During our stay in Ashland, we discovered a very vibrant and creative dining scene. This is largely due to the presence of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that runs much of the year and brings thousands of tourists and visitors to this otherwise small town. Regardless, there are a number of very good dining and wine venues in town. I already blogged about a visit to Liquid Assets Wine Bar (LINK), and here I will mention three others with excellent and creative cuisine, with varying levels of focus on wine.
First, and foremost, is The Peerless Restaurant and Bar (LINK), west of Main Street on Fourth in the Railroad District. A part of the boutique hotel, the restaurant and bar have been a fixture here for many years. This was truly a wonderful evening. Four of us went on a weeknight and enjoyed an amazing meal in a beautiful setting (we were inside but during the season, there is a lovely outdoor garden area) seated near the fireplace. The smallish bar is perfect for a libation and the wine list is one of the most extensive in town, with local, regional, and wines of the world available. The wine list changes regularly and there are selections from previous lists on display on a sideboard by the entrance (empty of course).
Service at The Peerless Restaurant and Bar is excellent – knowledgeable and professional. Our server recommended a local wine, a Jaxon Fortè (pictured) that was a great accompaniment to the variety of dishes that we had (steak, burger, fish, and vegetarian). If you are in Ashland for only one night – this is your stop.
The Hearsay (LINK) is a speakeasy-styled restaurant and bar located under the picturesque town Cabaret Theater on First Street, west of Main. The focus here is on fresh food, artisanal cocktails, and a very short, but well-selected wine list. We sat in the back room, where about a dozen tables on two levels surround a piano. The artwork in the room is speakeasy themed and well executed – think wood, reds, blues and yellows. The front bar is in a large room with tables that can accommodate 100 or more, but was quiet on the Monday evening that we visited.
Our server, Thea, had recently returned from 6 years abroad teaching English in exotic locations like Thailand. Since returning, she had gained a good grasp on the local wine scene, and in helping us to select a red wine for the table, gave us tastes of several of the wines-by-the-bottle available – a first for me.
We selected a Tempranillo, the most expensive on the list (only $47), and were pleased with how it paired with our food. The only downside of the evening was that the steak that two of us ordered was very tough – but Thea offered the whole table desserts on the house to make up for it. So the evening ended well, as the desserts were delicious, especially the house made goat cheese ice cream (really). I give Hearsay a B+, mostly because of the service, but the evening was very pleasant for all of us.
Finally, the Standing Stone Brewing Company (LINK), not a wine venue, but with a few nicely selected wines available. The craft beers are excellent and the menu is incredibly creative, with international accents (kimchee appears in several dishes, for example) and again an emphasis on fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. I ate at the Standing Stone three times, a solo lunch, a lunch with Dorianne, and a dinner with our local friends Walter and Linda, and every time, I was impressed at the quality of the experience.
So Ashland is a very unique place – Shakespeare, hippies, nature, spirituality, excellent food, wineries and vineyards, everything from the funky to the sophisticated. We had a great three weeks visiting and I am sure that we will return. Next, we are heading up to the Umpqua Valley and Roseburg to try some wines there.
Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard