Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub

Kaleidoscope Pizzeria & Pub isn't an undiscovered gem.

It has been named the best pizza in Medford in the Mail Tribune Readers' Choice poll every year since it opened.

It consistently ranks among Medford's most popular restaurants on Yelp, TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon.

It is always busy, drawing diners from Ashland, the Klamath Basin and the coast.

But this isn't a typical review; it's a tribute to 10 years of tastiness.

Owners Jake Allmaras, Kristi Haavig and son Ben Allmaras celebrated the business's 10th anniversary by donating dine-in food proceeds Wednesday to CASA, Maslow Project and the Southern Oregon Humane Society.

That's just the good work the restaurant does on special occasions. Over the years, it has employed hundreds of tie-dye-clad teens, giving them a first-class lesson in having a first job and ensuring friendly service on every visit.

As friends and families and whole sports teams fill the dining room, grab a seat at the bar and enjoy one of its myriad microbrews while waiting for a takeout order. Get a growler and you can even get a beer — maybe the flagship Kaleidoscope IPA from Klamath Basin Brewing or Kaleidoscope Amber from Caldera Brewing — to go. (The growler prices are among the best in town: $15 to buy and fill, $11 for refills.)

Kaleidoscope also features lots of locals on its wine list and sells environmentally friendly kegged wines.

Kaleidoscope's pizzas start with hand-tossed crust that balance crispy and chewy. Toppings focus on quality ingredients in combinations both traditional and unusual. It's the only place around here that seasonally offers fresh Alaskan halibut on a pizza.

Although pizzeria is right in the name, my husband and I most often order salads. He always gets the Buffalo bleu chicken salad, which piles thin slices of chicken breast slathered with spicy Buffalo sauce on top of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomato slices, shreds of carrot, rings of red pepper, slivers of red onion and croutons. It's priced at $6.25 for a small, $10.25 for large.

I was loyal to the small smoked salmon Caesar, which for $6.95 is enough for two meals. Then I tried the sweet and savory, also $6.95, which tops mixed greens with mandarin oranges, avocado, bacon bits, red onions, Gorgonzola crumbles and lemon poppy seed dressing. Now I have two favorites.

Mozzarella breadsticks, $6.95 with house sauce — marinara spiked with pesto — on the side, are perfect with the salads or one of Kaleidoscope's four daily soups. On a cold winter's day, you can't beat a cup of rich Hungarian mushroom soup for $3.95.

In the summer, the patio, edged with plants and orchard smudgepot sculptures of the Grateful Dead, is the place to be. Happy customers aren't the only ones taking advantage of the rays. The restaurant installed solar panels in 2011 and generates 10 to 15 percent of its own electricity in winter, more in summer.

Whatever the weather, diners will find Grateful Dead memorabilia and original artwork inside.

The Deadhead theme extends to happy hour with Grateful Deals food and drink discounts 3-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You'll be especially grateful you tried the artichoke spinach dip, a super cheesy rendition of a classic blend of artichoke hearts, garlic, spinach, basil, cream cheese, Romano, Parmesan, mozzarella and provolone, served with sourdough bread. It's regularly $8.50, but just $4.25 if you time your visit right.

Here's to another decade of deliciousness.

— Anita Burke

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