A Tale of Two “O” Mys! Ashland Restaurant Week in on the Menu
February is Ashland Culinary Month and “Restaurant Week” kicks off the foodie celebration February 3 – 9 with a slice of local flavors. There are multiple establishments involved in this six-day celebration, and for 2020, tradition and tapas set the tone.
The Rogue Valley Messenger had a chance to meet with: Ostras and Omar’s. A blend of the “old” and “new” to satisfy traditional tastes and tantalize the palette with dishes like Octopus or Oysters. Oh my!
Starting out right on the Plaza, Oliver Fix welcomes the Messenger, excited to share why stopping at this location is a must. In Ashland since March of 2017, Ostras Tapas is no stranger to tradition. Fix, part owner, explains that “Conservas” is Spanish for the long-standing practice of conserving foods at the “height of flavor.”
Each ingredient is important and is selected based on season, size, time aged, integrity of the canning process and quality because these ultimately determine the taste and texture of these luxury offerings.
The process is celebrated in Spain while sort of frowned upon in The United States. Fix, who grew up near Munich, Germany, aims to bridge the old and new worlds in a fine dining atmosphere providing impeccable customer service.
Fix says humbly, “Billy Harto (owner of Thai Pepper) is the brains, while I get it done.”
Pan seared sea scallops is a popular “Tapas”–not finger food—but a small plate designed to share made from scratch with fresh, dry ingredients that are never frozen.
Fix encourages customers to try without hesitation, Octopus A La Plancha, a “delicious delicate preparation” with Lyonnaise potatoes and Mojo Amarillo. And one dish, Pork Cheeks, has a “following”—customers call to make sure it is available.
Ostras Chef, Jordan Harto, does not like to be in the spotlight, but he is described as a very “diligent professional who is a perfectionist with a strong sense for food.”
In addition to savory and sweet “postres” treats, this establishment is a bottle shop offering an extensive wine selection with half being from Spain and the other half from Oregon. Every Thursday from 5 to 6 pm, they have a complimentary wine tasting.
“That is why we price wines by the bottle, so that it can be an integral part of the experience instead of cost prohibitive,” Fix comments.
Additionally, Bar Manager and skilled mixologist, Zahara Cullumbine, designs ever-changing cocktails like the “Knee Jerk Reaction” made with Wasabi, or the jalapeno and lemon “Lengthy
Visit.” To make an Ostras visit more fun and immersive, patrons can reserve the bar top tables. Fix explains that: “No one would stand at these tables until we added stools. The stools worked.”
Faster than a rolling O, The Messenger ventured all the way to the other end of town to Omar’s. It’s been around for 73 years and as much as Jennifer Sink, owner, wanted to remove the “silly camel,” from the front of the building, she was met with, “Don’t you dare!”
The establishment has a timeless style with red leather booths, Formica table tops and flocked wallpaper. Walk in and you are liable to run into one of the former owners, Mike “Rolar” Yondorf.
“Omar’s is the oldest operating restaurant from Portland to Redding,” says Sink.
This roadside steakhouse serves meat that is “cut” in house and seafood that is “fletched” right there.
“We don’t have fancy linens and no Creekside water gurgling next to you, but we are a local favorite,” Sink explains. And she has stories to share about longtime employees and important historical events.
For example, a local favorite tale is that Omar’s was supposed to be Omer’s. The original owner,
Omer, ordered a sign back in the 1950’s, but when it arrived with a misspelling, they did not go through the hassle of sending it back, but settled into the name.
And there is another story about the Mastodon bones supposedly discovered during the site excavation. Even the lounge has an interesting history. Elmo Stevenson, SOU president at the time, asked Omer if he wanted to open a public one, fearing that drinking and driving on I-5 would lead to tragic student and faculty accidents. So, Omar’s had the first ever public lounge in Ashland.
Sink attributes the establishment’s longevity to being a local’s favorite serving consistently good steak and seafood. The current Chef, Alfredo Nava, has been cooking at Omar’s for the past six years.
“We have seen people grow up here,” says Sink. But tradition does not mean Omar’s does not adapt to the times. They practice sustainability using “chicken buckets” for employees’ fowl so there is zero waste. They offer large party gatherings with no extra room rental fee. But most of all, they are proud to support 30 year-round employees consistently.
February is Omar’s oyster month where patrons can eat as many oysters as they can slurp. They also are offering: Omar’s Fresh Bouillabaisse Marseilles Style – a bowl of fresh seafood slow simmered in a saffron-fennel clam stock served with garlic crostini’s and curried paprika aioli.
To find out about all the participating locations and specials for Restaurant Week, go to ashlandchamber.com.
Omar’s Fresh Seafood and Steaks
5 pm – 2:30 am, Sunday
11:30 am – 2:30 am, Monday – Saturday
1380 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland
Ostras! Tapas and Bottle Shop
5 – 9 pm, Sunday and Tuesday – Thursday
5 – 10 pm, Friday and Saturday
47 N Main St, Ashland