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Grape Street Bar and Grill

Downtown Medford's latest hangout offers pub grub with some surprises and a big space with more than one way to unwind.

The newly opened Grape Street Bar and Grill, 31 S. Grape St., offers fresh and indulgent fare that's easier on the pocketbook than many other downtown spots.

It offers 27 choices on the menu, so there should be something for most tastes. Meal prices start at $8 and top out at $12, with choices that include fried starters, burgers, sandwiches, salads, tacos, plate entrees and chicken wings with a choice of three sauces. Vegetarians may find the options a little lacking, though. Aside from a few fried starters and perhaps the Caesar Salad ($7), everything on the menu contains freshly grilled meat, poultry or seafood.

As a meat eater, I'm not complaining. I tried two of the burgers on the menu during separate visits and left impressed both times.

On my first visit, the server asked whether I wanted to sit in the upstairs lounge area, the downstairs bar or the back patio. I was instantly charmed by the patio, with its neighboring brick buildings, modern triangular cloth shades and two fire pits. I oredered an Arch Rock lager ($4.50) and the Boston Burger ($10), which had bacon, blue cheese, barbecue sauce, lettuce, red onion and tomato on a brioche bun, served with a generous side of fries. The half-pound beef patty was juicy and well seasoned, making the burger easy to recommend. I'd order it again.

I sat at a table near the brightly lit bar area on my second visit. Three flat-screen TVs had sports games on in the former industrial building, which housed auto repair shops in the 1950s through early 1980s, according to old Polk directories. I went for the San Franciscan, a burger with avocado, provolone, lettuce and grilled red peppers. The burger was similarly juicy and nicely seasoned.

During my second visit I tried one of the starters, the Fried Mac N Cheese Balls ($6). The three breaded balls were about the size of softballs, filled with macaroni, melted cheese and served with a side of house-made marinara sauce and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Had I known how big they'd be for six bucks, I probably would've skipped the burger, but they were far too tasty to leave unfinished. Happy hour halves the price of appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.

The downstairs bar's bright lights and glossy wooden surfaces are a contrast from the building's former incarnation as the Whiskey Room nightclub. The spot feels fresh and clean during the day, although the nightclub lighting carries over for live music and dance events, as I learned Friday when the deejay warmed up while I finished my food before 10 p.m. Many kitchens downtown shut down by 9 o'clock. As someone who lives downtown and works a late shift, the fact that I can get good, well made grub on my schedule is enough to bring me back.

Grape Street Bar and Grill is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Call 541-500-8881 or find them on Facebook.

Fried Mac N Cheese Balls are a hearty item on Grape Street Bar and Grill's menu. Mail Tribune / Nick Morgan