Friday night dinner date at Ragin' River Steak Co. in Independence, Oregon

Ragin River Steak Co., appears to be closed. Soon to become Independence Grill.

The historic main street in Independence, Oregon has always charmed me; in the six years I've lived in these parts, it's changed, grown, and from my eyes improved with renovations and the like.

As a result, I try almost every restaurant that opens its doors along that strip... and there's been quite a few in this time. (We live in Salem... but actually will drive over to the Independence Cinema 8 because it's not a Regal, and their popcorn is better!)

Scot and I somehow hadn't yet made it to Ragin River Steak House. Foodie friends living in Independence had tried it some time ago and said it was okay. While it wasn't our planned destination for the evening (that's a long story -- see it in its entirety on my blog, Dogs and Dragonflies), we are SO glad things took the turns they did to bring us there.

It was actually hard to find a parking spot downtown at 6pm on a Friday night. Good for Independence! We walked a few blocks in the brisk evening, and were warmed by our entrance to the interior of Ragin River. It's nice -- but not "too nice", or too trendy, or too anything. Very comfortable. I was curious if the mezzanine level on the sides and rear was real or just for looks; regardless it does a great job of controlling the potential sound problems in the large space with historic brick walls. It also brings the space down to size, leaving it feeling open and airy while intimate at the same time. And there is what appears to be a water feature up there, too; that would have been pretty nice, I think, but perhaps it's under repair?

We were seated at a booth for two one booth away from the front windows; my husband commented how nice it was to look out at the fountain, while I found the view of the interior likewise enjoyable.

Service was attentive and professional; I thought it took a while for our entrees to arrive but Scot felt it was perfect, relaxed and not rushed. It was a Friday night, so the special was free all you could eat fried prawns if you ordered two steak dinners.

I had my eyes on the lobster ravioli because this midwestern girl had been disappointed time and time again by steak here in the PNW. (Sorry, I can't lie!) But how can you say no to all you can eat prawns?

(As an aside, Wikipedia says this about shrimp versus prawns:

"Biologists distinguish the true shrimp from the true prawn because of the differences in their gill structures. The gill structure is lamellar in shrimp but branching in prawns. The easiest practical way to separate true shrimps from true prawns is to examine the second abdominal segment. The second segment of a shrimp overlaps both the first and the third segment, while the second segment of a prawn overlaps only the third segment."

I don't care. They are both tasty. And if it sells better to say prawn versus shrimp, what-evah!)

What I liked most about Ragin River is that clearly, the people back in the kitchen CARE. Everything was fresh and beautiful, plated with precision care and just yummy yummy yummy. Nothing is more enjoyable than eating something that was clearly created with a love for the food, and I'd have to say at least on this Friday night, there was a lot of lovin' going on in the kitchen.

Scot ordered Top Sirloin, medium. "Bacon wrapped with our mushroom demi glace," it was ten ounces of bovine angus perfection. Done perfectly, the impressive thick cut had the rich flavor and the substantial but yet tender texture for which we love a good sirloin. I'm not overstating when I say it was perfect: just the right level of spice, a perfect outer crust, so moist and tender. Gah, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! The pan seared veggies on the side were fresh and perfectly done (not crisp, not soggy). The baked potato was piled high with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon that looked as if someone had styled it so that ever bacon bit was in place. A small garnish of kale and orange slices completed the presentation.

I had the tri-tip with side of house bbq sauce and was certainly happy with it, but I admit I was wanting to steal Scot's plate. He kind of wanted to steal mine, so we did a lot of sharing over the course of the meal. The tri tip was very juicy, sliced to show that it was perhaps a tiny bit overdone as I'd ordered medium rare (warm red center) but some slices had almost no pink. The outside crust was really yummy, and their dark, rich bbq sauce is good. I'd chosen pesto pasta as a side to go with my pan seared veggies.

Dinners come with rolls and honey butter, and these were much lighter than you may be used to (and not greasy like you-know-where). The honey butter was a diving light whip of... well... honey and butter. We went through two baskets -- okay, I just admitted we each ate four rolls over the course of the evening. But hey, they are light, okay?

He started with the cheddar broccoli soup, and I with a house salad with ranch.  You can tell a lot about an eatery by their salads, I think. The mix of spanking fresh greens (no iceberg here, kids) was perfectly positioned with two detailed slices of cucumber, grape tomatoes and croutons (I said hold the onions). Again, everything was fresh and tasty, and well presented.

Oh... and all you can eat prawns. Served 5 or 6 at a time, we went three rounds. Succulent moist little crustaceans in a light crumb breading (maybe pan fried in butter?), the spicy/sweet dipping sauce that accompanied them made these little mouthfuls of joy.

By this time we are moaning, because we're full. But... it's dessert time. The steak dinners come with a "house baked dessert." That evening it was an adorable little personal apple pie tart. I opted to upsize to the cheesecake. I'll admit... we took them away in a box and they will be enjoyed tonight after dinner! (Probably because we pigged out on bread and honey butter throughout the evening.)

We had a nice relaxing dinner lasting about an hour and a half. No rush was ever indicated. We didn't order any wine, but they clearly have a good selection. (To be frank, I don't know enough about wine to warrant ordering it at restaurant prices most of the time. While I have come a long way from the Boone's Farm girl I was in college...) More often than not we stick with water, but I did get a strawberry lemonade which was so-so; it didn't have fruit but a very syrupy flavoring.

Our fantastic steak dinner for two (bread, soup/salad, steaks with all you can eat prawns and dessert), plus 20% tip, was $56.00. An excellent value.


Chuck Bradley said...

Excellent review Lavachickie!

Yours is the first substantive account I’ve seen anywhere since the ownership change.

I’m delighted to know that the food and service quality has not deteriorated as so often seems to happen.

jeff said...

I seem to remember (it's been awhile) that the Mezzanine is just a facade.

Anonymous said...

Had dinner last night with my wife and anothere couple for Valentines. the Certifide Angus Beef was off the hook. cooked to perfection, each and every steak. Filet Mignon to New York to rib eye. i requested New York with the demi glaze peppercorn sauce. We had a delicious calamari lighted dusted and crab cake. High recommend this location. THE BEST STEAK HOUSE IN SALEM

Jenny said...

We live in Independence....Ragin River is MUCH better since it changed ownership. With the old owners, we had one great dinner with crazy slow service, one ok dinner, and one awful/gross/don't want to go back dinner. It is much more consistent now.