Some things change. These days when we go out to dinner, we don’t contemplate a journey by stagecoach, miner’s mule, horse drawn buggy, or steam engine. Happily, some of the more appealing aspects of pioneer days are still to be found in Southern Oregon, such as gracious hospitality, historic surroundings, and like-home-cooked meals.
Porters Restaurant and Bar evokes memories of the days when the railroad fired up Medford’s development in the late 1800s. The Wolf Creek Inn quite deliberately hasn’t change much since it was built in the mid 1880s. And Oregon’s Gold Rush brought forth a nugget known as the Jacksonville Inn more than 140 years ago. Pioneer tradition is alive and well in these three historic dining establishments.
Passenger trains suffered a sudden demise with the proliferation of automobiles and the great depression in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Medford’s train depot, once the driving force behind the town’s economy, squatted empty and unused along the railroad tracks for more than 35 years. The ambitious resurrection to of this classic example of Southern Oregon architecture is a welcome addition to Medford’s revitalization efforts in the historic downtown area.
In 2003, the National Historic Landmark was faithfully restored and outfitted for Porters Restaurant and Bar. The interior is dramatic, romantic, and suitable for couples, families, and business meetings. Life-size murals of train exteriors-people with passengers en route to exotic locales-wistfully nudge guests toward an old-fashioned rail car dining adventure.
Hosts and hostesses stand in for the conductors, directing guests to their seating assignments and ensuring smooth passage. Private club cars reinvented as intimate booths and red velvet drapery and plush appointments. In the main dining area vintage toy trains whimsically perch above booth dividers.
From the moment Porters’ Bar opens at 4:00PM, crowds gather to soak up the vintage “Lounge Car” ambience and imbibe from an inventive “Marvelous Martooni” menu, in which premium ingredients are combined for old-fashioned cocktails with a contemporary twist. Granted, it takes some imagination to visualize passengers on the fabled Orient Express downing Bikini Martinis, Feng Shui Martinis, or Flirtinis, but that is the sort of fantasy the ambience invites.
Service begins in the dining room at 5:00 PM, when Porters’ promotional tagline becomes especially apropos. “All Aboard! Eat, relax, have fun, and enjoy your journey.” The menu itself is a trip through multiple culinary regions –a luxury train traveling along inter-continental lines-with a focus on local ingredients.
Entrees bounce around the globe with Asian, Mediterranean, Australian, Italian and American influences. Steaks, Prime Rib, Seafood, Pasta, Wild Game, Poultry, and Pork Tenderloin are highlights. Portions are generous (an understatement), beautifully
presented (edible works of art) and served by highly professional wait staff (not coincidentally, dubbed “Porters”)
Decadent desserts and steaming café lattes offer diners an opportunity to mentally transport themselves somewhere along the “Trans-Siberian Line.” Dark chocolate and freshly ground beans ore worthy of imperious Czars traveling through moonlit nights with a watchful eye on the stars above.
Cocktails on the Martooni menu are $6.25-$8.25. Starters are mostly under $9.00, Entrees are mostly under $30.00, with many under $20.00. Desserts are $4.95 and $5.50. Located at 147 North Front Street in Medford, reservations can be made calling (541) 857-1910.
Visit their Website at www.porterstrainstaton.com
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