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NW Raw

Ashland has its share of juice bars. And then there’s NW Raw.

Open since February at 370 E. Main St., the casual eatery initially drew raves for its decor: tables topped with hefty wood slabs, hardwood poles dangling from the ceiling and small-diameter log rounds studding the front counter. The nod to nature contrasts with an industrial aesthetic of concrete floors and clear, acrylic chairs.

The dining room’s focal point, a glass-enclosed fireplace, no doubt warms up the atmosphere in winter. In summer, the sleek fixtures invite customers to cool off, a vibe reinforced with the organic, raw menu. Athletic pursuits depicted on the walls emphasize an active, enjoyable path to health.    

Juices, smoothies and other specialty drinks constitute most of the selections — about 20 available in three sizes and priced from $3 to $10. A half-dozen salads, four breakfast dishes and desserts represent more than just wholesome snacks. Food items cost $6 to $14.

The salads are packed with vegetables, many locally sourced, and a half order is the size of most restaurants’ large salads. Generous portions make the salads ideal for sharing, particularly when accompanied with a smoothie or cold-pressed juice.

While vegetable juices are plenty appealing, I immediately gravitated to the lavender lemonade. All of NW Raw’s juices are served in durable, glass bottles, previously redeemable for $1 off a future drink, according to the restaurant’s takeout menu and social-media posts. That perk was no longer in effect, the counter-service employee stated, because NW Raw was transitioning to a different bottle. Indeed, the ones in service that day actually looked more like skinny jars with plastic lids.

Without the $1 deposit, $7.50 for lemonade seemed a bit steep, but the beverage itself was a very good version: just the right balance of sweet and tart with an obvious, herbaceous note of lavender. It hit the spot on the hot, humid day. And the jar would come in handy at home.  

My half portion of the “south” salad, on the other hand, seemed like a relative bargain for $7. Impeccably fresh, substantial greens anchored the array of carrots, cherry tomatoes, green onions, pepitas and sunflower sprouts enlivened with an earthy cilantro-cumin dressing. “North,” “east” and “west” are some other salad monikers.   

The flavors were so bright that I didn’t even mind a few mouthfuls of red bell pepper that weren’t reflected on the menu. However, the salad’s main selling point was the perfectly ripe, velvety avocado half perched on top with a lemon wedge nearby for a bit of acid. Additional oils, seeds, hemp hearts, avocado and even cacao nibs can be had for 50 cents to $2.       

Richness from plant-based foods high in essential fatty acids is central to each of NW Raw’s dishes, prepared without any animal-derived products, including dairy. That means the house-made “yogurt” is vegan and raw, to boot.

Also in line with the raw, vegan diet, some nuts are sprouted, and granola is raw and gluten-free. Touted for promoting digestive health, fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kombucha tea, also have their spots on the menu.     

Wraps are in the works, along with “cleanses,” according to NW Raw’s website, www.nwraw.com. Open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, the restaurant also plans to offer delivery. Call 541-708-6363.

Sarah Lemon

The 'south' salad at NW Raw is packed with veggies, including ripe slices of avocado. Photo by Sarah Lemon