This small town on California border has an assortment of food offerings to put much bigger towns to shame. From good burgers at Greenleaf—and there are lots of burgers in this town—to divine thin crust pizza at Pie & Vine to complex, multi-course Japanese-influenced local fare at Mäs, this town really seems to have almost everything (except those super-cravable Burmese tea leaf salads). And that is nothing that a little drive to Portland can’t take care of either.
The bulk of Ashland’s restaurants feature local ingredients with French influences. These restaurants have long divided their business between locals and tourists: most in town for the local Shakespeare festival which was canceled this year due to Covid. This is a town in which the local ingredients: from home-baked bread to ground elk and local cheese fuel residents’ pantries and dining rooms. People here really only dine out to experience something new, not just fuel up on a quick bite in order not to dirty one’s dishes.
An Abundance to Choose From
So while it is hard to play favorites, Peerless—with its expansive garden—may just be most people’s everyday favorite for everything from a glass of wine to a perfectly garnished bowl of soup. Seasonal seafood, meat and produce drive this sophisticated and often Asian- and Middle Eastern-influenced menu. The spring menu featured Ahi Poke and spicy lamb noodles. The fall menu features chicken confit and roasted mushrooms.
Larks, tucked in the Ashland Springs Hotel, right downtown is another favorite. It features tables inside and out and the restaurant is part of the local Neuman Hotel Group. Top picks at the restaurant included a lovely filet of salmon and the place is known for its home-style fried chicken. The group has opened a wine bar at the nearby Lithia Springs hotel and restaurant group is currently running a “Donate a Meal,” drive for those disenfranchised by the fires.
For classic Japanese dishes, Kobe, with tables right on the Ashland Creek is fabulous (and not inexpensive as most of the restaurants here sadly are). For a fabulous night out Mäs reigns supreme, for multi-course carefully composed small plates with either sake or wine pairings. Both Alchemy and Amuse offer solid dining options and Alchemy has a sweet front porch and a handful of outdoor tables.
Just Outside of Town
Most of the region's wineries are serving up solid pizzas and appetizing fries. Dancin is a favorite destination, just outside of Jacksonville which is a 20-minute drive, for live music. The stuffed mushrooms are legendary and rosé and Pinot Noir goes down easily on the beautiful outdoor deck.
Just down the hill is the C St. Bistro, in Jacksonville, which features a great beer list and solid salads and burgers. Breakfast burritos and street tacos can be had at the GoodBean café just down the street.
Truffle fries and the view at Belle Fiore Winery are divine. Lot’s of live music is featured on the outdoor deck overlooking the vineyards. I am sorry I missed the classic fare at the Cowboy Bistro, which was lost in the fire, as well as the delicious-looking ramen from the ramen cart that used to serve soup in the next-door hamlet of Talent.
There is much to culinary discover around Ashland and so much more that residents and visitors hope will be rebuilt in the coming months.