Even the best of restaurants slip up once in a while, and in hindsight Super Bowl Sunday might not have been the best day to review a restaurant.
Jaspers has won the Mail Tribune’s Reader’s Choice award for Best Burger annually from 2010 through 2016. Five-star reviews shine on Google, Yelp and Trip Advisor and foodies rave about Jaspers’ classic and extreme burgers. Jaspers’ Bluff Dale café location will be featured on an upcoming Texas Bucket List broadcast. In Medford, Jaspers has been pumping out burgers and fries for nearly 40 years, and since 2007 has been doing so under the ownership of John and Janet Lenz.
While most folks hunkered down for the big game, enjoying the pre-game rituals of boasts, beer and hot wings, we headed for Jaspers to grab a burger. With an out-of-town guest in tow, we wanted to show off the best burgers Medford has to offer, hot and fresh off the grill. Things didn’t exactly go as planned.
Jaspers is known for the exotic game they use for their burgers and also the almost impossibly wild flavor combinations layered on a bun. Years ago, all the combinations were scribbled on a slate above the counter, a mesmerizing confusion of anticipation as you waited your turn to order. Today, ordering is easier with a menu.
Any Jaspers’ burger can be made with a choice of antelope, camel, kangaroo, deer or elk and, of course, beef and bison. New on the menu are the Wild Bleu Yonder (bison topped with blue cheese, a hash brown-corn-poblano patty and sriracha cream cheese), Genghis Khan (deer topped with potstickers and sweet chili sauce), the Chuck Wagon (sliced bacon, egg, country gravy on wild boar sausage with a hash brown-corn-poblano patty, cheese and green onion). Two new vegetarian burgers also made the menu, the Pico Bella (portobello) and Black Jack (black bean). For no-carb eaters, you can get any burger and combination as a lettuce wrap, and Jaspers also offers an assortment of specialty sandwiches, salads and Casper’s famous hot dogs.
Beef and bison are old hat, but just what we had in mind. Between the three of us, we tried four burgers, three sides and a milkshake (yes, we had leftovers to take home), for a total tab of about $54. Service was on paper plates and tableware was not offered.
The Wild Blue Yonder at $12 was heavily dressed with blue cheese, the tomato slice paper thin, the fried-cheese crisp too tough to eat and the burger lacked the promised hash brown-corn-poblano patty. The bison though was good — tender and juicy on its own if we’d had a fork. Our Garlic Bleu burger at $11 (made with beef not elk) was similarly overwhelmed with blue cheese, though the beef, grilled onion and garlic aioli combination was tasty enough after scraping off some of the cheese.
The Jiffy Burger is noted as “outrageous” and it is so. This burger is topped with peanut butter, raspberry chipotle, bacon and provolone. The familiar yet not familiar combination was surprisingly good, a smoky sweet playing off the savory, with a nice meaty bite that made the peanut butter and jelly sandwich a totally different experience. At $7.50, the Jiffy Burger is a new favorite for us, though next time we’ll ask for the raspberry chipotle on the side and add it to our taste, which will make the burger better balanced and a little easier to eat.
Despite all the exotic meats and unique combinations, the burger that best pleased our palates was the plain old Classic at $6.50. The proportions of beef, cheese and bun were just right, the burger juicy and it fit nicely in one’s mouth.
Don’t miss Jaspers’ famous sides; especially noted are the sweet-potato fries, beer battered onion rings and an unusual corkscrew-potato dish with bacon and cheddar on a grilled poblano pepper. Beer and wine is available, and hand-scooped ice cream in a wide variety of flavors makes for a good, thick milkshake, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.
Eating outside on a picnic table at Jaspers is part of the experience for many; the engines of passing cars temper the sound of the wind. Inside, six or seven high-seated tables seem too small for the big burgers and the quarters too loud for conversation.
In retrospect, we should have stayed home on Super Bowl Sunday and watched the game, gone for a hike or maybe just read a book. On the next big game day, I think we’ll get a sack of Jaspers’ Classics and Sidewinder fries to go and picnic in Lithia Park.
Jaspers Cafe — open from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily, until 6 p.m. Sundays and until 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays — is located at 2739 N. Pacific Highway, Medford. Call ahead for takeout 541-776-5307.
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a free lance writer who lives in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.