Posts tagged Restaurants

Kalypsso Eclectic Latin Cuisine

Long, long ago in a land far, far away land…well more like a few years ago in Grants Pass, Oregon, a sweet and adorable grandmother opened a restaurant. It was a different sort of place. Most Grants Passians were not used to this style of food. See, grandma’s approach to traditional authentic Mexican cuisine comes straight from Mexico City. Simple, flavorful and spicy. Although grandma, also known as Tita, is shy and speaks little English, she is a pistol in the kitchen. At her side is her son Alan, a perfect complement to his mom. Alan and his mother are two of my favorite people in our small city and their restaurant is placed in my top three places to dine in Grants Pass.

“Tacos, Burritos and More” was the name of the first location. It was a very small place with only five or six tables. I believe I started out with tamales on my first trip in. One of my favorite dishes. The first thing I noticed was the heat. I don’t mean the indoor temperature, I mean the heat of the sauce. WOW! When you dine in an Americanized Mexican restaurant, nothing is spicy unless you ask for extra jalapenos or hope that the chef is hording some ultra secret habanero sauce in the back. Tita does not mess around. Her food is spicy, however you still leave with your taste buds intact.

I was also impressed with the beans. More of a whole bean refried bean always topped with a smattering of Cotija cheese. The rice is great as well. Also, nothing fancy which I love. I really tire of the standard mix of frozen veggies (including lima beans for God’s sake) folded into boring Mexican style rice. Sorry, I don’t like corn and green beans and the like mixed in my rice. And lastly noted was the absence of the standard chips and salsa. At first I thought this odd, but soon forgot about. One could order chips and salsa, however there is a small, small charge. Better than that, you can order chips smothered in a spicy green or mole sauce sprinkled with Cotija. Our personal favorite is the chips and guacamole. The guac is made to order with hot or mild depending your tastes. Yum!

Other delicious items I consumed over the first couple years were the fish tacos. Oh yeah. I love a good fish taco. These tacos are small but flavorful. You get two corn tortillas topped with house marinated and breaded fish, cabbage and a house dressing. Heaven! You can also have the same ingredients in a large burrito served wet or dry. I like mine wet with the spicy sauce. One of my standard orders is the chili rellenos. Oh my! A nice large chili stuffed with cheese, very lightly breaded and fried, topped with a spicy, almost broth like sauce. I have never had better. My next all time favorite is the huevos rancheros. These not only the best huevos I have ever eaten, but it’ll cure most hangovers in a heartbeat. These huevos are topped with that marvelous spicy green sauce. A perfectly fried eggs peaks from beneath the sauce. The tortilla is crisped to perfection. If you really need a boost you can order it with either bacon, ham or chorizo. I kid you not, these are the best huevos ever!

And let’s talk about her specials! Pork chops and potatoes braised in a creamy green sauce that are so tender you do not need a knife. Stews and soups so thick a spoon could stand on its own. Most of the specials I can not and will not attempt to spell or pronounce.

After some time passed, Grandma’s place really started catching on and the business outgrew the building. Fortunately, Alan being a savvy business man, procured the building directly across the street. The building got a new kitchen and some bright splashes of paint. Also, a new name, “Mi Ciudad Tita’s Mexican Restaurant.” Same menu with additions – even more choices – and the same fantastic food.

But wait, there’s more! To quote Alan, “The time has come to move on. There are at least 18 Mexican Restaurants in Grants Pass. Now, the good news, Tita can cook a wide variety of dishes some of you can never guess, so we are transforming the restaurant.” And voila, the “Kalypsso Eclectic Latin Cuisine” restaurant was born. Fortunately all the items from the old menu remained. VERY fortunately, the menu is much bigger and loaded with new items such as Saltados from Peru, Ropa Vieja Cuban sandwiches, Empanadas, Pupusas from El Salvador and much more. Oh joy!

