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Eating Out in Ashland, Mid-2011

Sunday 17 July 2011

A brief update is warranted, as there have been several changes in Ashland’s restaurants since my last post.


  • Taroko (62 East Main St.) In the former Motif/Kat Wok space. See my review here. We missed their excellent Mongolian Beef last time, an error that we will not make again. Huge platter of slice after slice of tender beef, loads of green onions, lots of spicy peppers–if you don’t like a spicy dish, this is not for you. Not, mind you, at all as strong as Sichuan hot pot, but enough to make me head for the rice. They’ve also added (or we had missed) dry sautéed string beans, the nice long kind (I have no idea where they get them), very salty and nicely crispy, not just heated through. Along with the xiao long bao, this is now our go-to Chinese food purveyor in the valley.
  • The Playwright (258 A St.) Replaces Lela’s in location but, sadly, not in food. They bill themselves as a gastropub, but what we had–burger, beet salad, Caesar salad–was basic and fairly bland. Examples: the “croutons” on the salads were plain, thin slices of fairly stale baguette. The beet salad was mostly greens, with a few sad slices of various color beets. The baked fries were steak fries that were very mushy in the center, as though they had been frozen. The staff was having trouble keeping up with a full bar (which is just one end of the room, where the old bar at Lela’s was) and not even close to a full house of tables. It’s probably fine if you want a pint while one watches a game (large screen TV, likely hard to see from the far end of the room), but I’d eat elsewhere. Hopefully the food will improve; we eagerly await other reviews, as we’d like to see them succeed. Update: Got a nice note from the owner that they are still working out the kinks and really do want feedback on what’s working and what’s not.
  • Thai Pepper Lounge (84 N. Main St.): The new satay bar and lounge is open. Great for appetizers and drinks, the satay bar sticks-of-meat is fine, but the best stuff is further down the menu, such as the pork belly. Mmmm! Recommended, but service is usual for Thai Pepper, so expect to sit back and chat with friends while you’re there.
  • Larry’s Cakes (66 N. Pioneer St.) Formerly Larry’s Bakery, down on Hersey Street in Ashland and somewhere in Medford, Larry has consolidated into doing cupcakes and wedding cakes only, served out of the former Allyson’s Deli location at Pioneer and Main. He has something like 50 different cupcakes on his menu, with 35 or more varieties available at any given time. As someone else said, it’s like the Voodoo Doughnuts of cupcake (but without the grungy neighborhood and decor). Herself is drawn in their just about every time we head to the Plaza.
  • Morning Glory (1149 Siskiyou Blvd.): The buttermilk fried chicken is still there, and on the salad, with green goddess dressing and chunks of avocado, it’s still a heart attack-on-a-plate. The sandwich, however, has been changed to a regular ciabatta bun with shredded lettuce, tomato, and a thinner (and probably less caloric) dressing. Apparently the biscuit was not a sturdy enough enclosure for the rest of it. I’m told that it can still be ordered in the prior style, as they have all the ingredients available and still remember how to make it. I’d do that, same as I order the lamb burger old-style, with the tomato chutney (and nothing else!). More disappointingly, the fries seem to have been changed from the stupendously good Yukon Gold fries to regular russets The owner says this should not be the case; I’ll check again; please report on your results. They’re still my favorite restaurant in town for breakfast .
  • Smithfield’s (36 S. 2nd St.): When I first wrote about Smithfield’s, they were still getting their menu sorted out. Now that they’ve had a few months to settle in, I can safely say that they are one of the bright spots in Ashland’s dining offerings. They are also now much closer to being a steakhouse, with big cuts of beef, lamb and pork on the menu, along with the other, more unusual offerings. They have also added brunch on weekends, with items like duck leg confit hash and buttermilk fried chicken and waffle (highly recommended by Herself, who knows all things about fried chicken).
  • Tease (303 E. Main St.). Huge outpouring of support on their Facebook page; apparently not a big enough inpouring to their coffers. This location probably needs a rezoning to prohibit another restaurant being there, as it seems to be cursed for restaurants (poor foot traffic and scant parking probably contribute to that).
Get out there and eat!
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