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Porters is a mainstay in downtown Medford

The pendulum of revitalization has swung back and forth over downtown Medford a couple times since I first arrived at the Mail Tribune in 2007, but throughout the ups and downs, Porters has maintained an aura of excellence.

The restaurant opened in September 2001, when three restaurateurs renovated Medford's 1910 train depot and transformed it into a place where Medford's well-heeled go to celebrate — or so the parking lot outside 147 N. Front St. would seem to imply.

Finer diners have choices again downtown, thanks to the stylishly revitalized Bohemian Club and the vintage modern chic of Lark's at Inn at the Commons (not to mention the hotly anticipated opening of Common Block Brewing). But perhaps because of the gleaming European luxury cars outside, I realized, I'd never ventured into Porters dining area.

"Do you have a reservation?" The professional hostess' words served as a polite recommendation to call ahead next time (541-857-1910 or online at www.porterstrainstation.com). Thankfully, our wait for a table for two was only a few minutes on a busy July evening.

The dinner menu offers an assortment of traditionally prepared steaks, and modern fish and fowl dishes with worldly influences, from Sesame and Black Pepper Ahi Tuna to Chicken Marsala.

We started with the House Smoked Salmon Rangoons ($9), crispy and lightly fried wontons filled with a mixture of cream cheese, lemon and shallots, and served with a pepper jam. The sweet and spicy jam tended to overpower the other flavors a bit, but without the jam the mixture had a fresh, strong smoky flavor. I'd gladly order it again.

I've been taught to avoid ordering chicken at a steakhouse, but one of the specials, the Oregon Half Chicken Cordon Bleu ($23), spoke to me. I deliberated between that and a small steak with our server, and she steered me toward the special. She'd recently had it and described it as a "delicious dish," so I took her sincere recommendation to heart.

When our plates arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the entree's modern presentation. 

The positive impression continued as I cut in to the dish. The chevre potato cake at the bottom of the dish drew me in, but the roasted half chicken filled with house-made tasso ham, Swiss cheese and apricot mustard cream made for a great combination of flavors. The garlic-scented organic pea shoots sourced from Barking Moon Farm gave the dish balance to the heavier parts of the entree. My only nitpick is that the dish's tower-like assembly made things a little precarious as I got toward the center.

My friend ordered the Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich ($14), a freshly baked roll topped with prime rib and Swiss cheese served with a side of dijonnaise and garlic fries. The a la carte item isn't always available, but my friend said he considers the sandwich one of the best dining bargains when it's available.

With its excellent and interesting approach to dinner, it's little surprise to find Porters is such a Medford mainstay.

— Nick Morgan

The Oregon Half Chicken Cordon Bleu at Porters Restaurant and Bar. Mail Tribune / Nick Morgan