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Morning Glory

It's for good reason Morning Glory is consistently among Mail Tribune readers' favorite breakfast restaurants.

With its marriage of unusual ingredients and hearty portions, the Ashland eatery appeals to a wide range of palates and appetites, from collegiate wrestlers to acolytes of tai chi and natural foods.

Maybe it's for that reason I've always considered Morning Glory the quintessential "Ashland" restaurant. Or maybe it's because the place — open since early 1997 — served up possibly my first meal "out" upon arriving in town to attend Southern Oregon University. I still remember delighting in my first taste of Morning Glory's rock shrimp cakes, a slightly deconstructed take on Eggs Benedict that remains on the menu.

Cooks top the spicy fritters of shrimp and bell pepper with poached eggs and a chutney of smoked tomatoes, which also accents the restaurant's signature white cheddar polenta. Its price increasing over the past decade from about $9.50 to $12.50, the dish is still the most expensive breakfast item. It's a good thing I'm no longer on a student's budget.

A decade later, Morning Glory has served up only a handful of disappointing meals but, on the whole, cultivates a reputation of quality and even fun, furnished by a whimsical décor. Patrons never tire of looking at the restaurant's fantastical mural of fairies, flying fish and its namesake flower. A chicken roosting atop a stack of pancakes was added just within the past few years.

While weekend breakfasts can mean an hour-long wait for those who don't arrive by 9 a.m., lunch is a low-key affair with plenty of open tables. As the kitchen serves up breakfast all day, why not wait until noon for that omelet?

Lunch, however, was on the agenda for a recent weekday visit to Ashland. At least a year had passed since I'd lunched at Morning Glory, but I anticipated a lamb burger, oyster po' boy and lots of salads on the menu.

Indeed, all the old favorites were there, but hankering for something new and different, I settled on the caramelized onion and blue cheese tart with field greens and fig-balsamic dressing ($10.50). My co-worker ordered a cup of the day's soup — carrot and ginger — and the house salad with garlic croutons ($8.50).

Although Morning Glory's prices are just about in line with Ashland's other restaurants, I can't help but compare them to lower ones elsewhere in the valley. Adding fresh-cut fries to a sandwich, for example, costs an extra $2.50 on top of the main dish's price ($10.50 in the case of the lamb burger).

Yet fretting turned to disbelief at the sight of my plate. The tart and salad easily could have fed two people. The generous pile of onions and blue cheese atop a puff-pastry shell was tasty but not quite expected. I had interpreted "tart" to mean an egg custard of sorts similar to a quiche.

The carrot soup seemed almost preferable, creamier than others I've tried. Both salads were gorgeous and so big my co-worker commented he felt as though he was "eating someone's entire garden." The Nicoise Salad ($10.50), with its fingerling potatoes, green beans and other classic accompaniments seemed a good choice on a return visit.

Until then, breakfast is sure to beckon. Prices range from $11.75 for the Alaskan red crab omelet with artichokes to $7.50 for two eggs any style with a choice of hashbrowns, polenta, pancakes or tomatoes. The disappearance of toast from the menu has somewhat put a damper on my enthusiasm, but servers will bring it upon request.

The lemon-ricotta stuffed French toast is almost better than dessert for $9.50. For an exotic twist on an old standby, try Morning Glory's Moroccan oatmeal ($6.50). The turmeric-spiced mixture of oats, dates, nuts and apricots is so popular the restaurant sells take-away bags of the dry ingredients.

Morning Glory is in the little blue cottage across from SOU. Parking is notoriously difficult with about seven spaces accessed by a steep drive behind the Craftsman-style bungalow. Many customers hike in from parking found elsewhere.

Morning Glory is at 1149 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Call 488-8636.

— Sarah Lemon