If I thought I couldn’t like this place anymore then I did, I really fall in love with Kalypsso’s around late November of last year. A week before Thanksgiving, Dimples and I took the plunge into vegetarianism. We fretted over places to dine as we live in conservative-ville. Strictly your meat and potatoes sorta town. We love to dine out and knew we would have a hard time finding a place to suit our new needs. Tita did not fail us. At first we feasted on a couple of the regular menus items that were already vegetarian like the Vegetarian Sopes, thick corn tortillas topped with beans, lettuce, tomato, Cotija cheese, Mexican sour cream served with both a spicy guacamole sauce and a red hot sauce. We were not unhappy. After one or two trips in, we ended up discussing our new diet with Alan. He pointed out so many more dishes to try. Tita makes a tamale with cheese and jalapenos served wet or dry. Alan’s favorite way to eat these is after they are steamed, thrown on the griddle to crisp up and then top with either the spicy green or red sauce.

One time we offered them free advertising on a web site of ours. In return, Tita invited us to a vegetarian feast. I looked forward to this night all week long. We started with Alan’s handmade, hand-shaken margaritas over ice. First came a special dish grandma made just for the occasion. A Mexican squash filled with a thick slice of Cotija cheese and prepared like a chili relleno topped with a spicy light, broth like sauce. I simply could not believe this new taste sensation. As Cotija does not melt but softens, the texture was rich and smooth. I hummed the entire time. Second came a small plate of, well, a pile of stuff. Alan explained that though it sounded terrible, it was really good. It consisted of sautéed potato peels, onions and jalapenos melted with cheese. Alan seemed embarrassed to serve us potato peels, but we were delighted to eat it. We stuffed small corn tortillas with this wonderful odd mixture of deliciousness. Next came enchilada two ways. One with was stuffed with a jack cheese and topped with the green sauce, the other stuffed with crumbled Cotija and topped with a spicy mole sauce. After that and one more margarita, we shared a bean and cheese burrito. Doesn’t sound too special, but it was. Tita’s rice is cooked to perfection and not gooey like some rice can be. One bite into that burrito and the texture reminded me of ground beef. It was very hearty. If I am craving beef, I know I can get over that by having one of these fantastic burritos. Let’s see, after that, well we had one more margarita. I do not recall a dining expedition where I was so elated at the entire experience. After dinner, Dimples asked Tita if he could give her a hug. She accepted graciously.

I have had so many unbelievable dishes here. Green bean pancakes. Stuffed cauliflower prepared in the same fashion as a relleno. Rolled tacos filled with fried potatoes and jalapenos. Chilaquiles Caribenos which consists of corn chips covered in a red morita spicy sauce, sour cream, Cotija cheese and cilantro with black beans. Add carne asada to this or order it the way we do with two fried eggs on top. The cool yolk helps temper the heat.

Kalypsso may not be the fanciest joint in town and it may not have that “truck farm” feel to it as one of their local competitors have. If you like your hot sauce served to you by a guy in a hard hat with lights and buzzers holding the sauce in a bottle with a pair of tongs and some rubber gloves, then this is not the place for you. Kalypsso is not your average taco joint. If you want your food authentic and cooked with real flavor and spice, then please try it. If you know me, you know that I am a truly picky eater. I am a food snob and proud of it. I rarely boast about a restaurant with such shamelessness. Am I embarrassed that I’m gushing? Just a tad, but I am sincere. Let me just say that in all honesty for me, Tita’s food is cooked with such care and tenderness my tummy smiles with pleasure.

Gracias Tita and Alan!


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Magnolia Grill

On a lovely drive the Applegate Valley to taste some local wine, husband and I had heard from friends about a great little restaurant in Ruch and decided to give it a try. The place: Magnolia Grill, owned and operated by Michael Wurster.

What a great little place. For lunch I had a delicious Cobb salad, loaded with grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, hard boiled egg and crumbled Rogue Creamery Bleu Cheese. I topped that off with a glass of crisp Griffin Creek Viognier. Husband had the “Special” a turkey and Cappicola sandwich in an herbed roll with steak fries and Iced Tea. Knowing we were way too full to have dinner later, we thought we should a least make ourselves even more miserable and try a homemade dessert. We had a Banana Spring Roll. This was a banana rolled in brown sugar, wrapped in a won ton skin, deep fried and covered with a drizzle of caramel, toasted coconut and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. WOW! DE-LISH!!

