If I had to pick a favorite mealtime, brunch would be my first non-answer answer.
So on a Saturday morning, I grabbed a friend and his 2-year-old daughter, and off we went to Smithfields in Ashland.
Outside, the meat-centric restaurant makes an edgy first impression with its distressed metal sign and the restaurant's "Cheap Trick" style logo carved into it.
Furthering that hip impression inside is a chalkboard accent wall filled with meat diagrams, cheeky phrases, and a list of the restaurant's local suppliers.
The restaurant was well prepared to accommodate a child. Crayon cups, printed paper placemats were all at the ready. I was impressed by the waitstaff's knowledge of the kids' menu. Without having to wait and see, my friend asked simple allergy questions.
The brunch menu's farm-to-table fare was well positioned to suit a wide range of palates and diets. Lemon crepes for those looking for something sweet, steel-cut oats or greens in a vinaigrette for vegetarians abstaining from bacon. For gourmets seeking culinary adventure, the brunch menu offers entrees with duck proscuitto among other foods unconventional.
I chose the Flat Iron Steak Benedict ($14), which layered slices of tender, medium-rare steak, two poached eggs and arugula on rice flour muffins.
The peppery arugula balanced the heaviness of the bearnaise sauce and savory steak. I was impressed with the buttery muffins keeping everything together. They were more substantial than I expected, but they had a delicate consistency compared with traditional English muffins. Considering the meatier properties of the dish, the muffins gave great mouth feel without letting things get too chewy.
My friend chose the Roasted Pork Belly on a Rosemary Buttermilk Pancake ($12). The way he raved about it, I was surprised he gave me a bite.
The dish started with a warm, fluffy pancake, and topped it with a savory, substantial and juicy pork filet roasted to perfection, a poached egg, fresh watercress and freshly prepared bacon pieces.
I found it eye-opening the way the yolk, maple syrup, savory pancake and watercress worked together. My friend simply called it the best meal he'd had in Southern Oregon.
Punctuating our brunch with one of those "only in Ashland" moments: dog-walkers passing by asked us how our meal was. My friend started raving.
I'm inclined to agree. With chef-prepared meals, great service and minimal waits during our late Saturday morning visit, Smithfields simply earned my fullest recommendation for diners, both local and visiting.