Restaurant biz blooms

In anticipation of this summer, when the streets will swell with tourists, several new restaurants are springing up in Ashland.

Come next month, there will be new Asian and Tex-Mex restaurants downtown and a new delicatessen on A Street.

A wine bar and tasting room will also open on the plaza soon and, if deals go through, two additional restaurants — T's and KatWok, both currently closed — could see changes.

The new eateries will join an Indian restaurant that recently opened and a revamped Ashland Bistro Café, which is now under new management.

Taqueria and cantina

Beasy McMillan plans to open BZ's Last Stand & Hacienda, an homage to his Texan roots, next month at 18 Calle Guanajuato, where Pilaf was located before it closed last November. He originally planned to open earlier this month, but due to unforeseen construction issues, he has pushed the opening date back.

BZ's will serve Tex-Mex food and will feature an authentic taqueria downstairs and a cantina upstairs, said McMillan, who also owns Cucina Biazzi and has founded a number of Ashland restaurants.

"There's going to be authentic tacos, tortas, and in the summers I'm going to put a barbecue out back," McMillan said. "It's going to be beautiful."

Asian cuisine with a view

For the first time, 21 Winburn Way, a property overlooking Lithia Park, will become a restaurant. Lisa and Thomas Beam plan to open Sesame Asian Kitchen next month at the location, the former home of Lithia Stationers.

The moderately priced restaurant will serve Chinese, Thai and Korean food for lunch and dinner. The Beams also own Pasta Piatti and co-own Tabu, two other downtown restaurants.

The Beams see their and Beasy's efforts as providing a necessary stimulus to the downtown economy. They hope that, by improving the vitality of the district by starting new restaurants, their other, older restaurants will benefit, the Beams said.

"If tourists come and see the downtown half empty, the tourists don't come back and that hurts our existing businesses," Thomas Beam said last week.

"We need to keep it going. We don't have a choice. If this fails, we fail. Independent business owners don't get unemployment."

A bit of France on A Street

Meanwhile, Helena Darling, an Ashland chef and caterer, is one of many business owners trying to revive the Railroad District. In the coming weeks, she will open Palace Café at 542 A St., where the Palace Chophouse was located in the early 1900s.

"I think the more businesses that are located in the Railroad District, the better it is for everybody," she said.

The café will serve lunch on weekdays and host private parties and special dinners in the evenings and on weekends, Darling said, a platter of charcuterie before her as a demonstration of some of the meats the restaurant will serve, along with local produce and fresh baked breads.

Other restaurant changes

Tika Squires and her daughter, Talia, are in the process of selling T's Restaurant & Bar, at 303 E. Main St., to Julie O'Dwyer and Marc Rosewood, the co-owner of Pangea. O'Dwyer and Rosewood plan to keep the name of the restaurant "but change the attitude" by offering mostly tapas, or small plates, and cocktails, Rosewood said.

They hope to reopen the restaurant on April 15. Depending on the night of the week, the fine-dining restaurant will be open until as late as 2 a.m., Rosewood said.

"It was really just an opportunity," he said. "My dream was to own a restaurant, and so I kind of fulfilled that with Pangea, but what I've always wanted to do is have a fine-dining restaurant."

Also downtown, a new restaurant may be opening in the space where Kat Wok was located before it closed in August. A business license was taken out in late January for Motif Restaurant and Lounge and the listed address of the business is 62 E. Main St., Kat Wok's former address. The owner of Kat Wok, Mark Tangeman, had been looking for an investor to revitalize the business since March 2008. Calls to Kat Wok and to a number listed on city documents for Motif Restaurant and Lounge were not returned.

Edenvale Winery plans to open a tasting room and wine bar in April in Ashland's plaza. The Southern Oregon company also has a tasting room in Medford. Calls about the Ashland tasting room were not returned.

Open for business

Last month Scott Balcomb took over the Ashland Bistro Café after the owner, Glenn Galloway, ran out of funds to operate the restaurant. Balcomb owned the café for nine years before Galloway.

Balcomb, who now serves as the restaurant's chef, has lowered most of the prices at the café to appeal to budget-conscious diners, he said.

"Mainly it's really because we want to compete. If it means I have to work a little more and cover an hourly person basically so that we don't have to hire, that's what we have to do," he said.

He thinks downtown Ashland is about at capacity already, in terms of the number of restaurants it can accommodate, and he worries that more new restaurants will actually take away business from existing eateries, he said.

"I don't think we need any more new restaurants," he said. "Ashland's really not that big of a town and I just don't know if there's enough business to go around."

But Vin and Seema Mehta, who opened Taj Indian Cuisine last Monday at 31 Water St., where Deep's Indian Cuisine was located, are hopeful, they said.

Like Balcomb, the Mehtas have dropped prices at the restaurant and they are offering an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet Mondays through Saturdays.

The Mehtas feel that their restaurant has found a niche in Ashland and, despite the economy, they think tourists will still come to the city in droves this summer, Vin Mehta said.

"I always had a dream to open an Indian restaurant in Southern Oregon and you cannot find a nicer place in Southern Oregon," he said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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