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Burrito Republic is a walk-up wonder in Ashland

It’s a food-service model perfectly positioned for restaurants’ recent roadblocks.

Burrito Republic opened as a walk-up window this month in downtown Ashland, just in time for the latest mandate on eateries statewide to serve take-out only. Since the “freeze,” Burrito Republic rolled out an online ordering system that alleviates wait times outside its tiny accommodation that formerly housed coffee kiosks at 46 E. Main St.

Building on the success of his Falafel Republic across town off Siskiyou Boulevard, owner Sam Jackson offers a similar format at Burrito Republic by replacing pitas with tortillas and swapping Mediterranean spices for Latin. Customers choose proteins as either toppings or fillings for three types of meals: a “bowl,” salad or namesake burrito. The spot also serves quesadillas, fresh-fried chips and churros and hand-smashed guacamole.

Biding one’s time at Burrito Republic tends to block the sidewalk. So it pays to either order online, prepay, then arrive at the specified pickup time, or order using the window’s self-serve computer touch screen and then take a stroll through Ashland’s Plaza or browse nearby shops.

Fallen leaves still littered Lithia Park midway through the month when my partner and I carried our burritos to a bench near the lower duck pond. The air was crisp, but our meal’s aroma chased away the chill, convincing us to indulge amid autumn’s spectacle, rather than return home.

Rice and beans — black or pinto — stuff Burrito Republic’s flagship item, which also comes with a choice of two salsas, two types of cheese, either Mexican crema or cilantro-lime sour cream, pumpkin seeds and shredded cabbage and lettuce. Adding avocado or mango salsa comes with an extra charge to the $8 base burrito price; adding cilantro or jalapeno does not.

I waffled between hot salsa macha or salsa picante over pico de gallo and roasted tomatillo in my burrito. Ordering the chile relleno filling, I wondered about the main component’s spiciness. In the end, I erred on the side of milder flavor. I was a bit disappointed, though, that cabbage and lettuce are mixed in Burrito Republic’s prep table, preventing me from requesting only cabbage.

My partner, who loves his burritos with all the fixings, chose the adobo chicken for his filling over the pork verde, plus the roasted onions and bell peppers billed as “fajita veggies.” A double portion of meat costs $2 more, as does choosing the chile relleno; extra fajita veggies tacks on another $1.

The combination of chicken and fajita veggies with black beans pleased my partner, who proclaimed Burrito Republic his new favorite meal among Ashland’s fast-casual joints. The burrito was so substantial that he returned half to its foil wrapper to enjoy later at home.

While the chicken burrito respectably represented this mainstream dish, a chile relleno burrito isn’t so common, and Burrito Republic hits a home run with this one. It’s for good reason the item costs a bit more because Burrito Republic doesn’t take shortcuts with its preparation by folding sliced chiles into an omelet, as do some local Mexican restaurants. I would order Burrito Republic’s roasted, cheese-stuffed, egg-battered and fried poblano pepper every time.

That’s just what I did on a return trip to Burrito Republic, when I tried the chile in a “bowl.” In the mood for something lighter this time, my partner requested the salad with fajita veggies, avocado and mango salsa. Base prices for the bowl and salad are $9 and $10, respectively.

In deference to the frigid day, we couldn’t pass up a hot churro ($2) coated in cinnamon sugar and served with dulce de leche. Make that two churros.

Burrito Republic’s wide take-out dishes with snap-on plastic lids make for easier eating than some other containers out there. But there’s no denying that foods cool quickly in this kind of receptacle, compared with the snug package around a burrito. If you’re looking to eat still-hot food outdoors this time of year, the burrito definitely is the way to go.

And surprisingly, I preferred the chile relleno’s layers encased in a tortilla than atop rice and beans as I had assumed. Burrito Republic’s bowl does afford some corn tortillas on the side, so diners can assemble their own tacos from the bowl’s accoutrements.

