My beautiful little sister – you know, the grandmother and great-grandmother – has her birthday today. Happy birthday, little sister! Naturally, I stream all manner of memories from the time around her birth. One bright, shiny moment was after she was brought home. We lived on McNary Boulevard in Wilkinsburg, PA, then. All my young neighborhood friends wanted to come into the house to see the baby. I don’t know what drove them to want to see her, but Mom obliged, you know, as long as we didn’t wake her. Let sleeping babies lie.
For her special day, my little sister – let’s call her Gina – wants to go to a restaurant where they get to spin the wheel. As I understand it, you spin the wheel, and you win gifts, or free food and drinks. Everyone else in the family did it for their birthday. Gina wants to do it, too. I understand; even I would like to spin the wheel. Alas, though, Ashland doesn’t have a place to spin the wheel.
Ashland doesn’t have fun restaurants like that. Dominated by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and numerous art galleries, we’re very serious about food, here. We can blame demographics. Professionals dominate our permanent population. We have the theater scene, a forensics lab, university, and grade, middle, and high schools. They, and the city and the restaurants, create the job market, along with professionals to serve the professionals, like lawyers, architects, hair-stylists, and landscapers.
Most of our professionals are retired, with adult children. Food leans toward conservative, adult offerings, with interesting preparation and presentations. Pizza and pub-grub are offered as alternatives. The food is organic and natural, with meat from grass-fed, antibiotic-free animals. Vegetarian offerings are salads, black-bean burgers, or meals fixed with tofu substitutes. Vegan offerings are weak. The pub-grub is served with a helping of television screens to watch sports. We do have terrific breweries and wineries, and chocolatiers. You can drink and have fun, but that’s a pretty limited spectrum.
We also lack a good deli. The delis are embedded in the chain groceries – Safeway, Albertson’s, and Market of Choice. There’s no stand-alone deli to go in and have a sandwich made your way. Two Subways, one Wendy’s, and one Taco Bell represent our fast-food places. There is a Burger King on the Interstate exit, but that’s outside of town. That’s how serious Ashland is about food.
Even our coffee places are serious. Two Starbucks represent the mass consumer trends, but we tend toward places that roast their beans locally, or buy from someone who roasts their beans locally.
Here’s the tricky part. Our retired professionals have grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They come to visit. Likewise, the theater-goers have children, and more people are moving up from California. These Caligonians have friends who visit, with their children. The thing is, children come. When they do, the most fun is the ice-cream shops, or pizzas. There’s no place to spin the wheel.
Yes, you can mark this up to demographics. Personally, I put it down as lack of imagination. One pub-grub place closes, another one opens in its place. Ditto, with the froo-froo eateries.
So you if you want a hormone-free, grass-fed burger, or an excellent omelet, beer, or wine, we’re your place. Just don’t expect to spin the wheel.