Oh so organic

The chain-restaurant concept of Grilla Bites with roots in California seems to bear fruit specifically for Ashland.

"Ashland people really know what they want," says owner Monika DuBois.

The Ashland resident and longtime gardener knew her community wanted organic food. Soon after DuBois sowed the seeds for Chico, Calif.-based Grilla Bites on Ashland's Plaza, it was clear customers wanted more: locally produced foods, sustainable foods and foods that meet numerous other dietary requirements and preferences — gluten-free, dairy-free and even tree nut- and nightshade-free.

To the core menu of the restaurant's "grilla" sandwiches, homemade soups and salads priced by the pound, DuBois added locally raised, grass-fed beef and Full Circle bison. She purchases locally grown vegetables in season, even supplementing with some from her own garden. She contracts with local bakeries — SunStone, Rise Up! and Village Baker — for bread and buns. These efforts commingle for a Grilla Bites flavor unique to Ashland.

"We still believe in organic, but we've added a lot more to that," says DuBois. "It is harder, but I'm doing the right thing."

Five years since its founding, the casual sandwich shop and juice bar where customers order at the counter is the only Grilla Bites between Redding, Calif., and Snohomish, Wash. It attracts many travelers who say they stop in Ashland for organic cuisine, says DuBois. Winter sees loyal locals, from teenagers to adults in their 60s, she adds.

Recommended: 90-percent organic salad bar with 30 to 40 rotating items and homemade dressings; homemade soups; turkey-pesto and "Mom's grilled cheese" panini; any item with crispy and surprisingly tasty soy bacon, including the turkey-avocado grilla, bacon-spinach-tomato and bacon-blue burger with choice of veggie, tempeh, beef or bison patty.

Alternative diets: The place for vegetarian, vegan and organic foods; some gluten-free items and locally grown ingredients; kids' menu.

Beverages: Fresh-squeezed, raw, organic juices; organic fruit smoothies; organic wines by the glass and bottle; organic, bottled beers; bottled juices; natural and organic sodas; specialty coffees and teas.

Price range: Appetizers, $3.99 to $4.99; sandwiches, $4.99 to $8.99; burgers, $8.49 to $12.99; salads, $8.75 per pound; soups, $3.50 to $5.99.

Extras: Prime location on Ashland Plaza; creekside, outdoor seating in fine weather; parking in the Plaza or near Lithia Park.

Serving: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, until 4 p.m. Sunday.

Info: 47 N. Main St., Ashland; 541-488-0889; www.grillabites.com/html/locations/ashland.htm.

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