Most brew-pub menus offer a predictable lineup — burgers, macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, Caesar salads and nachos — with nothing much to distinguish them from other establishments in the genre.
Elevating the brew-pub concept, the new RAM Restaurant & Brewery in Medford delivers plenty of greatest hits with a few intriguing interpretations of recent dining trends, including vegetarian, gluten-free and regionally sourced fare. While “local” in RAM’s lexicon primarily describes ingredients grown or produced within the state, the ethic is admirable in a restaurant group that operates more than 20 locations in six states.
Operating like a well oiled machine on its opening day in Medford, RAM rose above chain-restaurant status in my mind. My husband and I hoped lunch would appeal both to us and our kids, a preschooler and toddler. Attentive and helpful RAM servers delivered a warm welcome.
Complimentary carrot sticks and ranch dip appeared within moments of our escort to a spacious booth. My husband, Will, commented that servers perhaps should ask if the snack is appropriate for its intended diners. But what parent is likely to refuse free food that’s healthful, to boot?
On that note, I briefly considered the kale-quinoa salad, ahi tuna poke nachos and a couple of other, lighter items. But the allure of comfort food asserted itself. Pretzel sticks with beer-cheese fondue ($10.50) could not be passed up, nor could the mac and cheese ($9.95), available with nine toppings for mixing and matching.
Turkey and veggie patties sway not a few diners, I imagine, to the prospect of a burger. A half chicken breast or gluten-free bun can be substituted for $1 and $2, respectively.
From the 11 featured burgers, I selected the Legion of Shroom ($12.25) with garlic-roasted mushrooms, cheddar and bacon. For another $2, I swapped sweet-potato fries for one of the included side dishes: regular fries, chips, coleslaw or green salad. Because Will and I both craved the macaroni and cheese topped with roasted jalapenos ($1 extra), he gamely ordered the dish, expecting to share a bite.
Anticipating leftovers for the following day, we asked for just a single kids’ fish and chips meal ($6.49). Pleased to see a smaller size available for beers on tap, I ordered a “shorty” serving ($3) of Disorder Porter.
The beverage and appetizer arrived in timely fashion, delivered by servers eager to impart a few tidbits of information. The pretzel recipe, baked daily on site, hails from Germany. The hefeweizen is a house favorite. We had no quibble with the pretzels, cheese sauce, grain-mustard condiment or beer.
Just when we sensed a lull to test the kids’ manners, our main dishes showed up. Everything was the requisite temperature and generously portioned.
The burger’s mushrooms were succulent, almost more so than the patty, redolent of garlic, but not so much to linger later in the day. The sweet-potato fries were the best restaurant representation I’ve had. The jalapenos on Will’s macaroni and cheese had just the right amount of heat, enough to ward off greedy children without causing the adults to break a sweat.
Staff never missed a beat, consolidating plates, bringing takeout boxes and settling the check without any reminders. And although bustling, the expansive dining room is inviting with a volume level that permits conversation but takes the edge off high-pitched voices, whether guests are young families or more sophisticated groups.
Located at 165 Rossanley Drive, in the Northgate Marketplace, RAM is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, until 11 p.m. Sunday and Monday. Call 458-225-9816 or see www.theram.com.