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Locally sourced fare shines at Hither Coffee & Goods

It’s an establishment that eludes classification. Coffee shop? Market? Bakery? Bottle shop? Boutique?

Evaluating these numerous persona, it’s clear that Hither Coffee & Goods is, above all, an experience. Two years since it opened in the coveted East Main Street site of Ashland’s former counter-culture fixture, Evo’s, Hither has emerged as more of a restaurant than its founders may have envisioned when they promised a “little bit of everything.”

The concept was born from the New York, San Francisco and Portland sensibilities of Wesley Reimer and Corrie Robinson-Reimer. The partners combine more than a decade of experience in the food, wine and hospitality industries, which culminates in the “unique and curated” Hither. Their goal isn’t just to work with local farmers and craft purveyors to stock their kitchen but also their larder baskets, which convey the raw materials to customers.

At first glance, Hither resembles a book store that also serves coffee. But just behind the counter is a compact kitchen preparing concise menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. About 10 items are available at each meal, not counting the ever-changing assortment of daily pastries. Coffee, tea, wine and craft beer also are detailed on the menu.

Prices for the portion sizes seem more aligned with metropolitan areas than Southern Oregon, a critique I’ve heard of Hither. The menu weighted toward salads and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, it seems wanting for some variety. Among the most interesting morning and midday dishes is the Hither hash with “autumn roots,” chanterelles, apple and bitter greens ($14). Add a six-minute egg for $3 or sausage for $4.

Root vegetables sounded a bit heavy for my food mood. And I likely would have ordered the hash only topped with an egg, but I balked at the price. So I selected the herbed eggs, which I confirmed were scrambled, with grana padano cheese, local greens and focaccia ($15).

Other options ranged from house-made granola with seasonal fruit and nut milk for $8 to the piece de resistance, a Dutch baby for two with bacon and local greens, for $35. Most items, however, are priced between $10 and $20.

Already fueled on coffee for the day, I skipped the assortment of espresso drinks using Sightglass beans from San Francisco. I also blanched at the $13 price tag for wines by the glass, despite the labels’ natural and biodynamic pedigrees.

The “market soda” ($5) made from whichever fresh produce Hither can juice each day seemed most appealing. Given the season, I wondered if quince might be in the mix and, turns out, it was, although not so much juiced as poached and topped with sparkling mineral water. The server acknowledged the fruit wouldn’t be very “syrupy.”

A gorgeous, golden bouquet of fruit slices, the soda came out almost immediately, and I ferried it to one of the tables on Hither’s covered, heated deck, more expansive than the dining space adjacent to the front counter and with a better view. Well-appointed tables and chairs also punctuate Hither’s nicely landscaped patio bordered by Hargadine and Gresham streets.

My eggs came out more quickly than I expected, perched perkily atop a pillow of house-made focaccia lightly charred from the grill. Fresh herbs, chili flakes and lots of finely grated cheese adorned the entire plate, including a generous pile of impeccably fresh frisee.

I love this slightly bitter member of the chicory family but despair that it’s often brown at the tips, which sees me skeptically picking through it. But this bundle contained only a single speck of brown, no bigger than a pencil eraser, making it the freshest example of a restaurant salad I’ve had in probably a year. Belied by the very light dressing of lemon and oil, the salad achieved plenty of richness from the cheese, which was so delicious that I couldn’t help but moisten my fingertips to pick up the last few shavings.

The plate was a perfect example of how a few ingredients — of the highest quality and handled with care — are more than the sum of their parts. The eggs, although not deeply hued, were silky, buttery and supremely satisfying. The bread picked up just the right flavor and texture from the grill.

If you can cook eggs properly, so goes a classical cooking mantra, you’ve proven that you can cook pretty much anything. So I have high expectations of Hither pasta with bitter greens and lemon breadcrumbs, advertised on its sample dinner menu, along with coho salmon, duck breast and ribeye.

The beauty of Hither’s model, of course, is flexibility depending on the seasons and local sources. I’d definitely dine in the evening next time without advance knowledge of the menu and likely would even spring for a glass of wine.

Located at 376 E. Main St., Ashland, Hither is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Call 541-625-4090 or see hithermarket.com

Tune in to Sarah Lemon’s podcast at www.mailtribune.com/podcasts/the-whole-dish. Email her at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Herbed eggs on focaccia with local greens at Ashland’s Hither Coffee & Goods. Photo by Sarah Lemon