Hand-painted scenes of outer space elicit plenty of smiles at Talent's Jupiter Cafe.
If the decor doesn't amuse customers, the notion of naming an itty-bitty restaurant for the solar system's largest planet certainly should, says co-owner Regan Lilley.
"It's fun; kids love it," says Lilley, 43.
"There's way more to come, too," she says of the whimsical murals.
Adults are more inclined to love Jupiter Cafe's organic breakfasts, lunches and fresh-squeezed juices. The menu, says Lilley, has morphed around friends' and neighbors' suggestions, while she and her husband, Ryan, spent a year transforming the alien-green cottage, formerly a florist and sweets shop on Talent Avenue.
"It was kind of a collaboration of what everyone wanted us to do," she says. "Talent really needed something."
Customer Mark Dreiszus, whose family has a long history as local restaurateurs, agrees. First, he came for organic Allann Bros. coffee, then tried a hearty breakfast and most recently enjoyed a "perfect" burger made with organic beef from Plaisance Ranch in Williams.
"I was excited to see a little, tiny place," says the Talent resident, perched at a two-top table in the diminutive dining room.
From less than 300 square feet of space, the Lilleys conjure big flavors. A gas grill amid several outdoor tables augments Jupiter Cafe's cooking surfaces. Despite close quarters for prep work, the couple slice vegetables and fruits to order, not ahead of time, to preserve their character and healthful properties.
"We're trying to keep the integrity of every fruit and vegetable we have," says Regan Lilley.
"You can taste the difference," she adds. "This is just fresh, local ingredients — fresh to order."
By not prepping ingredients and storing them for the next day's service, the Lilleys run Jupiter Cafe more like a home kitchen. That means orders take a bit more time, says Regan, but the results are worth customers' wait.
"The reason home cooking tastes so good is you're making everything right then."
Although Jupiter Cafe is the couple's first restaurant, they are no starry-eyed home cooks. Both Lilleys used to work at Ashland's erstwhile Geppetto's, a pioneer of using locally grown produce in a restaurant setting. Regan also managed food service at Ashland Community Food Store, before it was remodeled and renamed Ashland Food Co-op.
"The Co-op really kind of gave me a base of organics," she says. "Everything we have is organic."
Shopping at local farmers markets, the Lilleys obtain much of their produce from an organic restaurant supplier. Breads are baked by Rise Up! Artisan Bread in Applegate, New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in Talent and Organicos in Phoenix. Beeler's supplies the vegetarian-fed, no-nitrate pork products, and Diestel turkey breast is roasted in house. Free-range chickens raised in east Medford keep Jupiter Cafe in dozens of eggs.
"People think we put cheese in the hollandaise," says Regan, of the strikingly orange hue imparted by such rich egg yolks. "We just wanted to serve quality ingredients."
Adding eggs Benedict, a breakfast burrito and steak sandwich since opening in May, Jupiter Cafe continually expands its menu to "cover those bases" of community demand, says Regan. Prices range from $7.50 for the breakfast sandwich to $11.50 for the eggs Benedict, but they likely will increase, she says, to cover food costs.
But the couple have an optimistic outlook for their venture. Salads soon will join Jupiter's sandwiches and burgers, soups will number among autumn's options, and appetizers and dinners aren't far off, according to the restaurant's website, www.jupitercafeandjuice.com.
"It's almost too big of a menu now," says Regan.
Fresh juice was conceived as a cornerstone of Jupiter Cafe, with signature blends named for the planet's largest moons: Callisto, Europa, Ganymede and Io, a green juice with kale and cucumber. Juices and smoothies are priced from $3.50 to $6.
Juicing, says Lilley, was "second-nature," given her family's long history operating the Orange Inn in Laguna Beach, Calif., which held the original 1930s trademark for the term "smoothie." Her great-grandfather, W.G. Peacock, created V8 Juice in 1933, before it was acquired by Campbell Soup Co., adds Lilley. Moving from Southern California to Southern Oregon two decades ago, Lilley says she's seen Talent evolve into the kind of town that can support eateries like hers.
"This would have never worked back then," she says of her first few years in Talent. There remain "limited options" locally, she adds, for people who want to eat organic food.
"We want people to live healthy."