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Sweet Tea Express

For friendly service and classic American staples, look no farther than Sweet Tea Express in Medford.

The small restaurant opened in February right next to the Black Bird Shopping Center parking lot, at 1830 W. Main St. Walking up, there is no mistaking what is in store for patrons inside — breakfast and lunch adorn the building's side awning in large, yellow letters.

The restaurant has a few picnic tables arranged around the building for outdoor dining.

The space inside includes four tables (two four-seaters, one six-seater and a single two-seater) and a counter seating area that looks in on the kitchen. Takeout orders are also available.

I was greeted by co-owner Alex Saucedo while the other owner, Greg Cordova, worked the grill. Business was slow, so I felt relaxed about taking my time to look over the menu.

Breakfast and lunch are served all day and featured everything I would have expected. The breakfast side included the standard meat and egg dishes, omelets, biscuits and gravy, pancakes and french toast. On the lunch side, burgers dominate, but the menu also includes barbecue sandwiches, deli-style sandwiches and barbecue platters.

I decided on the Smoked Brisket Platter for $9.99, which includes a biscuit, baked beans and a choice of potato salad, macaroni salad or coleslaw.

I learned from Saucedo that everything the restaurant serves, with the exception of the fries and buns, is made in-house. However, even the buns are delivered fresh by Ashland's Apple Cellar Bakery three times a week.

The brisket was thinly sliced and covered in sauce. The first bite was filled with flavor. I guess I ate too quickly, because suddenly the succulent meat was gone. The beans delivered the perfect level of sweetness, with delicious, thin slices of bacon to add a savory touch. The huge, homemade biscuit was one of the best I'd ever had.

I learned from Saucedo and Cordova that, while burgers and breakfasts are their main focus, the restaurant's barbecue is steadily becoming a favorite among customers.

Saucedo recommended that I try their Sweet Tea Burger the next time I come in, which involves onion straws soaked in sweet tea. I decided to return for this burger the next day.

My second trip was a wholly different experience in terms of customers. The place was packed.

The Sweet Tea Burger, my target for the day, cost $8.99 and came with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, a mayo and mustard blend, cheddar cheese and the aforementioned onion straws. I was offered the same sides that came with the brisket, and this time I opted for fries.

When the burger arrived, it was exploding with onion straws, and I didn't want to waste a single one that fell from the sandwich. I could easily eat them by themselves.

Cordova says they cut and soak the onions overnight and then batter and fry them the next day. He says I'm not the only one who would eat the onion straws by themselves — they're available stand-alone for $4.99.

After my experience there, Sweet Tea Express has definitely earned a loyal customer. I could not recommend this restaurant more highly.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant also offers catering. Call 541-772-3159 or see www.sweetteaexpress.com.

— Ian Hand

The Sweet Tea Burger features house-made onion straws soaked in sweet tea before deep-frying. - Photo by Ian Hand