Wild River serves reliably good pub grub
New brew pubs with a Portland-esque vibe have opened in Grants Pass, but Wild River Brewing & Pizza Company remains a reliably good, comfortable spot for the hungry and thirsty.
Wild River has five Southern Oregon locations, including a spacious restaurant at 595 N.E. E St. in Grants Pass that is a favorite with families, hikers and rafters.
The decor isn't as up-to-the-minute as new Grants Pass pubs The Haul and Climate City Brewing Company (which have been reviewed here www.mailtribune.com/article/20160325/entertainment/160329878 and here www.mailtribune.com/article/20150619/entertainment/150619626).
But seating is plentiful, even for large groups, in Wild River's multilevel dining area. Two wood-fired ovens visible from the ground floor dining room add to the comfortable feeling.
On a recent visit there, we were seated promptly even though we arrived during prime Saturday-evening hours. Our server arrived quickly to take our drink orders of Wild River Root Beer ($2), a soda ($2) and Nut Brown Ale ($4.25). We were also ready to order our food, and our server was prepared to take both the drink and food orders.
He also let us in on an inside secret about Wild River — servers will bring bread upon request, even if bread is not normally included with a menu item.
Wild River's soft, chewy baguette bread with sesame and poppy seeds, plus pats of real butter, is a must-have.
My kids had their go-to favorite, a medium pepperoni pizza ($18.95). The pizza came cut into small, diamond-shaped pieces, making it easy to eat "just one more." Still, they had enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
As a nod to rafting culture and the danger classification system for rapids, the pizzas start at Class I for a simple cheese pizza to Class V for more adventurous fare (although I would bump up the Class IV Bait Bucket shrimp, oysters and anchovies pizza into Class V and demote the Class V Veggie pizza).
My kids enjoyed the sweet, spicy aftertaste of their house-made Wild River Root Beer.
My Nut Brown Ale, which leaned more toward a dark stout than a light lager, was refreshing and flavorful, with the right hint of hoppy bitterness.
My husband went with his regular standby, Pasta Alfredo with Chicken ($15.45). The noodles had serrated edges and appeared to be house-made. My husband said the chicken was tasty and of high quality, but he thought the noodles were swimming in too much of the rich, creamy Alfredo sauce.
I had the BBQ Bacon Burger ($12.95) with house salad as the side dish and was presented with a monster burger that could easily feed two people. It was piled high with a generous portion of bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickles and spicy mustard. The BBQ sauce gave it a summery, barbecuing-with-friends flavor.
Other half-pound burger offerings include Mushroom Madness with sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese ($11.95) and the Imperial Stout Burger ($11.95) with roasted garlic, carmelized onions and cheddar.
Wild River makes its house salad special with marinated red onions, plus the more traditional additions of cucumbers, diced tomatoes, croutons and black olives.
Wild River's menu includes a variety of other salads, ranging from Taco Salad ($12.95) with seasoned ground beef and black beans to Northwest Fresh Salad ($11.95) with dried cranberries, candied walnuts, local cheese, seasonal fruit and raspberry vinaigrette.
Although I didn't have it during that outing, one of my favorite meals at Wild River is the surprisingly hearty Soup & Salad ($9), which comes with the house salad, soup, baguette and butter. I often pick the mushroom soup.
Sandwiches, calzones and a variety of Italian-style pasta dishes, such as sausage Lasagna al Forno ($12.95) and Pasta Festiva with basil pesto ($11.95), round out the menu.
As befits a brewing company, Wild River has a wide range of beer available in taster, half-pint or pint sizes, and can send people home with bottles and growlers.
I've never had room for dessert at Wild River, but the restaurant also has a full dessert menu with decadent choices like chocolate ganache cake, blackberry cobbler and caramel walnut bars.
For more information, call 541-471-7487 or see www.wildriverbrewing.com.