They are open 6 days a week starting at 7:30 for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Monday’s Closed)

Other menu items include three different eggs benedicts (one with grilled tomato and Portobello mushrooms), Chicken fried steak and eggs, Build your own omelets with several delectable items to choose from along with standard breakfast fare.

Lunches range from (and just to name a few) homemade soups and salads, hamburgers and veggie burgers, a Grilled Eggplant sandwich with caramelized onions, sweet roasted red peppers and provolone on a roll with chipotle mayo. A Rueben with hand pulled corned beef, Jamaican Jerk Spiced Pulled Pork sandwich with mango chutney.

They have a large and intriguing dinner menu including a Light Fare menu with Littleneck Clams, Cajun Crawfish Won-Tons, or a Blue Bison Burger. Other dinner selections range from Pasta’s, Steaks, Jambalaya or Fish and a Pork Tenderloin that is topped with an apple and sage chutney, served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. Too many items to list.

There is a great kids menu at great prices too!

Magnolia Grill
7360 Hwy 238
Jacksonville, Oregon

About a 35 mile drive from Grants Pass, OR
Check out this mention in April 2007 edition of Sunset Magazine,20633,1595995,00.html

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Shan Creek Cafe

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One of my favorite restaurants in Grants Pass is Shan Creek Cafe. It’s about a 15 minute drive from Grants Pass on Riverbanks road. The restaurant at one time was the Shan Creek Market, a local fixture for several years. I was happy to see an old piece of history still hanging above a counter from the old market. The once proud owner self-proclaimed his business as “The Smallest Country Super Market in the World.”

The lovely owner of Shan Creek Cafe is Angel Taylor. We were told that she and her husband bought the property in 2003 and spent many a night and weekend remolding the old store. During the remodel, Angel worked as a chef at the Sundance River Center in Merlin. She shyly told us that she had the honor of cooking for Martha Stewart when she was in Oregon filming for one of her shows.

Before that Angel lived and worked in Marin County staring her career at age of thirteen. She worked her way up from dishes to prep cook. At age fifteen she was in charge of her first dinner shift as the chef at the time had not show up for work. At eighteen she spent a year traveling and working in pubs in England.

Along with standard fare, the menu offers some unique dishes including a Veggie Omelet loaded with fresh veggies, herbs and feta cheese. A Breakfast Burrito with black beans, eggs, cheese, salsa, avocado and sour cream and French toast stuffed with cream cheese berries and pecans. They also serve fresh homemade muffins and coffee cakes. They also offer homemade jams. Yum!

The lunch and dinner menu has a nice offering of homemade soups, salads and salad dressings. You can order a cup, bowl or Bread Bowl of the soup of the day. Or try one of four different salads like the Field Greens with warm pecan crusted goat cheese, (this would be delish with the homemade creamy lemon dressing) or a Greek Salad with red onion and Kalamata Olives.

How about a hamburger made from Oregon organic free range beef? This comes with the standard toppings for or add grilled mushrooms or grilled onions or avocado. Not interested in burgers? Try the Marinated Grilled Chicken breast sandwich smothered in grilled apples and brie. Or try one of the many other sandwich selections such as the Veggie sandwich with carrots, zucchini and olives smothered in Jack cheese and served on toasted whole wheat with tomatoes, sprouts and avocado for. The selection of sandwiches comes with French Fries or homemade Cole Slaw or Potato Salad.

Other options to try include Beer Battered Fish and Chips (my husband and I think they are the best fish and chips in Grants Pass) and Fish Tacos. The main menu is not large however the daily specials make up for what is not on the menu. Chef Angel offers five to six specials a night including seafood, (one is Clam Steamers with perfect amounts of garlic, wine and herbs) a veggie dish, pasta dish and the best aged steaks in the valley.

Along with Free Trade Coffee, they offer espresso drinks, both black and green iced tea. Fresh squeezed lemonade and orange juice and a small but nice selection of beer and wine.

