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Turkey hangover? Kaleidoscope has your cure

They say there’s no such thing as bad pizza or bad, um, you know what. And there certainly are a lot of good pizza parlors in the Rogue Valley.

So, if you’re up to your gizzard with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings, you might be in the mood for something tasty but simpler this weekend.

How about a pizza and a brew?

We recommend Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub at 3084 Crater Lake Highway in Medford. It’s among the best the valley has to offer. In fact, it is a consistent winner in the Mail Tribune “Best of the Best” poll.

This year in the Mail Tribune’s poll it won the trifecta: “Best Pizza,” “Best Restaurant Customer Service” and “Best Overall Restaurant,” with stiff competition in each category.

Kaleidoscope stands out because of its good food, attentive and friendly service and great atmosphere. The pub has few equals in the area, offering a large selection of beers, ales, cocktails, and wine — by the glass or by the bottle from its well-stocked cellar.

Yes, a cold brew is a great way to wash down a great pie. But it’s the pizza that’s the star here, freshly house-made from scratch. They create a classic thin crust from their own dough recipe, hand-tossed and made fresh daily.

You also can order a crust that’s thick, whole wheat (thin or thick), gluten-free or vegan (gluten-free and egg-free). My favorite is the regular thin crust.

I’m a minimalist when it comes to pizza. I want to be able to see all the ingredients when I look down at a pie. The proof is in the eating, when you notice each ingredient: the little pungent ping of saltiness in some scattered capers, for instance. Or the Tuscan hillside aroma of dried oregano. The flavor profile of pepperoni that hits all the right notes: meaty, spicy, a little sour and chewy.

That’s why I usually order a very simple pizza. Last time at Kaleidoscope I ordered a pepperoni pie and it was pizza perfection in every aspect, a 10-inch “small” for $10.50.

The crust was tender but put up just a bit of crackly resistance thanks to a lovely char on the bottom. The edge, the “cornicione,” had a nice chew — it’s never tough or overworked.

Some people like their pepperoni edge-to-edge with no sign of daylight in between. That can get a little greasy. It was not the case on this pepperoni gem, with scattered slices that didn’t overpower the blended mozzarella-provolone cheeses or tangy marinara sauce. It had a nice balance of flavors.

I’ve had the pepperoni before with mushrooms and green pepper. Again, the pizza makers didn’t overload it.

Another time we ordered a medium (15-inch) half-and-half for $27.50 with Jerry’s Italian sausage and the veggie Mediterranean. The sausage half was for me, although Karen and I shared bites.

I don’t know who Jerry is, but he should be congratulated on his beautifully seasoned sausage. It comes with the same blended cheeses and marinara sauce, along with green pepper and black olives. The combination is a palate-pleaser.

The Mediterranean is one of the house’s fully-loaded pies, full of flavor but a bit overpowering. It was topped with caramelized red onions, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, feta, Kalamata olives, capers, diced Romas, basil and pesto. Whew! If I try it again, I’ll ask them to use half as much of every ingredient.

The Kalua pork pizza is unique, with flavors that instantly transport you to the islands. With a garlic and olive oil base, it’s topped with teriyaki pork, red onions, fresh pineapple, sesame seeds, green onions and mozzarella-provolone. It’s a creative — and successful — variation of the traditional Hawaiian. If you want it spicy, you can add Sriracha sauce on the side or on top. It’s $13.95 for a small, $30.50 for a medium, and $36.25 for a large.

Speaking of spicy, the chipotle steak pizza is one we haven’t seen elsewhere, with the zesty flavors of Mexico. It has seasoned steak (or chicken), diced red onions, diced Romas, spicy de arbol sour cream, cilantro, mozzarella-provolone and chipotle sauce — a fajita on a pie!

These are examples of a very large menu of specialties, including 11 veggie pizzas, 13 chicken and seafood versions, and 16 meat pizzas. The menu is not static. New variations are added frequently. And, of course, you can build your own from a large list of ingredients.

Besides regular to-go orders, you can ask for a half-baked pizza to finish baking at home. I don’t recommend the half-baked option. Unless you have a great pizza oven at home, you can’t get the char and crispness they get at the restaurant. You run the risk of soggification.

For people in a hurry during the lunch hour Monday through Friday, pizza is available by the slice. You can get a pepperoni or three-cheese for $4.25 or the slice of the day for $4.75.

They even have a happy hour, what they call their grateful deals, available from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday for dine-in customers only. That menu includes reduced-price smoothies, drinks, pizza slices, breadsticks, a soup-breadstick-Caesar salad combo, artichoke spinach dip and jalapeno jack bites.

The restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily but open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, became so popular, the owners built a separate, nearby facility for to-go orders, relieving congestion at the main building.

It’s not just pizza at Kaleidoscope. You’ll also find appetizers, soups, salads, calzones,and a nice selection of desserts. After even one visit, you’ll see why people give it such high marks.

Jim Flint is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Kaleidoscope's pepperoni perfection: Spicy but not too, tasty marinara sauce, blended cheeses on a tender-crisp crust. Photo by Jim Flint