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The Whiskey Room

Bringing a big-city vibe to downtown Medford is the goal of newcomer The Whiskey Room.

The two-story spot at 31 S. Grape St., formerly occupied by Rosso's, is off to a promising start with a trendy focus on its namesake spirit, sleek decor and live music. A small menu of standard bar fare passably complements The Whiskey Room's other attributes. A bit of innovation, however, could distinguish the venue from other downtown nightspots.

Valentine's Day coincidentally afforded an opportunity to try The Whiskey Room with a friend and co-worker. Arriving just after the restaurant opened, we had our choice of several low-slung, plush couches although we lacked a reservation on this popular occasion for dining out.

The Whiskey Room is open at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Call 541-500-1042.

If we had planned a later rendezvous, I would have welcomed the free whiskey tastings offered later in the evening. Special events such as these are highlighted on the website www.whiskeyroommedford.com.

My friend ordered a lemon drop, one of my favorite cocktails. I angled for a taste after declining a drink of my own, which wouldn't mix well with returning to work for another few hours. We both would have appreciated a bit more citrus zing but had no qualms about quaffing the drink.

In addition to the cocktail menu, plenty of beers are available on tap, along with a variety of liquors.

Turning to food, my friend and I shared an appetizer and main course, with a salad to round out the richer dishes. Unable to resist fish and chips ($13), we skipped the calamari appetizer ($10) — also battered and fried — in favor of hot crawfish dip ($10).

The dip was presented with plenty of grilled baguette for dipping. It had a nice hint of spice, and roasted garlic gave the Caesar salad ($8) an edge over two others, which also can be served as wraps.

Constituting a good portion of the menu, burgers come in six types from $8 to $12. Fries — either shoestring, waffle-cut or sweet-potato — are included for the price.

Steamy-hot inside its breading, the cod was moist and flavorful. My friend and I, surprisingly, were more taken with the shoestring fries: crispy on the outside, tender mealy on the inside and hardly leaving a trace of grease on our fingers.

We agreed the fries are good enough The Whiskey Room could serve them as a stand-alone starter with a spicy ketchup or garlic aioli. The Whiskey Room does dress up its waffle-cut fries with cooked chicken, ranch dressing, cheese and chives for an appetizer ($9). I wouldn't hesitate to ask about substituting the shoestring fries.

Feeling too full for further indulgence, we left the place to couples who had started filling the tables and eyeing the dance floor as musicians warmed up for the night ahead.

— Sarah Lemon