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Porters has timeless elegance and a menu to match

Patio dining has perhaps never been more appealing, despite temperatures still forecast in the triple digits.

Porters maintains one of the region’s premier patios, spacious yet discreet, albeit smack-dab in the middle of downtown Medford. And with a menu that matches its setting for old-fashioned yet timeless elegance, Porters has been a favorite since 2001 for special occasions and everyday indulgences.

Toasting my sister’s recent college graduation — with a second bachelor’s of science — brought us to Porters on a recent weeknight. More than a decade had passed since my sister’s move from the Rogue Valley and the last time she had dined “at the depot” — never on Porters’ back patio. Overhung with Edison-style string lights, shaded by arbors and screened by lush foliage, the ambiance makes a striking first impression.

Our first order of business was a round of cocktails, a dirty martini for my former bartender sister, with lots of complicated instructions that the server took in stride, and a “pink mule” for me. We also requested the poached prawn cocktail ($12) and pork empanada ($7).

After spying some interesting appetizer specials, including rabbit potstickers, on Porters’ social media accounts, I was a tad disappointed that none were offered that evening. But the six prawns made succulent vehicles for the peppered cocktail sauce that my sister and I both remarked set the dish apart from others we’d tried. The empanada was tasty, although its pastry was slightly underbaked and could have been browned and crisped to better effect.

Salad courses rarely pique my interest, but my sister was angling for some greens — just a few bites — so I agreed to share the Caesar, added for $5 to my entree.

Although the arrangement was largely based on our mutual appreciation of anchovies, we were rewarded with a top-quality version of this restaurant mainstay.

Vibrant romaine leaves reposed on the plate largely intact, instead of torn or chopped. The salad was perfectly dressed with just a few croutons for crunch and a lemon wedge balancing the anchovies’ salty savor.

Continuing the seafood theme, she and I both gravitated to the same dishes, ultimately deciding that the lobster ravioli ($29) would come to me and the Pacific halibut parmesan ($34) to her. While the seared Columbia River steelhead ($29) earned consideration from both of us, my sister favored the halibut’s side of potatoes over the steelhead’s accompaniments of rice and salsa verde. She was even more pleased that she could substitute garlic mashed potatoes for the halibut’s usual roasted red potatoes.

The mashed potatoes come standard with Porters’ steaks, which occupy a large section of the menu under the heading “30-day dry-aged.” The custom-cut beef also is custom-aged by Cherry Street Meats in Medford. A prime-grade ribeye or T-bone can be had for $57 and $59, respectively. On the lower end are filet mignon for $42 and New York strip and prime rib for $37 apiece. The menu’s centerpiece is Porters porterhouse for $69.

Pork tenderloin ($32), chicken marsala ($26) and shrimp scampi with linguine ($28) round out the menu. And in classic dinnerhouse style, Porters offers a Maine lobster tail for market price, as well as an add-on option to any entree.

The lobster ravioli are, in truth, stuffed with cheese and spinach, gaining their lobster flavor from the dish’s rich cream sauce, a generously portioned medium for the langostino, a crustacean species most closely related to crabs. In restaurants, it’s often used to tread the middle ground between costly lobster and more affordable shrimp, evoking the character of each.

The dumplings, at least, had the look and feel of handmade pasta, their size and number satisfying. I loved the seared lemon half for garnish, although the sauce was seasoned so well that I wasn’t compelled to squeeze over any additional acid. I do think a few fresh shavings of parmesan, however, rather than pre-shredded would have been the most fitting way to finish the presentation.

Parmesan and little else encrusted the halibut, which my sister praised for its thinness, tenderness and the fact that it wasn’t buried under a bunch of breading. I also thought it one of the finest preparations of this fish I’d had in a while, not least for the lemon-caper sauce. The plate would have benefited from the color and texture of more green beans in the roasted vegetable melange. But the potatoes lived up to my sister’s expectations.

We had both eaten so heartily that I was surprised to hear my sister even considering dessert. She had a second cocktail to finish, after all, while I polished off a glass of Kriselle Cellars sauvignon blanc.

I was further caught off guard that she suggested we share the bread pudding, one of my favorite dishes, which I assumed she didn’t like. But the bourbon-infused crème anglaise likely went a long way toward sweetening the deal for her. Figuring we’d take home the majority of the large wedge of pudding after a few bites, I found myself keeping pace with her to nearly polish off the portion, attractively sauced and punctuated with bits of hazelnuts.

The light was fading on the patio when we concluded our meal, perfect in its pace, affording us uninterrupted moments for conversation and laughter. We’ll also consider Porters’ bar menu, if a full meal isn’t in the cards. Actually offered all day, every day, “happy hour” specials are available with a $3 minimum drink order.

Located at 147 N. Front St., Porters is open 4 to 10 p.m. daily. Reserve a table or order at porterstrainstation.com. Or call 541-857-1910.

Tempo Tidbits

Think you’re a pit master? Fire up your grill, smoker or barbecue and pit your best against the rest to benefit local restaurant workers impacted by the coronavirus.

The inaugural event at Naumes Suncrest Winery in Talent is set for Sept. 27. The deadline to enter the barbecue cookoff is Sept. 18. See full contest rules and register at facebook.com/NaumesSuncrestWinery. The entry fee is $50 per team, and the competition is limited to 15 teams vying for up to $750 in cash prizes.

Event judges will sample entries for beef tri-tip, chicken and other grillable items in an open category, dubbed “dealer’s choice.” A “people’s choice” vote also will be tallied.

Paired with the fare is the release of Naumes’ 2017 Malbec. Festivities run from noon to 6 p.m. at the winery, 1950 Suncrest Road. Admission is $20 per person, and attendance is limited to ensure social distancing. Purchase tickets at eventbrite.com.

Half of all event proceeds will be donated to Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that works to ensure wage and gender equity and fairness for immigrants and people of color, as well as treatment for and prevention of substance abuse and mental health conditions. See restaurantworkerscf.org


Canine companions are welcome for “yappy hour” at Medford’s Tap & Vine.

House-made dog biscuits, bowls of cold water and plenty of shade are available for leashed doggie diners from 4 to

5:59 p.m. weekdays on the restaurant patio across from Tinseltown in Medford Center. Pet owners can order from Tap & Vine’s “happy bites” menu and beverage specials, including wines, beers and ciders on tap, plus cocktails. See menus and tap lists at tapandvine559.com


A dog-friendly outdoor dining area defines the new Clyde’s Corner in Phoenix.

Open since mid-August, the eatery specializes in wood-fired pizzas, draft beers, cocktails and wines. Look for the red umbrellas outside suite 580, 4495 S. Pacific Highway, near Blue Heron Park. Pass the Phoenix Industrial Studios sign outside the complex and keep going toward the restaurant tucked into the back corner.

Named for the owners’ German shorthair pointer, who serves at the restaurant mascot, Clyde’s Corner is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


Have a Tempo tidbit to share? Email news about the local dining, food and beverage scene to: thewholedish@gmail.com

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Sarah Lemon has relished the Rogue Valley’s dining scene for nearly two decades as one of the original contributors to Tempo’s dining column. Her palate has helped to judge some of the region’s culinary competitions and festivals. The former editor of A la Carte, the Mail Tribune’s weekly food section, she writes a biweekly column, The Whole Dish, and blogs and podcasts under the same name. Listen at mailtribune.com/podcasts and read more at mailtribune.com/lifestyle/the-whole-dish. Follow thewholedishblog on Instagram, @thewholedish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

Caesar salad at Porters in Medford.
Parmesan-crusted halibut at Porters in Medford. Photos by Sarah Lemon