The cold, windy fall air quickly ushers my wife and I through the doors of the Ashland Bistro Cafe(a.k.a. Ashland Bakery Cafe). Inside we shake off the chill and are promptly seated at a table on the edge of a quaint high ceilinged dining area. Chocolate colored wooden chairs surround khaki colored tables, complementing the trim and decor of the dining area and tying everything together in a way that feels classy and casual. The room buzzes with big band/jazz beats reminiscent of vaudeville and on one side an industrial fridge does its best to keep the pastries and more cool, just in sight of the dining populace.
Smartly dressed wait staff move to and fro from the kitchen in the back to the dinging area with confidence and competence, smiling at new arrivals that have to wait a few minutes for tables to open up. We hardly have our jackets off before a basket of warm French bread is delivered with oil and balsamic vinegar on the side. I take up the wine menu first and am impressed to note a variety of vintages from around the Rouge Valley, Oregon, California, France and Italy. The menu also has a good variety of domestic, imported and local beers. The dinner menu is complete without being overwhelming, there are choices for my vegetarian wife and choice can be a rare virtue for vegetarians. As for myself I’m a sucker for pork (‘cause pork chops taste good’). I scan the menu and decide on the apple sauce smothered center cut pork chop with garlic mashed potatoes and saut?ed asparagus. My wife chooses the fresh pasta primavera from the very complete pasta menu.
Dinner includes your choice of a variety of tasty soups (including a vegan soup) or several types of salad and a myriad of dressings. I fill up on bread while we wait for salad and eye the desserts. The glass pastry case is painfully close to us and is loaded with croissants, cookies, chocolate covered strawberries, muffins, chocolate mousse, cheese cakes, coconut cream pie and more. Large salads are brought promptly with crunchy fresh lettuce and freshly grated cheeses for me and a beautiful mixed salad with vinaigrette for Emily. Try as I might I can never quite get my drinking glass below half full before a server comes around and fills it up again. It’s not long before the main course arrives with a done, but not dry, chop and a colorful pasta menagerie for Emily. The portions are modest and artfully presented, but even still I can’t quite polish off my plate thanks to all the bread and salad I stuffed myself with. Our dinners are wrapped up by our expert waitress while we decide on desert. We decide to take it easy with the desert and Emily has an artfully dipped chocolate macaroon and I have a double Americano with a touch of cream and sugar to help keep me warm and energized on the cold windy walk home. All in all, ABC is a pleasant little venue that will fit into most peoples’ dinning out budgets with enough class to make it feel like you should have paid more. Or just stop in for a baked confection masterpiece and a hot cup of organic espresso! Ashland Bistro Cafe is located at 38 E. Main St. just south of the plaza, next to Lithia Park. You can also find them on the web at http://www.ashlandbakerycafe.com .