipped in egg and grilled to perfection. My plate of four thick slices included the heel, which turned out to be so good that I couldn’t help but pick it up with my fingers and dip it into the maple syrup. The heel gave me more of the dense and chewy crust to savor and was well worth $7.95.
Also on the breakfast menu are nine different 3-egg omelets and eggs with extras, served with hash browns and a choice of toast, biscuit or cornbread that run $9 to $11. You’ll also find oatmeal, cooked that day and not quick oats either, with brown sugar and cream, along with waffles, pancakes and more.
The biscuits at Mac’s Diner are big as cat’s heads. Served warm, they're light and fluffy inside and are brought to the table with honey and jam. You can ask for butter if you don’t like margarine. Made daily from scratch, the biscuits would be even better warmed in the oven at serving to lightly crisp the top and bottom. But no matter, it’s easy to see why the biscuits here are favorites. A takeout order of thick, meaty bacon to go with that cat’s head biscuit will serve well as my husband’s lunch later in the day and cost about $8.
Mac’s Diner is the old Bel Di’s, a fine-dining establishment once owned by Sam Smith who also operated Mon Desir in Central Point. At one time, the Bel Di was dimly lit, the decor dark with antique fixtures and furniture. A long-time favorite of celebrities like Larry Hagman and Ginger Rogers, the banquette seats used to have partitions between them to give diners privacy.
Today those banquettes are upholstered in brilliant turquoise with silver studs and the dining area is open to the Rogue River, running full and slow below. Today, Mac’s Diner is bright and clean and chock-full of interesting photographs and objects to study in between bites.
If you’re at Mac’s Diner for lunch, there’s a full complement of burgers, dressed dogs and sandwiches to choose from at $10 to $12, which also includes soup, salad, coleslaw or unlimited French fries. There’s lots of specialty salads, and Bel Di’s signature dressing, a balsamic vinaigrette created by Mon Desir founder Julie Tummers, is still on the menu.
Dinner starts at 4:30 p.m. when Mac’s Diner brings out the beef (prime rib specials on Friday nights) and the turkey, ham, shrimp and pork, as well as comfort food such as chicken and those marvelous biscuits, meatloaf and chicken-fried and Salisbury steaks. It was fun to see Hot Blonde and Hot Brunette sandwiches on the menu and know what these are: sliced turkey or prime rib served open-faced with gravy. Most dinners run about $15 (prime rib and prawns higher of course) and include choice of potato, vegetable of the day and choice of soup or salad.
Come summer, I can’t imagine anything better than sitting outside on the deck at Mac’s Diner. I plan to go back and relax on that deck with a glass of wine and a small plate or maybe a sweet tea if it’s really hot. Then, I’ll head into the air conditioning and sit on those splendid turquoise banquettes for supper.
Mac’s Diner is a nice spot on the Rogue River out there in Shady Cove. You’ll see. Located at 21900 Highway 62, the restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, and until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 541-878-7303
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland, Oregon.