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Chicken Shanty, Haas Caribbean are great for take-out feasting

A new food cart pod in east Medford raises hopes that mobile eateries will one day be as prevalent in Southern Oregon as in Portland.

The parking lot fronting Quality Market and Growler King regularly hosts Haas Caribbean Craft Kitchen and, more recently, The Chicken Shanty. As the name implies, the latter specializes in chicken, but the former also favors poultry among its island-inspired specialties.

I’d been following Haas’ movements on social media, trying to track down the trailer after it moved in August from the Medford Center. Hot on Haas’ heels, The Chicken Shanty opened in late September and draws so much traffic — literally — that cars straggle across the business access controlled by the stoplight at East Jackson Street and Academy Place.

Ours was only the second vehicle in line on a recent weekday, but a staffer for The Chicken Shanty approached with a tablet to take orders and speed up service. With less than an hour between appointments, I knew The Chicken Shanty would strike the right chord with my kids and feed us as quickly as fast food.

The streamlined menu relies on hand-breaded chicken strips paired with french fries and coleslaw, cradled inside a bun or folded into a wrap, each for $9.99. The kids’ portion skips the coleslaw and cuts the price to $6.99. Also on the menu are soup ($4.99), a chicken salad sandwich ($8.99) and boneless or bone-in wings in multiples of six, 10 and 15, priced from $6.99 to $24.99.

House-made sauces are The Chicken Shanty’s calling card. There are seven recipes: barbecue, Buffalo, honey-mustard, cool ranch, spicy peanut, Southern and “voodoo.” Most items come with the choice of at least one sauce.

In the absence of ketchup, cool ranch was the de facto dipper with my boys’ “li’l meals.” I asked for honey-mustard on my sandwich and, upon hearing that it closely resembled “fry sauce,” the Southern for dunking my fries. Spying “salmon chowder” on the specials board, I was compelled to give the day’s soup a try.

The Chicken Shanty afforded plenty of space — before the statewide ban on dine-in food service — to eat on site. Picnic tables cozied up to a fire pit, and clear, plastic domes had been erected to shelter up to a dozen diners. My boys were enamored with these “bubbles” and clamored for seats inside, despite the day’s sunny skies.

They greedily sipped house-made lemonades ($3.50) — plain and prickly pear — approving of the lemon slice floating atop each. The Chicken Shanty also does a brisk business in house-made iced tea ($3.50), including a seasonal pumpkin flavor.

Arriving after a few minutes in paper takeout containers, the chicken initially was too hot for the boys to handle, so they gingerly dipped and nibbled what would prove to be too many fries. The most commendable temperature, however, belonged to the chowder.

I admit to being a tad skeptical of this chowder, but The Chicken Shanty made me a believer. The flavor was simultaneously rich but mild, with an obvious seafood overtone that didn’t scream salmon, which can be overpowering on my palate. Nicely sized chunks of potato punctuated the otherwise homogenous base. Offering some to the boys, I commented we’d had lesser chowders at restaurants on the coast. If The Chicken Shanty sold its soups in quart sizes, I’d snap up this chowder for a quick weeknight supper.

Compared with the chowder, my sandwich was a bit one-note with the combination of house-made pimento cheese and honey-mustard, although each would have been delicious on its own. The chicken’s well-seasoned batter was fried to a satisfying crunch, echoing the battered fries’ texture. As expected, the Southern sauce perfectly complemented the fries, but I also relished the ranch’s buttermilk tang, garlicky savor and copious herbs, lacking in so many versions of this dressing.

Sauces at Haas likewise summoned me to the Quality Market pod on a recent weekday. The Caribbean-themed cart has an even smaller menu than The Chicken Shanty but more variety among its proteins and flavor profiles, which rotate weekly.

Guava pork ribs ($15) vied with peanut chicken ($12) for attention. My friend favored the Dominican-style beef meatballs in a sofrito sauce. Each plate came with rice and green salad. The ribs also boasted Cuban black beans.

