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’New’ dishes and classics make Miguel’s a riverfront gem

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Lamb “ossobuco” is one of the “new dishes from Mexico” on the menu at Miguel’s in Shady Cove. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Pozole is a hearty stew of pork and hominy served at Miguel’s in Shady Cove. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Flautas come in appetizer and dinner portions at Miguel’s in Shady Cove. Photo by Sarah Lemon.
Miguel’s blended margaritas are a favorite on its deck overlooking the Rogue River. Photo by Sarah Lemon.

Buzz around spring’s reopening of Miguel’s in Shady Cove was just a warmup for things to come.

Amid the region’s first summer heatwave and resurgence of water sports, crowds have reason to flock to a restaurant patio perched practically atop the Rogue River. Fresh off a rafting trip, I couldn’t think of a better way to toast a triumphant return home from Central Oregon than with a meal from Miguel’s riverfront vantage.

The Miguel’s brand also includes a well-trafficked restaurant in Eagle Point and a Gold Hill eatery recast within the past few years as a sports bar and “Mexican grill.” Touting two decades of service, the Shady Cove location still offers unmatched outdoor ambiance among local Latin counterparts.

Miguel’s “famous margaritas” are almost impossible to pass up when temperatures soar. Blended or mixed according to several recipes in several sizes, this cocktail can cost as much as $55 for a pitcher containing Don Julio tequila. In deference to the lunch hour and driving still ahead of us, my partner and I confined our indulgence to a glass ($9) each of the regular, blended margarita, generously rimmed with salt.

Although much of Miguel’s menu is typical of Southern Oregon’s take on Mexican fare, a small section of “new dishes from Mexico” caught my eye. Alongside a grilled steak and pork chop, Miguel’s features a lamb shank prepared in the style of “ossobuco.” Also under the heading was the fairly mainstream hominy stew known as pozole ($12) and — less familiar to me — “rajas poblanas,” pairing poblano chiles and sweet corn in a cream sauce ($12).

My partner was drawn, likely out of habit, to the day’s special: chicken or steak fajitas. Ordinarily, fajitas range in price from $18.50 for a single portion of chicken, beef or pork to $37.50 for a two-person feast of shrimp or seafood. On Sundays, the price drops to $15.50, standard for each day’s dinner special, whether it’s shrimp tacos, steak “picado” or chile verde.

I’d been fixated on flautas once we turned off Highway 97 toward Crater Lake. Reassured he’d still get guacamole, my partner lent his support for an appetizer portion ($11.50) stuffed with chicken. The dinner size costs $15.

We couldn’t ignore the appeal of something “new,” namely Miguel’s lamb shank served with red wine-chipotle sauce ($20). The choice already was unconventional before I made the odd request of swapping an intriguing nopales-chickpea stew billed with the grilled pork chop for the cheese enchilada, rice and beans that typically accompany the lamb.

Pork was in store as pozole, more enticing since the mercury’s dip over the past few days. The hearty, deeply flavored stew proved an excellent value, enough to feed two average appetites.

A plate of traditional garnishes — shredded cabbage, minced onion, sliced radishes and lime wedges — accompanied the large bowl. Morsels of fat still clinging to generous chunks of braised pork melted on the tongue and into the broth. Deceptively simple with just two main components, this humble yet time-honored dish delivers far more, in my opinion, than the extensive but somewhat redundant lineup of burritos, enchiladas and their ilk.

If it’s a tortilla rolled around some kind of filling, I gravitate to simpler preparations such as flautas. But Miguel’s clearly isn’t cutting any corners with these. Shredded chicken that can so easily become dry and stringy was surprisingly moist and flavorful at Miguel’s.

When my partner excised a sliver of bone from his, I acknowledged the proof that this bird was prepared from proper parts and pieces, rather than boneless, skinless cuts. And when we located lengths of celery inside another segment of deep-fried flour tortilla, I appreciated the kitchen’s use of other aromatics to enhance the meat.

Owing to the average American’s unfamiliarity with lamb — and its higher price point — it’s unlikely that Miguel’s sells more than a few orders of “ossobuco” each week. But the kitchen’s technique for precooking the shanks and reheating them for service yielded a very respectable dish.

