The Farmstead pizza piles melting goat cheese pesto, slightly spicy lamb sausage, roasted pumpkin and arugula on a thick crust. Mail Tribune / Anita Burke

Common Block Brewing is worth the wait

Less than two weeks after Common Block Brewing Company’s long-awaited opening in downtown Medford, I’m already on my way to becoming a regular.

I’ve been there twice with co-workers, brought home leftovers for dinner with my husband and am looking forward to trying a selection of shareable appetizers and exploring the extensive tap list. The taps pour a diverse array of regional craft beers, but only one bearing the Common Block name — a pale ale brewed offsite under contract until the brewing company’s own 15-barrel system is installed later this year.

Even with an empty corner where the brewing equipment will go, the restaurant’s interior has a chic, industrial look, thanks to the do-it-yourself approach of founding partners Alex and Danielle Amarotico. While they crafted the polished concrete finishes, metal beams and other modern details in the historic building at 315 E. Fifth St., chef David Georgeson, who previously worked at Lark’s in Ashland, developed a solid menu of brew-pub favorites with local ingredients. You’ll find burgers, sandwiches, wood-fired pizzas, tacos, fish and chips, pulled pork nachos, beer cheese soup and a selection of salads.

There was something for everyone when the crew from my office headed there for lunch. Even though Common Block had been open only a few days at that time, the staff expertly accommodated a large group, making adjustments to meet special dietary needs, getting all meals out in a timely fashion and providing separate checks without confusion or complaint.

A vegetarian burger dubbed “the herbivore” ($10) and made with quinoa, black-eyed peas and mushrooms sounded just right to me. The hearty burger patty was studded with meaty bits of mushroom and sported a lightly crusted exterior. Zesty arugula accented its earthy flavor. The accompanying freshly cut French fries weren’t as crispy as their deeply browned edges promised.

My boss is a fan of the stout-battered rockfish ($13), which comes in a sandwich or as fish and chips. Either way, “it remembers being a fish,” she said, praising the fillet’s flavor and texture that recall the ocean instead of a factory or freezer.

One of our party who doesn’t eat gluten or dairy found the chicken tacos were still delicious when deconstructed and served with tortilla chips instead of a flour tortilla. And a simple substitution of cheddar instead of blue cheese enabled another co-worker to enjoy her own iteration of a Cobb salad.

On my next visit, I had to try one of the wood-fired pizzas, which range in price between $10 and $14. The pizza lineup includes standards like pepperoni, a classic combo, barbecue pork, and an all-season “Mostly Margherita” with roasted tomato, as well as quirkier options such as the Rogue Roots featuring pears, blue cheese, shallots, candied walnuts and a balsamic reduction, and the option that caught my eye, the farmstead pizza, topped with goat cheese pesto, lamb sausage, roasted pumpkin and arugula.

The thick, puffy, golden crust arrived at the table crowned with a nest of arugula studded with bright cubes of sweet roasted squash. The tangled mound of greens provided a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the cheesy pesto and slightly spicy lamb sausage made in-house from Oregon lamb. I found the 10-inch pizza enough for two meals.

I’m already looking forward to more meals at Common Block, which is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Call 541-326-2277.

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