Top of the Calle
Occupying a second-story space above Ashland Creek, Loft American Brasserie & Bar is perched literally and figuratively near the top of the town's dining scene.
The upscale bistro opened in early 2010 on the optimism of Jacqueline and Jeremy Vidalo-Singh. Both in their 20s, the couple nevertheless cite ample industry experience behind their venture.
Jeremy Vidalo-Singh came of age at his father's Medford restaurant, India Palace. His wife worked in Ashland eateries but set her heart on the Calle Guanajuato location where Pilaf operated for eight years and BZ's Last Stand & Hacienda met its demise after less than a year.
The Vidalo-Singhs elegantly and simply refurbished the airy, high-ceilinged dining room with dark-stained wood that warms the decor, along with a gas fireplace. The polished wooden bar overlooking Loft's staircase is an ideal vantage for a light meal with a glass of wine.
Loft's culinary identity is staunchly Western with a continental-inspired and polished reinterpretation of comfort-food classics. During fall and winter, special, fixed-price menus of four or five courses paired with wine are offered periodically. The regular menu effortlessly spans the divide between burger and flat-iron steak with portions and prices to satisfy any craving.
Recommended: Perhaps the most craveable dish is the truffle-scented macaroni and cheese. From the addition of white truffle-infused oil, each bite is redolent with the earthiness of this prized fungi. Adding Dungeness crab for an additional $5 pushes decadence to the extreme.
Lamb shanks are falling-off-the-bone tender atop a bed of steamed barley. Try starting with escargot steeped in garlic-Pernod butter or mussels in a bath of garlic, shallots and wine that doubles for dipping thin, crispy fries.
Alternative diets: Menu is strong on meat and seafood but offers three vegetarian salads, two soups and risotto; some locally produced, organic and free-range ingredients.
Beverages: Extensive wine list of local, other domestic and imported labels by the bottle, a half-dozen available by the glass; local craft beers on tap and bottled; numerous specialty cocktails; full bar.
Price range: Starters, $7 to $12; soups and salads; $7 to $9; entrees, $13 to $26.
Extras: Gratuity of 18 percent added to parties of six or more, $4 split-plate charge; semiprivate dining room seats groups as large as 18; custom menus available for parties of 12 or more; reservations recommended; park in the Plaza or nearby Lithia Park.
Serving: From 5 p.m. to close Tuesday through Sunday; look for lunchtime hours starting in April.
Info: 18 Calle Guanajuato Way; 541-482-1116; www.loftbrasserie.com
Cuisine and scene: In its 10th year, Tabu continues to reinvent itself and perfect a "nuevo Latino" style. The menu has shifted in recent years from Mexican favorites like tamales and pozole to some Carribean-inspired dishes and trendier Argentinian and Peruvian specialties. A richly toned color scheme and burnished wood furnishings lend a genteel air to the restaurant and bar, which also hosts popular salsa-dancing sessions until 2 a.m. Saturdays.
Recommended: Pork "barbacoa" pairs slow-roasted shoulder with Cuban-style black beans and rice, served with corn tortillas; tacos de pescado are spiced up with chipotle crema and two types of salsa; Peruvian-style empanadas offer a variety of fillings depending on the day.
Alternative diets: Three vegetarian appetizers, two salads and soups and entrees of roasted-vegetable chiles rellenos and cheese enchiladas; some organic ingredients and "natural" meats.
Beverages: Local, other domestic and imported wines by the glass and bottle; local, other domestic and Mexican beers on tap and bottled; specialty margaritas and cocktails; extensive tequila selection; full bar.
Price range: Small plates, $5.95 to $11.95; soups, $3.95 to $5.95; salads, $8.95 to $14.95; entrees, $12.95 to $18.95;
Extras: No split checks; 18-percent gratuity added to parties of six or more; parking streetside or in city lot at Pioneer Street and Lithia Way.
Serving: Dinner from 4:30 to 9 p.m. daily; late-night drinks and snacks Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday.
Info: 76 N. Pioneer St.; 541-482-3900; www.taburestaurant.com.