Hailing from the Dominican Republic, Haas’ owners aren’t just betting on their cuisine’s novelty in the Rogue Valley. Each meal is thoughtfully — almost artistically — constructed in an eco-friendly takeout container that customers unwrap like a present. Nestled inside, among tissue paper that mimics a Cuban newspaper, are generous portions of meat and more measured quantities of rice and salad.

My three boneless, skinless chicken skewers — bathed in mild, creamy peanut sauce and accented with shelled peanuts — were more than I could eat in a sitting. But I polished off the impeccably cooked and seasoned rice without a care for carbs. It seems like such a simple task to cook rice, but Haas proves that cultures where the grain is a staple elevate it beyond starchy side dish.

The mixed greens salad was less impressive, tossed with a zesty but run-of-the-mill vinaigrette. My friends’ meatballs were tender, steeped in a tomato sauce studded with large pieces of red bell pepper and onion. He also had more food than he could finish, and we agreed that Haas’ conscientiously prepared dishes, in ample helpings, represent a good value.

Located at 1211 E. Jackson St., The Chicken Shanty is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Delivery is offered through DoorDash and Grubhub. See thechickenshanty.com or call 541-200-4046.

Look for Haas Caribbean Craft Kitchen at the corner of East Jackson and Pearl streets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Call 541-414-4776.

Tempo Tidbits

Fondue is back in fashion! Two local businesses offer packages for preparing fondue feasts at home.

VINFARM in Grants Pass has assembled a kit featuring Crushpad Creamery’s preshredded Gouda, along with other ingredients and instructions needed to fill up two to four people with fondue. Also including a bag of VINFARM’s house-made gluten-free crackers, the kit costs $35. It must be ordered in advance and picked up at VINFARM, 111 S.E. G St.

Call 541-226-2664 or see wcv.farm The tasting room and farm-to-table eatery of Wooldridge Creek Winery, VINFARM is open from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday for takeout and special-order “chef boards.”

A fondue serving set comes with Rogue Creamery’s Fondue Party package.

Shop the Central Point Creamery’s online store to purchase this pairing of organic Touvelle Cheddar in a 1-pound block and a 6.5-ounce wedge of organic, raw Oregonzola, along with the recipe card created by the Creamery’s president, David Gremmels. Take his word for it that the French consider the crust at the bottom of the fondue pot a delicacy, called “la croute” or “la religieuse.”

The set costs $85. See roguecreamery.com/product/the-fondue-party/

Enter the code FONDUE10 at checkout for $10 off.

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Billed as another “party in a box,” a selection of locally made, artisan cheeses with fine preserves and pickles is available by subscription.

“Winter Savouries” is a collaboration of By George Farm & Creamery in the Applegate and Angel Farms Preservation Collective in Medford. The format brings subscribers a biweekly assortment of ready-to-eat foods with recipes and serving suggestions in time for holiday entertaining. Angel Farms is a finalist in the 2021 Good Food Awards for its “bread ’n’ butta” zucchini pickles and pickled beets.

The small “savouries” share costs $35 per box, the large $60 per box, with a total of seven boxes allotted from the first week of December through February. Pickup and delivery is available in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass.

Email bygeorgefarm@gmail.com or call 541-899-5650.

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Medford’s newest Thai restaurant remains open for takeout.

Kin Thai Cafe opened in October at 207 W. Eighth St., specializing in curries, noodles, salads and rice dishes. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. See menu photos on Instagram, @kinthai_cafe, and on Facebook. Call 541-690-1709.

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Restaurants and bars statewide are open for takeout and delivery only through Dec. 2.

Gov. Kate Brown’s order, aimed at reducing the coronavirus’ infection rate, curtails on-site eating and drinking at food-service establishments. The governor’s office announced Oregon’s two-week “freeze” last week and implemented a variety of restrictions Wednesday.

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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,@the.whole.dish on Twitter or see facebook.com/thewholedish.

Peanut chicken is prepared as boneless, skinless skewers at Haas Caribbean Craft Kitchen in Medford.
The chicken sandwich is garnished with house-made pimento cheese and comes with battered french fries at The Chicken Shanty in Medford.{ }Photos by Sarah Lemon