In May, Organic Natural Cafe won Oregon Healthy Living magazine's Readers' Picks award for Best Natural/Whole Foods Restaurant.

In May, Organic Natural Cafe won Oregon Healthy Living magazine's Readers' Picks award for Best Natural/Whole Foods Restaurant.

"We're the only organic restaurant in the Medford area," says owner Daniel Jewart, who purchased it in January 2011.

All the same, the downtown Medford cafe keeps to natural and whole-foods meals that customers love.

The past couple of years have brought new identities and owners to Organic Natural Cafe. Jewart has been with the business since 2006, when Harlan Ward founded a Grilla Bites franchise at 226 E. Main St. Ward changed the business moniker to Organicos when his focus shifted to baking vegan doughnuts.

Jewart simplified the cafe's name but expanded the menu to include sweet-potato fries and nitrate-free bacon for a large assortment of burgers made with USDA certified-organic beef from Applegate's Yale Creek Ranch. The new items broaden the cafe's appeal to more mainstream customers, Jewart says.

The array of organic burgers includes the BBQ, the Southwest, the chipotle, the Greek, the blue-bacon and the mushroom-Swiss. These selections and their various toppings can be ordered with ground bison, veggie patties or tempeh and are served on whole-wheat buns.

With those burgers in mind, a co-worker and I made the cafe our destination for lunch last Friday. I eyed the mushroom-swiss with its fresh, sliced portobellos and grilled red onions, then vacillated toward the blue-bacon with grilled onions, spinach, blue-cheese dressing, soy bacon and organic beef. Real bacon is an option.

My friend immediately selected the chipotle, with spinach, tomato, grilled onions, the cafe's house-made chipotle aioli and tempeh — a nutty, soy replacement for meat. Burger prices range from $9.20 to $12.

Several fresh, organic soups were available. That day's selections included potato-leek, tomato-basil, Brazilian black bean and minestrone. One that my friend wanted to try in particular, the stinging-nettle soup, was gone. The common weed is said to make a delicious, vitamin-packed, nourishing food when cooked and blended with other vegetables for a soup. Jewart picks the nettles himself, and the soup will be available at the cafe as long as the plant is in season.

We were lunching late. Those who visit the cafe earlier may have better luck with selections. The soups cost $3.50 for a cup, $7 for a bowl, both of which come with organic bread and butter.

My burger was delicious, cooked just right (a little pink in the center) and served on a bun textured neither too soft nor too tough. My friend's tempeh had the heft of meat but was a bit crumbly. She said it could have been seasoned more, although the chipotle mayonnaise added the right note.

We both appreciated that the burgers were topped with fresh spinach, instead of lettuce, and that the onions were not just grilled but deliciously caramelized.

She chose the sweet-potato fries to accompany her burger while I went with traditional, yet organic, fries. Both were cut thick and turned out creamy and moist inside after their dip in the hot fryer.

The cafe touts a good selection of sandwiches made with whole-wheat or sourdough breads, piled high with fresh, organic veggies and other ingredients and toasted on both sides, panini-style. Look for spicy tuna, turkey with cranberry or pesto, a Reuben, grilled-cheese and tofu sandwiches, to name a few. Prices range from $6.75 to $9.95, $4.75 to $5.95 for a half. There's also a wild salmon burger and a portobello burger, each $10.50.

An organic salad bar is one of the highlights at the cafe. Create your own from a selection of fresh veggies and fruits, specialty salads, cheeses and dressings made with grapeseed oil. The cost is $9.50 per pound.

Weekday and Saturday morning breakfast service also appeals to the mainstream. An omelet bar, along with a two-egg plate with ham or bacon, organic potatoes and whole-wheat toast, egg or tofu scrambles, wraps, multigrain pancakes, French toast and steel-cut oatmeal are available. Also look for raw juices, smoothies, organic coffee and herbal teas.

Vegan doughnuts still are available at the cafe, along with organic, gluten-free cookies. During our visit, there was carrot cake — so tempting with a thick layer of cream-cheese frosting dusted with shredded coconut. It wasn't vegan, but it was organic.

I plan to visit Organic Natural Cafe often. Finding ways to make delicious organic, natural and vegan food is time-consuming. Why not let someone else do the work?

— Laurie Heuston