That tiny food place in front of Ashland Hardware — now the Simple Cafe — is open again under new management, with simple, quick, local and mostly organic food, featuring breakfast burritos, burgers, crepes, tacos, sandwiches, hot dogs, bentos and more.

Owner Javier Cruz, the former executive chef of Standing Stone for the last two years (and many years prior as the Stone’s sous chef), has 20 years in the restaurant business.

At the Simple Cafe, 249 A St., Cruz installed a stove and full kitchen, offering everything made from scratch — no prepared, packaged food.

His most popular item so far is the basic $8 burger using local, grass-fed beef (the ranch is a couple miles away on Valley View), free-range chicken and wild salmon. Buns and breads come from La Baguette bakery, a block away. Bacon and BBQ burgers are coming soon.

Burritos, made with organic flour, house-made salsa (spicy or mild) and local, free-range eggs, come in several flavors — chorizo, mushroom, beef, tofu and sausage. Crepes come in savory, bacon or sausage. Hot dogs are turkey, beef or smoked German sausage. Lunch tacos are salmon, steak, cod or chicken. Bentos are meatball, chicken or tofu.

There’s also coffee, tea and house-made lemonade and juices — no sugary junk.

Cruz likes his move from the bustling Standing Stone to the calmer, old-town feel of the railroad district, where he gets a lot of happy repeat customers. “I like to interact with people and tell them the story of the food,” says Cruz.

Why the “simple” name? It’s obvious: everything is local, fast, healthful; you can order online at and pick it up in a few minutes. There are tables out front for warmer weather — and enough parking around the hardware store and on A Street.

Cruz, a 20-year valley resident who is married with three children, bought the place last May, whipped it in shape to meet city specifications and opened in November. Much of his customer base comes from surrounding offices and businesses, and hardware traffic which, he notes, booms starting in March for six months, then settles down for the winter.

Dedicated to green, renewable, low-waste practices, Cruz shows off a hard plastic clamshell container, which you can get for a $5 one-time fee, then bring back for a thorough washing as you grab another. Smaller cardboard-like containers are compostable and Cruz is looking for farmers and gardeners who will recycle them.

The Simple Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch daily, except Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, including a menu, see the website or SimpleCafeAshland on Facebook.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at