There are plenty of spots to get a great taco in Southern Oregon, but Medford's newest eatery carves its own niche using speed and simplicity.
Taco Now, a build-your-own taco spot at 1361 Center Drive, makes for an ideal lunch spot with its combination of fresh ingredients and menu that's more focused than at similar spots such as Chipotle or Mucho Gusto.
In my two visits to the new eatery, I found my transitions from order counter to dining table to be about as instantaneous as its name implies. That's thanks in large part to a menu that sells tacos from made-in-store corn tortillas and little else. Diners on the prowl for burritos, flour tortillas or even a side of rice best move along. Sorry.
That's not to say customers are lacking choices — there's plenty to suit most diets and preferences. I had my choice of soft or hard shells, vegetarian beans or one of three meats, Tillamook cheddar cheese, and freshly sliced toppings (the halved cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado bar me from using the word "vegetables"), all made to order in front of me, Subway-style.
They also sell tostadas and taco salads, as well as fresh tortillas by the pound. For kids, they'll make quesadillas and bean-and-cheese roll ups, and they'll deliver large orders for parties if you call ahead at 541-500-8920.
The meats to choose from are spiced ground beef, a ground pork-beef combination with chorizo spices or — new as of Tuesday — shredded chicken. Fish tacos are served Fridays, though I've yet to try those.
On my first visit, I went for the two-taco meal ($5.99) and chose a beef hard shell and the pork-beef combination in a soft shell. I topped it with green leaf lettuce, chopped onions, shredded cheese, tomatoes, diced jalapenos, cilantro and sour cream. I also had my choice of salsas. I topped my beef taco with the red and the pork-beef taco with the green.
The meal came with a generous side of chips and a side of salsa. Cut up from those same tortillas made in the store, they seemed to be thicker than most chips you'd find elsewhere, nearing the consistency of pita chips.
For my second visit, I tried their Taco Tango ($2.79), which covers a hard taco shell with beans and a soft tortilla, similar to Taco Bell's Double Decker Taco, which was more than satisfying for a quick bite.
Sealing my recommendation of Taco Now as a lunch spot was the specially designed clamshell container in which my meal was served. The bottom has special slots designed to hold as many as four tacos upright in place. Though the tacos are a little too densely packed to recommend eating in a car, they'll stay protected on their trip back to the office.
For both of my visits I ate inside the restaurant, which had simple decor and clean hard surfaces.
My only gripe was about the green leaf lettuce and cherry tomatoes. They were fresh, but my palate prefers to top tacos with crisper iceberg or romaine lettuce and chopped tomatoes. That said, I don't fault Taco Bell for not being Del Taco, and in time I'll probably come around to Taco Now's way of doing things, too.
Taco Now is fresher than fast food, faster than Mucho Gusto and taco trucks, with the smartest taco package around.