I was really craving the combination of fluffy rice, toothsome beans and tender chile, however, and the ratio of rice to everything else in Burrito Republic’s bowl seemed off. In my experience, the bowl concept often is called a “rice bowl” because the grain constitutes the base for everything else. It may be worth asking on a future visit if I could cut out the tortillas that accompany Burrito Republic’s bowl and double the quantity of rice.

I did appreciate, however, the pepitas liberally sprinkled over the bowl. This is a standard flourish for Burrito Republic items, which I’ve heard some customers say detracts from the burrito’s contents. But these hulled pumpkin seeds make the salad, along with the generous inclusion of sunflower sprouts tossed with shredded lettuce and Napa cabbage. The fajita veggies’ uniform julienne also make a pleasing textural complement to the salad’s other produce.

The churros actually didn’t survive until the meal’s conclusion. When they were fresh out of the fryer, we couldn’t wait to take a bite, which quickly turned into several bites before we even spared a thought for the main courses. We did, however, have enough dulce de leche to take home and drizzle over ice cream. My partner and I agreed that the $2 cost for these addictively crunchy, deliciously chewy morsels is a bargain, one we’ll soon seek out with kids in tow.

As the season’s turn, house-made horchata and aguas frescas also will beckon us to Burrito Republic. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. See the menu and order online at burritorepublic.co.

Tempo Tidbits

Take-out is going green in Medford.

Common Block Brewing Co. and Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe are expanding the region’s Rogue To Go program. Pioneered in Ashland, Rogue To Go reduces waste by supplying green, reusable containers for participating restaurants’ carry-out and delivery orders.

Customers get started in Rogue To Go by paying a one-time $10 fee. They receive a durable plastic container they can return to any participating restaurant in exchange for a clean one. The program’s other eateries are Ashland Food Co-op, Falafel Republic, Kobe, Pie + Vine, Sesame Asian Kitchen and Simple Cafe.

Manufactured in the United States, Rogue To Go containers are made from BPA-free plastic that can be melted down and reformed into other recycled materials products. All are commercially sanitized between uses, in compliance with Jackson County public health guidelines. If restaurant customers don’t want a clean container when they return a previously used one, they can take a token reimbursable later for a container from a participating restaurant.

Common Block’s online ordering system allows customers to buy into Rogue To Go. Customers also can call participating restaurants and request their order in Rogue To Go containers. See roguetogo.com.

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Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine in Ashland is getting “back to basics.”

The flagship restaurant of Neuman Hotel Group has composed three-course meals, each for a single price — either $30 or $40 — available for takeout and delivery. Prices exclude tax and gratuity.

Larks’ popular Southern fried chicken meal includes organic field greens tossed with toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries and sherry vinaigrette; fried chicken breast with bacon gravy, herb buttermilk mashed potatoes and braised collard greens; and flourless chocolate cake with ginger ice cream — all for $40.

For $30, customers get a prime ground chuck burger on a house-made brioche bun with apple-thyme aioli, balsamic-onion-bacon jam, sharp cheddar and arugula; garlic fries, a cup of house-made soup and an old-fashioned sundae with chocolate ganache, vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream and hazelnuts.

See larksashland.com/specials. Order by calling 541-488-5558. Review the restaurant’s delivery policy at larksashland.com/delivery-policy

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Limestone Coffee Co. in downtown Medford has announced its closure, effective Monday, Nov. 30.

The shop at 217 E. Main St. opened in fall 2013, touting itself as an artisan, boutique operation with a hip, urban vibe. Founder Clint Orchuck previously ran an organic espresso bar at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets, where he developed a loyal following that encouraged him to find a permanent location. He installed Limestone in the circa-1896 Wilkinson-Swem building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and applied for a $12,000 facade improvement grant from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.

With seating on two levels, Limestone became a popular spot for small group meetings and student study sessions. Last month, Limestone offered half off its drinks to promote the Joe Coffee app before informing customers via social media that it planned to close.

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

A chicken adobo burrito with black beans and rice is available for takeout at Burrito Republic in Ashland. Photos by Sarah Lemon
Burrito Republic’s rice and bean bowls come with a side of corn tortillas.