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38 on Central

Eight dollars for a hamburger? And if you want fries with it, $11? Outrageous, in most cases. But once in a while, it's worth every penny.

That was the case on a recent visit to 38 on Central, the chic downtown dinner spot that is now open for lunch.

My spouse and dining companion decided she was hungry for a burger that day, not something she usually orders in a fine restaurant. But this was one fine burger.

The 38 Burger (yes, $8, plus $3 for a side salad or fries) is a half pound of Painted Hills beef — raised just over the border in California without hormones or antibiotics — charbroiled rare at her request, served on a focaccia bun with the usual trimmings plus melted fontina cheese.

It was quite possibly the best hamburger I have ever tasted that wasn't prepared on my own Weber at home.

The rest of the meal was superb as well.

I chose the duck quesadilla ($9), composed of pulled duck confit on crispy flour tortillas with smoky Gouda cheese. It comes with the house plum barbecue sauce.

I added the soup of the day ($4) — a delicious red bell pepper bisque.

To accompany her burger, my spouse chose the house salad. It was a variation on the now-ubiquitous Rogue Valley dinner salad featuring nuts, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and sometimes pear.

This one is mixed baby greens topped with a sweet apple and caramelized onion vinaigrette, candied walnuts and the blue cheese.

Very good, but a little on the sweet side for our taste. We would have preferred plain walnuts, or perhaps a little more vinegar to balance the sweet apple.

Other lunch choices include a cheese plate featuring triple-cream brie, Rogue Creamery blue and goat cheese with crostinis and a mission fig-strawberry compote ($9); a heart of romaine caesar ($7, $10 with chicken); crawfish and Dungeness crab cakes ($8); and penne pasta with red bell peppers, shallots and garlic in a pesto cream sauce with balsamic drizzle ($9).

You can get the fries by themselves for $5. We didn't try them, but plan a return trip just for that purpose. The menu describes them as house cut, tossed with scallions, garlic, sheep's milk feta cheese and white truffle oil.

The only damper on the day was when our server regretfully informed us that dessert is not offered at lunch.

All the more reason to find an excuse to visit at dinner time.

— Gary E. Nelson