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River Station is an affordable and welcome Rogue River destination

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Proscuitto stuffed chicken comes with mashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable at River Station in Rogue River. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
River Station in Rogue River dresses its house salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Tomato bisque is topped with asiago cheese and basil at River Station in Rogue River. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Panko crusted shrimp is served with spicy Chinese noodles at River Station in Rogue River. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

Wine bars have been late-comers to the region’s smaller towns. River Station keeps the concept relevant in Rogue River with a lineup of craft beers, cocktails, live music and special events.

For residents on the north end of the valley, River Station arguably is a more convenient dining destination than Ashland restaurants. And for rural audiences, it’s a welcome alternative to the preponderance of casual eateries accessed from Interstate 5 between Medford and Grants Pass. Opening at 4 p.m., River Station provided a handy stop for refreshing and refueling after my recent three-day rafting trip.

Hours are one aspect River Station has scaled back, eliminating lunch service, since last winter. Its fare also is slightly less ambitious than dishes that debuted in December 2018. Gone are a smoked turkey salad and stuffed pork loin chop, although they’re still listed while River Station rewrites its menu. The evening’s special, however, was a hearty surf ’n’ turf combo of steak topped with a crabcake.

Seafood did pique my interest, just not with steak. The panko crusted shrimp and spicy Chinese noodles ($17) won out over blackened ahi tuna ($19). Always game for mashed potatoes, my partner selected those alongside chicken stuffed with prosciutto and provolone ($20).

Also liking the server’s suggestion of tomato basil bisque, we asked for a bowl ($5). A house salad ($6) rounded out our meal.

Aside from three steaks — an 8-ounce filet mignon ($26) and 12-ounce ribeye ($29) and New York ($28) — the menu offers more in the way of casual cuisine. Panini from $12 to $13, flatbreads from $12 to $13 and several starters, including dips, charcuterie, a cheese board and bacon-wrapped dates are River Station’s predominant dishes. Yet the steaks, served with a potato, vegetables and salad, as well as the sandwiches, served with a choice of green salad, pasta salad or soup, likely constitute the restaurant’s best values.

Similarly, River Station’s wines by the glass are very fairly priced from $6 to $10. With an emphasis on local and other Oregon labels, this is an ideal venue to try more than one varietal for a dollar or two less than many of the region’s other restaurants charge.

I was drawn to both Schmidt Family Vineyards Albarino and Season Cellars “Transparency” white blend (each $8). But my “pink” preference in summer steered me to Schmidt’s sparkling rose. Packaged in cans, which more and more wineries favor, the rose actually delivers just over two glasses of wine, a quantity at River Station’s price of $12 that’s hard to beat.

The rose’s price is an indicator not only of presentation but carbonation — rather than fermentation — that produces its bubbles, which largely faded after the wine was poured. My partner and I agreed we’d happily sip the rose while floating the river, but we could have picked a better pairing with our meals.

River Station also serves craft beers from 10 taps and mixes cocktails with seasonal twists, including a basil lemon drop and lavender lime martini.

It’s for good reason “cheese” is chief among River Station’s logo subtitles. Our meals, even the Asian-inspired shrimp, conveyed an abundance of asiago. Anyone sensitive to dairy, or hoping to trim some calories, should consider asking for a lighter hand with the cheese or its inclusion on the side.

The large shards of cheese perfectly suited our tomato bisque, which also reveled in ribbons of basil for garnish. Smaller bits of cheese were incorporated throughout the soup, which revealed small chunks of tomato in its otherwise smooth body. A solid version of this classic for a very attractive price, the soup would have been even better a few degrees hotter.

Our salad doubled down on tomatoes and asiago, mingled with roasted sunflower seeds over mixed baby greens in balsamic vinaigrette. The portion was generous, again for a nice price, even if the greens were slightly overdressed.

Wedges of fresh pineapple were unexpected but appealing adornments of both entrees. My simple duo of shrimp and noodles benefited from playful plating and a garnish of fresh cilantro leaves.

