I was making my way through my facebook news-feed about three weeks ago and saw a post pass by from LocalsGuide. “Anyone out there want to do a review of Brothers’ Restaurant.” I didn’t hesitate a moment and sent a quick email to the editor. I was stoked. I knew the job didn’t really pay, but how can you pass on brunch for two at one of the oldest dining establishments in Ashland.
Brothers’ has been in business since 1976 and remains a local favorite to this day. Let me say from the beginning of this review that I have a bias, I have been going to Brothers’ restaurant since I was about 12 years old. Whenever there was a reason for celebration, or mom just didn’t feel up to cooking, our family made our way downtown to Brothers’. Whenever my Grandma Shirley wanted to treat me to a birthday meal, it was back down to Brothers’. I have this vivid memory of a sandwich so loaded with thin sliced pastrami that you could barely get your mouth around it. I have been eating in this establishment for a long time. The restaurant is no longer owned by the same folks, so I wondered if anything had changed.
As we walked into the restaurant and made our way upstairs I paid close attention to subtle details I had not noticed before. A sticker sign on the window reads “Buy Local, Buy Rogue”. The brick walls are covered with the art of local photographer David Sherman, and regional artist Jan Grantham. We sat down at our seats overlooking the first floor and ordered coffee. We remained incognito, nobody at the restaurant knew I was there to do a review.
The coffee was exceptional and locally roasted by Noble Coffee Company. The service was prompt and friendly. Even the bus-boy was on his game making sure our cups never got too empty. I gazed through the menu and had a hard time making a decision — many interesting sounding breakfast dishes. I settled on the weekly scramble special featuring mushrooms, green peppers, Italian sausage, cheddar cheese and a dash of rosemary. The meal came with hash browns cooked to perfection, but I could have substituted beans, or sliced tomato. I opted for the raisin, oatmeal scone.
How was my meal? Outstanding! The scone about melted in my mouth, very fluffy, almost flaky. I worried when I ordered the scramble that too much rosemary could be a disaster, but that was not the case. The mushrooms were not overcooked (just the way I like them), the sausage very flavorful, and just a hint of rosemary made the meal delightful. I also had to sample a bit from the plate of my sweetie, Carola. She had a spinach, red bell pepper, and chevre omelette with a bleu-cheese and walnut scone. Even though I loved my choice of scone, I have to admit hers was even better. Awesome scones!
After our meal I had a chance to talk with the owner, Dan, and found him to be very relaxed and down to Earth. Dan is conscious of what it takes to run a successful business in todays economy. It is not about pinching pennies, it is about providing exceptional quality at a reasonable price, and making dishes that are healthy and loaded with as much locally produced veggies as he can get his hands on. He visits the Farmers Market every Tuesday to help him determine what the specials are going to be for the following week. The rosemary that was so subtle in my scramble was picked right out of Dans back yard. In fact, the vast majority of herbs used in his dishes are grown in his yard. That is really cool!
Another subject of pride for Dan is the fact that he really has not changed the menu much from the previous owner. Why mess with a good thing? He pours his creativity into the weekly specials. As he admitted, it also gives him a good excuse to go out there on face-book and interact with his clientele on a personal level. Every Sunday afternoon he posts the specials for the coming week. Follow Brothers’ on face-book to keep tabs on what is new.
Dan takes good care of his customers and his staff. Brothers’ has a noteworthy low turnover rate with its employees. Employees stick around because they are being treated right. As Dan pointed out, it makes good sense to have happy, seasoned employees around rather than constantly training new staff. He referred to his relationship with his employees as a “privileged responsibility”, and made it clear that he tries to have no winter layoffs. Reciprocal relationships. What is good for the employee is good for the owner and vice versa.
Dan walks the walk when it comes to community minded business ownership. He supports local farmers and other businesses. He gets as close to the source of the food he prepares as possible, and he treats his employees like family. That is the true mark of sustainable business practice. I walked out of Brothers’ satisfied that the restaurant is even better than I remember it from childhood memories, and that is directly attributed to the fact that the owner puts his passion into it, and his community first.