Diners hot for south-of-the-border cuisine should move Ashland's Tabu to the top of their list.
Preparing "nuevo Latino" dishes and traditional Spanish tapas since 2001, Tabu serves upscale plates such as coffee-crusted Argentinean steak and cilantro pesto chicken along with more mainstream favorites such as tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas and even fish 'n' chips. Ceviche — raw, citrus-marinated seafood — is available on weekends.
Grilled portobello mushrooms, spicy prawns, crispy calamari, fried potatoes, empanadas, quesadillas, nachos, flautas and bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños constitute the small plates — or tapas, served until 1 a.m.
Because Tabu is a popular nightspot, parties — particularly four or more — planning to dine late should make reservations. Meals can be enjoyed in the casual-chic lounge, as well.
In the main dining room, booths are tucked into alcoves around the room, and tables fill the center. Come 10 p.m., the tables moved out to make way for live, deejay dance music, including reggae. Saturdays see locals crowding into Tabu for popular salsa-dancing sessions.
Recommended: Tempura soft-shell crab puts a sophisticated spin on Tabu's quesadilla; roasted, bacon-wrapped jalapeños are cooled with a sweet, house-made glaze; chicken enchiladas doused in green tomatillo sauce are baked until hot and bubbly, topped with dollops of sour cream and pico de gallo and served with black beans and rice on the side; chilies rellenos are a whole poblano pepper — instead of chili-spiced omelet — stuffed with seared vegetables or brisket and three cheeses.
Alternative diets: Vegetarian option for fajitas, chiles rellenos and enchiladas, as well as three vegetarian appetizers, two salads and two soups; organic greens.
Beverages: Mexican and regional craft beers on tap; regional, craft, other domestic, Mexican and other imported bottled beers; local and imported wines by the glass and bottle; specialty cocktails; full bar; soda, juice, hot tea, coffee and chocolate.
Price range: Small plates, $5.95 to $10.95; soups, $3.95 to $8.95; salads, $8.95 to $14.95; entrees, $13.95 to $19.95.
Extras: Located one block from Oregon Shakespeare Festival; street parking or in city-owned lot at Pioneer Street and Lithia Way; happy-hour menu available from 5 to 7 p.m. in the bar only; live, late-night entertainment starts at 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Serving: From 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Lunch and Monday dinner service resume in the spring.
Info: 76 N. Pioneer St., Ashland; 541-482-3900; www.tabuashland.com.