One of my first meals was the Fish Tacos and let me tell you that as a lover of fish tacos, these ranked at the top of my list. I was served two with a plate of black beans steamed rice topped with grated cheese, lime wedges and home made salsa. The fish was very lightly seasoned and breaded, sautéed, wrapped in a grilled corn tortilla. The taste was sensational. I reluctantly offered a meager bite to my partner to get his take. He loved it. He ordered the Beer Battered Fish and Chips. He too offered up a reluctant and meager bite of his selection, and I do declare it was fantastic. The fish was fried in a light seasoned beer batter and served with fries and a homemade tartar sauce and a crisp Cole Slaw. Even though we were happily stuffed, we were encouraged by the chef’s mother, Grace Alexander, to try one of several home made desserts or cookies. She proudly stated that her daughter not only made the best fish and chips she has ever tried but was indeed a “master baker.” We were sold. I had a wonderful slice of Marion Berry Pie slightly warmed with a crust that was to die for and my husband had a piece of a rich and creamy Kaluha Cheesecake.

Back to those steaks. My husband and I have tried several meals at Shan Creek and beside the Fish and Chips, Angel’s steaks are to die for. Perfectly aged and cooked, I have yet to try anything better in the valley. Tender, flavorful and well just darned right perfect. Her Filet Mignon is like buttah, and so full of flavor you’ll be humming through the entire steak. Oh did I mention the sautéed mushrooms piled on top?

The food is outstanding, the service was beyond compare and the friendly neighborly atmosphere is very comforting. My one critique is the limited hours. Only open Thursday through Sunday, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Always call first. Angel’s family always comes first, one of the many reasons my husband and I love this place so much.

Shan Creek Café
5547 Riverbanks Road
Grants Pass, OR 97527
(541) 479-5057

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Beacon Bar & Grill

There once was a place called the Lantern Cafe. Half smoky bar, half cafe. The food was cheap and so-so and the cafe was always filled with smoke from the bar. If you went in for lunch and asked what the special was, the standard answer is “.50 cents off anything on the menu”. Okay then. After years and years someone bought the Lantern Cafe and refurbished the inside. Gallons and gallons of special paint were used to cover the thick smoke stained walls. They opened the wall that divided the cafe and bar which made it nice and bright. The new owners are the owners of one of my favorite restaurants, Aja. I was very excited to try this new place. If Aja was good, then surely Beacon Bar and Grill would be the same!

I have tried Beacon Bar and Grill four times now. I really wanted to like it. I tried to like it.

First time was the Cobb Salad. HUGE. Way to huge. When I am presented with a plate that could seriously feed three people, I’m not as impressed as I am concerned. First thing that came to my mind was waste. After I got over that feeling, I dug in. Or tried to. I had to ask for a separate plate as this enormous salad toppled all over the place.

The plate was a huge pile of romaine lettuce. The kind from a bag. I can handle that and I know if helps to cut the cost of cleaning and tearing your own lettuce, but I always feel that you get “seconds” in bags. Most all of the romaine lettuce pieces were the spine or rib of the leaf. Rarely a nice piece of actual green. On top of the lettuce riblets sat huge slices of red onion. The slices were way to big to fit in the mouth. Next to that chicken, again in large pieces, chunks of chopped boiled eggs, and tomatoes, UNDERCOOKED bacon, crumbled blue cheese topped with avocado slices. I chose the homemade blue cheese dressing. I’m a big fan of the Cobb, but that bacon was very undercooked and the veggie pieces cute too large. The dressing was decent and the crumble of blue good.

Next trip, my acquaintance wanted to share the Cobb again. I agreed to give it a try as long as we shared a plate of Onion Rings with roasted garlic ketchup. I was really looking forward to that garlic ketchup. It was ketchup, nothing garlic about it. Sad because the Onion rings were decent.

Then came the salad. Yep it was the same. Huge chunks of veggies and undercooked bacon. I kicked myself for not asking ahead of time to have them crisp it up. Not only that, but the avocado was so under ripe you could not eat it.

Ok one more chance. I played it safe. Ordered the veggie sandwich. This was a nice sandwich. Nothing to write home about, but tasted good. Served on Rye bread with cream cheese, cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, sprouts, mushrooms and ranch dressing. The bread seemed a tad dry but the fries were good.

