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Wild Goose Cafe perfect for inexplicable cravings

The club sandwich is a classic at The Wild Goose Cafe & Bar in Ashland. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

Club sandwiches were calling out to my kids.

I don’t know how or why they correlated an exceptional eating experience with this staple of lunch counters and cafes. Three slices of bread, perhaps, elevated the sandwich’s standing in the minds of my 8- and 6-year-old sons.

Another sandwich, served with broth for dipping, similarly stood a good chance of wowing them, I figured. When inexplicable cravings for club sandwiches and French dips strike, The Wild Goose Cafe & Bar in Ashland delivers the classics with a bit more care and flair than the average diner — in a setting that’s still low-key enough for young kids. My family felt right at home in this 22-year-old establishment long known among locals for its live music and open mic nights.

Entertainment likely won’t resume at the Goose until next year, our server said. Until then, solid fare, efficient service and the convenience of online ordering provide plenty of incentive for customers to help keep the Goose aloft.

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a bar menu, the Goose caters to a wide range of tastes any time of day. Shrimp, salmon and even oysters are available during all three mealtimes. The Goose does one better for its coho salmon by smoking it in house.

The oyster po’boy ($11.99) appealed to my seafood sensibilities. Although oysters aren’t difficult to find in the Rogue Valley, their presence at casual restaurants is less common. The Goose prepares shellfish hailing from Washington’s Willapa Bay with eggs for breakfast, fish ’n’ chips-style ($16.99) after 11 a.m. and for snacking — pan-fried or as a shooter ($2.89) — in addition to showcasing them on the iconic sandwich.

Also gravitating to seafood, my parter selected smoked salmon linguine from the dinner menu. Given the choice of soup or salad, he enthusiastically requested the day’s clam chowder, a predictable favorite. The Goose also furnishes a side of locally baked baguette with its dinners.

Ciabatta was the specified bread for both my po’boy and the French dip ($9.49), which I convinced my kids to try with minimal cajoling. Somewhat reluctantly agreeing to share the club sandwich ($10.99), they spared hardly a glance at the kids’ menu.

“PB and J — seriously?!” my younger son decried, rolling his eyes as best as a 6-year-old can manage. To be fair, I told the boys, the restaurant has something to tempt just about any diner’s appetite.

Always with a keen appetite for vegetables, my younger son immediately busied himself with the green salad that accompanied his sandwich for the additional price of $2.99. Other choices are soup or potato salad. For 99 cents, fries can be added to any sandwich or burger.

Either 1/3 pound ground beef patty, meatless patty or chicken breast compose seven types of burgers, from $8.99 to $11.99. A dozen sandwiches, including steak, meatloaf, BLT, Reuben and patty melt, complement the three we ordered.

The club, as expected, was the star attraction, grasped with eager fingers, heedless of toothpicks, which I quickly removed before they inflicted harm. My older son excised slices of tomato from layers of turkey, bacon and toasted white bread, then devoured the quarter sandwich in a few bites.

Once I directed their attention to the French dip, the kids jockeyed for position to dunk their respective halves in au jus, just oversalted enough to infuse the otherwise bland amalgam of roast beef and Swiss with deep savor. The bread’s substantial girth withstood repeated dipping without falling apart. And as I predicted, they both loved the sandwich so much that I could hardly persuade them to share a bite with me.

Afforded my own ample sandwich, I squeezed a lemon wedge over the Cajun-seasoned oysters before positioning the top half of bread. With tartar sauce applied only on the bread’s bottom half, both oysters and ciabatta retained their requisite crunch and chew. Inside their breading, the oysters were deliciously creamy with a hint of brine, a top-notch preparation compared with plenty of others I’ve tried.

Also a fine example of its genre, the chowder offered a hearty helping of clams — no bacon — in a base thin enough to drip off the spoon with a slightly sweeter note than I expected, presumably from carrots and celery. If the cup with my partner’s dinner had been a bit larger, I would have helped myself to a few more bites.

The salmon, likewise, was mild-flavored but still distinctive and generously portioned throughout the pasta. Pesto played a supporting role in the dish’s flavor profile, allowing the salmon to shine in contrast to earthy mushrooms and piquant scallions.

Other dinner entrees, served from 5 to 8 p.m. daily, are house-made meatloaf ($17.99), chicken fried steak ($16.99) and a 6-ounce charbroiled flatiron steak ($19.99) — all served with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, sautéed vegetables and a choice of soup or salad. Aimed at gluten-free diners, a melange of quinoa, green chickpeas, edamame and kale accompanies the 6-ounce wild coho salmon fillet ($19.99) and scampi-style prawns ($17.99).

Located at 2365 Ashland St., The Wild Goose is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. To view menus and to place orders online, see wildgoosecafe.com. Or call 541-488-4103. Curbside service and delivery are available.

Tempo Tidbits

The recent remodel of Amuse’s atrium revamps the Ashland restaurant’s look to usher in its 21st year.

Work began in June to add hickory tabletops and bench seating in the restaurant’s chic, secluded outdoor dining area at 15 N. First St. New paint and more foliage in the space completed its redesign, which did not increase seating capacity, said manager Julie VandenBerg.

Chef-owner Erik Brown opened Amuse in August 2000 with Jamie North, who went on to open Ashland’s Mix Bakeshop. Brown’s French-inspired Pacific Northwest cuisine highlights organic, seasonally fresh meats and produce. The current menu features grilled steelhead, prawns and ribeye steaks, truffle roasted game hen and gnocchi “Parisienne.”

The downtown restaurant reopened for on-site dining in early June. Operating hours are 5-8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Reservations are not required but recommended and can be made at amuserestaurant.com or by calling 541-488-9000.

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Discounts on made-to-order sandwiches are available all month from The Cafe at Medford Food Co-op.

“National sandwich month” coincides with the Co-op’s promotion of $2 off each sandwich order throughout August. A dozen sandwiches, as well as build-your-own options for breads, proteins, cheeses, veggies and spreads, are offered on the Cafe menu. Regular prices range from $6.99 to $10.99.

The Reuben, cheesesteak, meatloaf and “tuna meltdown” are popular Cafe items, and most of the eatery’s meat-based sandwiches can be made with plant-based substitutes for vegetarian and vegan customers. See the menu at medfordfood.coop/cafe. Call 541-646-3686.

The Cafe also freshly prepares soups, salads, smoothies, coffees, baked goods, desserts and heat-and-eat entrees daily at 945 S. Riverside Ave., Medford. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

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n The following restaurants in June received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections by Jackson County Environmental Public Health:

Applegate River Lodge & Restaurant, Jacksonville; Beckie’s Cafe, Prospect; Black Rock Coffee Bar, Biddle Road, Medford; Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe, Medford; Cones & Co., Prospect; Crackin’ & Stackin’, Eagle Point; Cultivate Coffee & Tea, Medford; Fish Lake Resort, Eagle Point; Golden Wok, Medford; Human Bean, Rossanley Drive, Medford; In-N-Out Burger, Medford; Luga Taco, Medford; Outback Steakhouse, Medford.

The county’s searchable database of restaurant and food service inspections is at healthspace.com/Clients/Oregon/jackson/Web.nsf/home.xsp

More online

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.