Because she loves food and wanted to share her original and family recipes, Yasmeen Stroud opened a restaurant — her first — choosing the site of Ashland's former Red Hibiscus.
Her CJ's Bistro offers an almost-fine-dining experience with large windows overlooking First Street, fresh sprigs of flowers on each table, linen tablecloths and interesting art — but without the price tag. Nothing on the short, Indian-inspired menu costs more than $12.
Stroud taught Indian cooking at a food cooperative in Northern California before moving to Oregon two months ago. Previously, she worked inside and outside kitchens at several New York restaurants.
Indian spices flavor most of CJ's dishes: four stews, four sandwiches, five hamburgers and two salads. Other favorite Indian foods, such as lentils, mangos and lots of vegetables, are showcased.
But customers find a beef-meatball stew and beef-patty burgers among their options. Stroud makes her kebab sandwich with ground turkey seasoned with a "special blend of Indian spices" and dressed with yogurt-mint-cilantro sauce.
From-scratch cooking is Stroud's standard. She and chef Robert DeVries, formerly of New York, make all the sauces, dressings, pickles, jalapeno relish, stews and spice mixes from scratch. They also trim the meat and chop the vegetables.
Stroud says the entrees may change with the seasons, and she's close to gaining approval to sell beer and wine. She also says she hopes to add soups, dinner specials and desserts in the future.
While CJ's is still catching on with weekend dinner crowds since opening Oct. 2 (it doesn't have an online presence yet), Stroud is off to a good start with thoughtful fare that should satisfy the palates of locals and visitors alike, as well as appeal to their pocketbooks.
Recommended: "Landslide" stew with beef meatballs, carrots, red potatoes, kidney beans and onions in a thick, tomato-based gravy is so popular that the supply is known to run out; turkey sub kebab adds cilantro, green chilies, onion and Indian spices to an oblong patty of lean, ground turkey on a multigrain sub roll, topped with thick slices of tomato and shredded romaine lettuce in yogurt sauce.
Alternative diets: One vegetarian and one vegan stew, two vegetarian or vegan sandwiches and salads (depending on choice of sauce) and a vegetarian or vegan portobello "burger."
Beverages: Sodas, apple juice, coffee and iced and hot teas; license pending for sales of alcoholic beverages.
Price range: Stews, $9.95 to $11.50; sandwiches, $8.25 to $9.95; burgers, $7.95 to $8.95; salads, $6.50 to $9.95; sides and add-ons, 35 cents to $6.50.
Extras: Kids' menu choices; availability of some menu items may be limited; street parking or in city lot across Lithia Way.
Serving: From 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Info: 11 N. First St., Ashland; 541-708-0881.