Although the shrimp were on the small side and seemed prebreaded, they were impeccably crunchy, in contrast to the slightly chewy pasta. The chow mein style wheat noodles were spicier than I anticipated, but a judicious quantity of sauce likely keeps the heat at a level most diners can handle.

My partner’s plate wasn’t so carefully composed. More asiago shavings covered the mashed potatoes and sautéed summer squash. And the chicken boasted its own cheese, oozing from underneath a slice of prosciutto. More accurately described as two thin cutlets, the chicken acted as bookends for the pork and provolone, rather than being truly stuffed. Balsamic reduction improved its pale exterior.

We were concluding our meal just as the evening’s musician was setting up. Live music typically adds to the ambiance Wednesday evenings, and River Station invites the public to karaoke most Fridays, which also have been billed as “steak night.”

I’ll be interested to see new arrivals on River Station’s menu and plan to look on social media for special multicourse wine dinners, hosted before the pandemic’s onset. Located at 510 E. Main St., Suite G, River Station is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. See updates on the River Station Facebook page. Call 541-299-0315.

Tempo Tidbits

A chance to win concert tickets raises the stakes at today’s “Grill & Chill” competition to support Black-owned businesses.

“The Cookout” starts at 6 p.m. at Medford’s BackYard Community Food Court, behind Ride’em Wear, 812 S. Riverside Ave. Six food trucks are slated to serve up barbecue, seafood, sandwiches, Latin cuisine, Jamaican fare and keto-friendly dishes. Admission is by donation or purchase of goods branded by Black Alliance Social Empowerment.

BASE is collaborating with Britt Music & Arts Festival for an Aug. 4 benefit concert featuring Keb’ Mo’ and Band to support the nonprofit BASE and its mission. See baseoregon.org to buy tickets and for more information.

Contestants teamed up with BASE/Afro Scouts will go head-to-head in a 30-minute cooking challenge. Competitors — all operated by Black entrepreneurs — are A & R BBQ, Fatso’s Cheketos, Freddie Lee’s Seafood Smorgasbord, Siano’s Karibbean CookHouse, Sid’s Gourmet Smoke & Grill and Stone’s Jamaican Roots & Juice. Also touting music, the event runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

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A new restaurant is serving Northern Italian cuisine in one of Ashland’s coveted business suites.

Osteria la Briccola opened this month at 18 Calle Guanajuato Way, formerly the location of Eleven on the Creek and Loft. A first-floor entrance next to the kitchen and expansive second-story dining room with decks overhanging Ashland Creek are among the site’s attributes.

Chef-owner Davide Ghizzoni opened Osteria with co-owners Davide Fortunati and Sherri Ghizzoni. The city of Ashland in April approved a full liquor license request on the premises for Fortunati-Ghizzoni Restaurant Group.

The menu offers starters of beef carpaccio, sautéed shellfish and burrata cheese with prosciutto and heirloom tomatoes. Pasta freshly made in house — gnocchi, spaghetti, pappardelle, penne, tagliatelle and bucatini — are prepared with diners’ choice of sauces, including ragu, pesto and tomato. Lasagna, roasted salmon, filet mignon, chicken breast and seafood stew number among the restaurant’s other specialties. Prices range from $14 to $34.

Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. See menu photos on Facebook and email sherri@osterialabriccola.com for more information.

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A 21-year-old old Mexican restaurant in Central Point has closed its doors, citing lack of staff.

Mazatlan Grill announced its closure last week, and local news broadcasts reported today would be the restaurant’s final day. But a sign posted Monday on the front door confronted would-be diners, disappointed the eatery in Mountain View Plaza already had ceased operations.

Owner Rosalinda Wahlberg said the pandemic’s rigors culminated recently in staffing shortages that she tried to remedy by closing on Mondays. Two longtime employees hope to bring back Mazatlan Grill in a smaller location with Wahlberg’s permission to take over the restaurant’s name. In response to the news, some Central Point residents took their complaints of a rent increase at the shopping center to social media.

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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.