Owners of a new pub in Ashland's Historic Railroad District hope customers not only will dine there, but feel free to hang out afterward.

Owners of a new pub in Ashland's Historic Railroad District hope customers not only will dine there but feel free to hang out afterward.

Peter and Kelli Bolton call the Playwright Public House a "gastro-pub," a place where folks can have a pint or two with their friends, eat lunch or dinner, then stay to watch soccer or rugby on the big screen.

"It's a community center, different from a restaurant," Peter Bolton says. "It's where you go for companionship. It's the hub that draws the neighborhood in, your home away from home, where you have a beer after work. A restaurant is a place you go once a month; this can be every day."

The Playwright opened this month at 258 A St., across from Ashland Hardware. Its name is an "homage to Ashland and a nod to my local pub in Dublin," which had the same name, Bolton says.

Its fare includes "simple but elegant" food such as sweet potato fries with raspberry chipotle, artisan bread and cheese, caesar salad, rainbow beet salad with chevre and arugula and Plowman's Dubliner Salad with ham, stilton cheese and egg — all in the $4 to $6 range, Bolton says. You can get the fries topped with gravy, sour cream and chili sauce, which "sounds horrible but is great," he says.

The more substantial dishes include hamburgers and veggie burgers, a marinated portobello mushroom sandwich and a Dublin, Edinburgh or Cardiff "toasty" (grilled cheese sandwich with meat, cheese, tomato, onion). Burgers are $8 and toasties are $7.

Tap beers include Guinness, Hoegaarden, a Belgian wheat beer, Smithwick's, an Irish red ale pronounced "smithicks," Mac & Jacks from a brewery in Redmond, Wash., and Ninkasi Total Domination from Eugene. They're served at $5.50 for 20 ounces or $4.50 for 16 ounces. A glass of beer is $3. There's also a wine list, and bottles start at $18.

Chef Chris Phillips uses organic food whenever possible, and there's no deep fryer in the kitchen, Bolton says. The baked potato and sweet potato wedges are just that, baked, and the beef is grain-fed, he says.

It may be a dicey time to be opening their first restaurant, but the Boltons believe the economy is rebounding. They aim to attract locals with affordable food and beer.

The Boltons did extensive remodeling on the restaurant, formerly Lela's, putting in a new floor, bar and decor.

A native of Ireland whose life was filled with neighborhood pubs, Peter Bolton has worked in the restaurant trade in Dublin, London, Munich, New York and Seattle. Kelly Bolton is a graduate of North Medford High School and Southern Oregon University. ( The name of the school has been corrected).

Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m., dinner at 5 p.m.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.