Despite lacking that fresh-from-the-oven sheen, the shank’s connective tissue had rendered, allowing the meat to start slipping off the bone. Savoring the lamb’s pleasantly distinctive flavor, I didn’t need the red wine-chipotle dipping sauce for contrast. And although the marrow end didn’t invite scraping and sucking out, the meat itself was plenty moist and juicy.

The colorful stew of chickpeas and cactus pads, known as nopales, was more in keeping with the plate’s presentation than a cheese enchilada would be. And the cactus’ slightly sour flavor with an undertone of green beans and bell pepper cut through the rich meat while the chickpeas imparted texture.

The dish also didn’t seem expensive measured against Miguel’s “seafood molcajete,” a melange of shrimp, scallops and fish topped with chipotle sauce ($19.50) or the “Mazatlan,” which replaces scallops with chicken and augments the proteins with avocado slices for the same price.

For diners who prefer “combination” plates with rice and beans, Miguel’s serves all the classics, including tamales, tostadas, chimichangas and chiles rellenos, from $11.50 for one item to $15.50 for three. The menu even specifies several dishes as vegetarian and dedicates a small corner to a burger and steak sandwich with fries, as well as chicken nuggets and grilled cheese for the kids.

Located at 21679 Highway 62 in Shady Cove and 10510 Highway 62 in Eagle Point, Miguel’s is open from noon to 9 p.m. daily.

See miguelsmexicanrest.com.

Tempo Tidbits

Bring some food, and Rogue Picnics will furnish the spread.

The new service specializes in picnics for any occasion — birthdays, baby showers, anniversaries and more. Owner Kelly Hammond launched Rogue Picnics in April to provide customized eating, drinking and gathering experiences outdoors. She works with local venues, wineries and caterers to provide clients with a variety of packages for luxury picnics.

Starting at $50 for a two-person “date night,” Rogue Picnics include blankets, rugs, pillows, decor, umbrella, table, plates, silverware, glasses, cloth napkins, amenity basket, set up, tear down and clean up. Two picnic tables for up to 12 people cost $140. Cheese, charcuterie and dessert assortments are among the Rogue Picnic “add-ons,” which also offer games, backdrops, cameras and speakers. A full canopy is free on rainy days.

Customers can supply their own food, or Rogue Picnics will help coordinate pickup or delivery of restaurant dishes or catered meals. See roguepicnics.com, email roguepicnics@gmail.com or call or text 541-414-4157.

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A new food cart serves meats, cheeses and other hand-held treats every Sunday throughout the summer at Del Rio Vineyard Estate in Gold Hill.

Good to Go launched its mobile charcuterie operation June 6 in partnership with Del Rio’s “Sunday Slowdown” live music series, starting at 3 p.m. Owner Yvonne Decker says she also plans to attend lavender festivals and other special events.

Good to Go’s single-serve snack selections can accommodate vegetarians, vegans or gluten-intolerant customers. Decker also offers “doggie bags” of organic dog treats, donating those profits — and matching them — directly to the Josephine County animal shelter, where she previously worked.

Admission to Del Rio’s Sunday live music performances is by advance reservation in response to pandemic precautions. Cost is $20 per table or $10 per spot on the lawn for blankets or chairs. Call 541-855-2062 beginning the Monday before each event. See delriovineyards.com/pages/events

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Inspectors for Jackson County Environmental Public Health in March resumed on-site evaluation of food service facilities offering indoor dining. The following Medford restaurants in April received perfect scores of 100 on their semiannual inspections:

4 Daughters Irish Pub, Apocalypse Chow, Carl’s Jr No. 8008 (Crater Lake Avenue), Common Block Brewing Co., Cookie Connection, The Copper Plank, Cracker Barrel No. 733, Deli & Yogurt Delight, Donut Country, Dutch Bros. Coffee (Main Street), Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Center Drive), Flamingo’s Sandwiches No. 10 (Highland Drive), Golden Goose, Herb & Flour Patisserie, Heroes American Cafe.

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

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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.