written by Julie Lee | photo by Smithfields
It’s heating up in Southern Oregon—literally and figuratively—with temperatures rising and merrymaking in full swing at the internationally coveted Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Jacksonville’s Taste of Summer is coming up on June 4, which kicks off the Britt Music and Arts Festival—a performing arts festival spanning June through September. Summer is the time to breathe in the Southern Oregon scene, so while you’re there, here are some recommended stops to eat it up, as well.
Smithfields Restaurant & Bar
Smithfields in Ashland is our favorite pre-festival fine dining stop, a “nose-to-tail” establishment where a succulent Painted Hills filet is cut-with-a-fork tender. Though a steakhouse at heart, it has a casual neighborhood feel that won’t steer you away from stopping in for a burger or some finger-licking good barbecue. The brunch is worth a weekend stop, with a fanciful spin on old favorites: buttermilk fried chicken and a waffle with raisin chili maple syrup, or eggs Benedict with watercress and preserved lemon hollandaise. Still hungry after the aforementioned? Two-time winner of Iron Chef Oregon Neil Clooney’s desserts are award winning, and he recently opened Smithfields Pub & Pies across the street, to satisfy mid-day pie cravings.
36 S. 2nd St., Ashland | smithfieldsashland.com
The sun is rising and you want to make the most of your day in Southern Oregon. With some fabulous wineries calling and evening tickets to “Hamlet,” you want to get a solid breakfast in before the days’ bustle. Morning Glory is our pick. Inside this diner with underwhelming curbside appeal, you’ll find a whimsical spin on brunch: a red crab omelet with artichokes and smoked garlic cream, or a coconut almond waffle with lemon butter. If a little “hair of the dog” is needed, Morning Glory serves Blood Mary’s and alarmingly good hash browns to soak them up.
1149 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland
Jasper’s Café has the best burger in Southern Oregon, using a choice of Kobe-trimmed or all-natural, grass-fed Oregon beef, along with free-range elk, wild boar, and wild camel for the extra adventurous. Jasper’s hasn’t ignored vegans either, offering virtually any burger on the monstrous menu in a veggie option. Move over, In-N-Out.
2739 N. Pacific Hwy., Medford | jasperscafe.com
Looking for Southern Oregon’s best sushi? Kobe delivers upscale dining with gorgeous outdoor seating along Lithia Creek as a backdrop. This is a special occasion haven that has a terrific happy hour for pre-show sips and snacks. Regulars saddle up to the bar nightly for out of this world saki and inventive cocktails. Creative sushi concoctions include a crunchy cheese vegetarian roll and Loulou, spicy crab with jalapeño sauce.
96 N. Main St., Ashland | kobeashland.com
Southern Oregon dining can be a bit steep-sided. When hungry for a quick, hearty meal at a great value, Jose’s Tacos is your swan song. Tortillas are made fresh, one order at a time. Combine with flavorful beans, rice and chicken, and for $7, you have a burrito that will take the place of two meals. The carnitas tacos are a specialty, too. Look for the little red vintage trailer and you’ve arrived at crave-worthy, authentic Mexican.
101 S. Riverside Ave., Medford
There are also a few amazing spots in Grants Pass…Mimosas being one of them. A small list.
I simply can’t believe this list is complete without adding “Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro” in Talent, just north of Ashland. It is as good or better than any on the list. They have a book for wine selections and the owners know them all quite well and the food pairs quite well with their wine. Try it.