Local Persona

The kitchen at Omar's Restaurant & Bar isn't resting on its laurels after more than 65 years of service.

Omar's chefs have made the Ashland Food & Wine Classic finals every year since the competition began in 2007. The restaurant also can boast of being Ashland's favorite steak-and-seafood house, according to a local poll, every year since 1992.

At the helm is Franco Console, who took the Classic's top honor in 2009. The 2004 graduate of the Western Culinary Institute worked at Ashland Springs Hotel and Medford's 38 Central before adopting culinary traditions set down by Omar's founders Omer and Hazel Hill.

Although the restaurant's iconic sign actually is a mistake — manufacturers misspelled "Omer" — there's no mistaking Omar's distinction as the oldest restaurant in the region once customers enter the main dining room. Its velvet-embossed wallpaper and red, rolled-and-tucked upholstery are echoed in historical photographs on the walls.

Omar's original "Steak & Chicken House" persona also is evident in the encyclopedic menu of surf and turf, from sirloins, rib-eyes, porterhouses and filets to Australian lobster, Alaskan king crab, Pacific oysters and black mussels. Also something of a dinnertime relic, salads, bread, vegetables and the choice of a starch come with every entree.

Nightly specials, however, were updated in recent years. Co-owner and chef James Williams lightened some seafood preparations by smoking and oven-roasting rather than battering and frying.

The wide variety and atmosphere at Omar's continue to make it a Southern Oregon favorite with all manner of diners — locals, visitors, even students. Situated a half-century ago "in the country," Omar's still is pleasantly removed from the downtown's tourist-season traffic.

Recommended: Zucchini fingers, a longtime house favorite fried in beer-and-buttermilk batter to a light, flaky crisp; olive oil-poached, boneless chicken thighs with whipped potatoes and seasonal vegetables; prime rib traditional on Saturday nights; and toad-in-the-hole, an 8-ounce sirloin patty served on a baked potato covered in country gravy.

Alternative diets: Four vegetarian appetizers; grilled portobello mushroom entree; turkey and veggie burgers; gluten-free items available upon request.

Beverages: Local, other domestic and imported wines by the glass and bottle; "house" wines by the glass, half-liter and liter; no corkage fee Mondays and Tuesdays, except holidays; local, other domestic and imported beers on tap and bottled; full bar.

Price range: Appetizers, $5.95 to $9.95; steaks, $14.95 to $21.95; seafood, $13.95 to $32.95; combinations; $19.50 to $39.95; specialties, $12.95 to $19.95; burgers, $4.95 to $8.95; sandwiches, $6.95 to $12,95; salads; $5.95 to $8.95.

Extras: Kids' menu available; $1 off a la carte entrees; add 50 cents to takeout orders; no reservations; seating on a first-come, first-served basis; adjacent to Southern Oregon University campus at the junction of Highway 66 and Siskiyou Boulevard.

Serving: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays; dinner starting at 5 p.m. nightly; lounge open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Info: 1380 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland; 541-482-1281; www.omarsrestaurant.com.

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