Caldera's cozy pub on Water Street long has been a favorite of locals and tourists.
Now fans can check out a spacious second restaurant at Caldera's new brew house, 590 Clover Lane, Ashland.
My husband and I headed over on a lazy Sunday before smoke socked in the valley. It was fine weather for sitting outside on a shady patio, screened by a trellis covered in climbing hops.
Dining out with
the Mail Tribune
Caldera Brewery and Restaurant
590 Clover Lane
Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
While the Water Street pub's deck near Ashland Creek is prime lollygagging territory on a summer afternoon, views of the golden hills outside Ashland, a gentle breeze and the muted hum of Interstate 5 traffic put this patio on the list of unexpectedly pleasant places to linger.
Shimmering tile work accents the bar, fireplace and a hostess station just inside the front door. And founder and owner Jim Mills' collection of thousands of beer bottles displayed on shelves that ring the soaring, industrial space is striking.
Caldera's menu features casual fare — pizzas, burgers, a little pasta and a few sandwiches and salads — much of it prepared with local organic ingredients when possible. The kitchen is helmed by Maggie Trujillo, who previously worked at Lela's and Chateaulin, two fondly remembered defunct Ashland restaurants.
The appetizers offered are a nice change from the piles of fried food seen at many pubs. The list includes freshly baked pretzels with beer mustard and cheese sauce, "brew"schetta on beer bread, a fruit and cheese plate, and stuffed mushrooms or peppers.
We started our meal with earthy mushrooms stuffed with caramelized onions spiked with a few greens, a whisper of Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese and a topping of fresh micro greens and a balsamic drizzle enhanced with the brewery's Mogli stout ($11).
I thought it paired well with my dry-hopped Ashland Amber, while my husband thinks a good India pale ale goes with anything, so he enjoyed a pint of Hop Hash IPA.
Many items on the menu incorporate Caldera's generally excellent beer as an ingredient, and a food and beer pairing special is offered daily.
I was drawn to the menu's pizza section, which features innovative mostly vegetarian pies, many of which are named for brewing equipment. Diners can also top their own pizza, drawing from a list of traditional ingredients such as pepperoni, mozzarella and mushrooms or unusual options such as fresh hop flowers, grapefruit or oranges.
We ordered the Caldera pizza with Rogue Creamery blue cheese, mozzarella, caramelized onions and fresh arugula and more of that Mogli balsamic drizzle ($16 for a 12-inch pizza).
The pizza that arrived at our table, however, showed loads of kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and feta along with rich daubs of pesto. Though it looked delicious, I thought some other hungry diners might be waiting for it, so I flagged down a server to report that this wasn't the pizza we picked.
After some conferring amongst employees, they decided that the Caldera we ordered had somehow become a Calandria by the time the ticket reached the kitchen. They whisked the wrong pizza away and offered to pay for our drinks.
In a place with about two dozen freshly made beers on tap, that's a fine offer. (And, based on online reviews and conversations I had with co-workers, apparently one the Caldera crew has made fairly regularly as they work out the kinks in the new location.)
The right pizza emerged soon enough. It had a thin, almost-Neapolitan-style crust that was crisp with just a hint of char on the bottom. The tomato sauce was light and fresh tasting and the toppings created a symphony of rich, salty, sweet flavors.
Even with bumps in service, I'll likely return to Caldera's new Clover Lane location for fresh and lively beer and food.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Call 541-482-4677.