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Rogue River Lodge

The newly opened Rogue River Lodge offers all the charms of elegant and casual dining.

Owners Lee and Anne Kimball spent much of the past year refurbishing the old, three-story building that sits along Highway 62 in Trail and opened its doors for business a couple weeks ago.

From Medford, it's not a long drive to the restaurant. My friend, Loretta, and I arrived too early to be seated in the dining room, so we made our way downstairs to the Riverview Room. There, we serendipitously bumped into two of our friends, Dick and Sheila, and the four of us took our wine and cocktails — along with an appetizer of Northwest wild salmon patties served with cucumber and dill yogurt sauce — down a paved path to a large patio along the Rogue River.

New landscaping around the lodge and the beautiful river view provide the place with a hospitable, resort-like feel. We basked in the company of our friends and a gentle afternoon breeze while waiting for the dining room to open.

The Riverview Room is open daily and offers appetizers, burgers, melts, fries, salads and soup. There's the "lodge burger" for $8.95. Burgers and melts are served with "lodge fries," or steak fries.

Our appetites were sharpened for the fuller dishes that would be available in the upstairs dining room. Though I'd made a reservation for 5 p.m., we'd languished a bit long on the patio, but we were soon settled at a comfortable table. Deck seating also is available.

The menu touted roast pork stuffed with dried fruit soaked in cognac; half a roasted, free-range chicken with caramelized garlic and shallot gravy; lamb shanks braised in red- and white-wine sauce and served with black cherries; rib-eye steaks; prime rib; grilled salmon; and prawns and scallops sautéed in garlic and white wine served over linguini. Prices range from $14.95 for the signature meatloaf served with mashed garlic potatoes to $29.95 for the rib-eye. Specials included halibut crusted with ground hazelnuts, chicken Parmesan and duck.

The four of us feasted: Dick and Sheila ordered the prime rib and duck, respectively. I actually was tempted to try the lodge's meatloaf but opted for the halibut, and Loretta tried the pasta.

Meals come with house salad or soup and a choice of vegetables. The house salad was fresh, Caesar-style romaine lettuce dusted with grated Parmesan and sprinkled with sweet pine nuts. A server offered each of us a choice of whole-grain, pumpernickel or garlic sourdough bread rolls from a large basket. It was a nice touch, but the rolls were a bit dry. Fresh, ground pepper also was at hand.

The lodge's wine list includes labels from the West Coast, France and Italy. The restaurant has its own house labels for chardonnay, merlot and cabernet from Valley View Winery. House wines also include Crater Lake Cellars' riesling and white grenache.

Lee Kimball cleared out the lodge's foundation to create a wine cellar on the lower floor. The room's walls and support posts are constructed of lava rock and cement, and Kimball put down a steel-reinforced tile floor and installed bottle racks. There are plans for an exclusive wine-tasting room.

The renovated dining room is airy with lightly colored walls, large windows, indirect ceiling lamps and an open kitchen.

We enjoyed the meals. The halibut was tender, flaky and delicious. I think there was a bit of panko in the crust. Loretta's pasta was cooked al dente, a fact I will keep in mind next time I visit the lodge (I prefer tender). Dick's prime rib was cooked to his satisfaction, and Sheila's duck sauce was not too sweet. Plan on taking time to enjoy your meal when you visit the lodge's dining room.

We had a great time, and other folks will too when Elvis impersonator Clint Ingbretson performs at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4, on the lawn. Rogue River Lodge is looking more like a resort all the time.

— Laurie Heuston