Back again. I really wanted this place to work for me. I ordered the house salad and a bowl of clam chowder. The salad was fair, again standard Fancy greens in a bag. The soup was surprisingly good. Hot, creamy, nice tender clams and oyster crackers to top it off. Then off to sit at the bar. I ordered a Bloody Mary. WOW, this thing was a piece of art and a meal in it’s own right. Good amount of vodka to mix. Nice and spicy with Tabasco and horseradish, a bit too much acid (juice of lemon, lime and olive juice). Then the garnish. Pickled Asparagus, celery, green olives, pickled onions all place strategically on a rim of salt.

At this point they are moving up my taste bud scale.

New night. Ordered the Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Lightly coated in Panko bread crumbs, with portabella mushroom slices, Swiss cheese, fried onion rings and a smoked bbq sauce on Ciabatta. This was a bit of a disappointment. The bbq sauce tasted vaguely of bbq and more like marinara. The cook must have dunked the breaded chicken breast in the sauce. The chicken was very soggy. I only ate half of this and all the fries. The fries here are great. Hot, crispy and salted just right.

The service has been great each time and the place was nice and clean. I commend the owners for cleaning up the old Lantern.

I’ll most likely try again, but further down the line. I had high hopes but so far my hopes are dashed.

Beacon Bar & Grill

2030 NE Vine St
Grants Pass, OR 97526
(541) 472-9375

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To Wait or Not to Wait

I have often struggled with wait staff issues in restaurants. It’s a freaking hard job and one I have done myself. Most people are extremely rude and under tip. It can be a thankless job, the cooks can treat you badly and the busers can take your tips behind your back. However, a properly trained waiter can make a huge difference to the whole dining experience. We live in a small city, Grants Pass, Oregon, that is not known for its culinary delights nor its friendly or efficient wait staff.

My rants and one or two raves to share:

On ordering~

I appreciate when a waiter acknowledges our table right way even though he or she is busy. I hate to see waiters fly by you without making eye contact or actually going out of their way to avoid eye contact.

I really appreciate when a waiter tells me what is NOT available on the menu as they hand you the menu. Not after you have hemmed and hawed and made your final decision. This happens way too often.

I like a waiter that knows the menu. If I want to ask if a dish with chicken is really chicken or pressed chicken nugget chicken, they should know the answer to that. Not just assume it’s real. I’ve gotten mislead several times over that. Same thing with nuts. I hate nuts. A good waiter should know if something has nuts or not.

I hate a waiter that sighs when you ask for something.

On beverages~ (can you tell I like iced tea?)

I like when a waiter asks if you like lemon in your tea before they bring it to you. Not a fan of the lemon in tea.

I hate when a waiter refills your tea glass with warm tea and does not offer to bring you more ice. It’s called ICED tea people.

I hate to see a waiter pour from a pitcher of tea or water with their thumbs/fingers inside the pitcher.

I hate when a waitress can not see that your glass has someone else’s lip stick on the rim and then when you mention it says “it’s been through the dishwasher so it’s been sterilized.”

Asking for decaf coffee and getting caffinated with refill.

Asking for milk, “can I please get that when my breakfast arrives?” and then forgetting to bring it.

On serving~

I like a waiter that is attentive but not over powering. Any waiter that takes your order, brings your food to your table and then your check 20 minutes later, could care less if you’re there or not. No water or beverage refills, no checking to see if you need anything … nothing.

A good waiter should know what dish goes with what person. This just happened at a very nice restaurant. There were only three tables occupied in the entire room and the waitress could not remember what I had and what my friend had. She left it to us to switch places.

I love a waiter that has a good sense of humor. There is one particular waitress in town that pegged my husband’s personality right off the bat. He finally met his match … she got him good! I like that. She got a big tip from me.

I hate when wait staff vacuums around you while you are eating.

I think the wait staff should strive to be consistent. In other words, I’m served my dish and not offered fresh ground pepper. A few minutes later I see them doing the fresh ground pepper thing for someone else.

Extra touches I love that are rare to find … bringing extra napkins without having to ask. Asking if you prefer your dressing on the side. Asking if you want separate checks with out making a huge ordeal out of it. Making a true suggestion of “what’s good on the menu tonight?” instead of saying “everything on the menu is good”.

On saying goodbye~

A good waiter should never take your payment to the register and ask “Do you need change back?” You should always bring change back and never assume what is left over is for you.

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