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An 18-inch pizza topped with Melanzana on the left half and Phishin’ on the other half. Photo by Jordan Marie McCaw.

Shake off the wintry chill at Creekside Pizza

A mainstay on the Ashland restaurant scene for more than two decades, Creekside Pizza still serves its signature gourmet pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Since 1995, Creekside has operated at 92 1/2 Main St., next to AQUA (formerly Caldera Tap House) and Thai Pepper. On a typical Friday night, the restaurant is busy with customers chatting at the bar and playing pool.

The dining space could easily become a cramped area but is spared by using different styles of table seating, ranging from counter-height tables and chairs to large farm-style tables, allowing for intimate dinners and larger parties depending on the occasion.

A large mirror covers the wall at the far end of the restaurant, providing an illusion that the space is larger than it actually is.

Behind the friendly service and cozy interior, however, is a restaurant that takes its food and drinks seriously. The menu features classic, vegetarian and meat pizzas; fresh Northwest-style salads; and meatball, veggie, chicken Caesar and Italian grinders.

Before food comes drinks. Drafts ($4 to $16) include a rotating list of IPAs and ales. A pleasantly light beer on tap during this particular visit was called Cascade Lakes Blonde Bombshell. Cocktails include the Claymore Martini ($8), a mix of Stoli vodka, Chambord Liqueur, lime and homemade raspberry puree. The lime and raspberry puree make the drink tart yet refreshing. The Creekside Lemonade ($6) is less tart and just as refreshing with raspberry and orange vodka, homemade lemonade, and topped with black raspberry liqueur.

To start our meal, our waitress recommended the Yammers ($6). While the appetizer showed up with our pizza, we weren’t disappointed when we saw a large plate of yam fries with ketchup and chipotle-ranch sauce. The fries were abundant, hot, crunchy and sweet. Other appetizers include a classic caprese salad ($8), chicken wings ($9.50) and antipasto plate ($13).

Gourmet pizzas are Creekside’s specialty, with classic and eclectic toppings that can be ordered in 14- or 18-inch sizes. We ordered a large pizza ($29) with one half Melanzana and the other Phishin’. What arrived at our table was a colorful display of roasted red peppers, salmon and a thick crust surrounding the cheesy middle.

Melanzana is a toss of roasted red peppers, red onions, breaded eggplant, artichoke hearts, marinara, Parmesan, mozzarella, walnut pesto and fresh herbs. The breaded eggplant was the highlight in both taste and texture. The walnut pesto added a warmth of flavors to the fresh toppings, and the marinara was mild and sweet.

Phishin’ is a melange of garlic-infused olive oil, caramelized onions, Parmesan, mozzarella, parsley and smoked salmon. A pizza with fish in its toppings may deter any diners with qualms about fishy-tasting pizza, but the salmon was sweet and fresh. The caramelized onions brought each bite to life and paired well with the Parmesan.

The vegetarian Bootsie and Hercules pizzas also are highlights on Creekside’s menu. For those who love meat on their pizza, Carni is loaded with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, prosciutto and Italian sausage.

Without a doubt, the best part of Creekside’s pizzas, regardless of their toppings, is the crust. It’s chewy, blends well with the textures of melted cheese and is wrapped in a crunchy layer best enjoyed with ranch or chipotle-ranch for dipping.

Most importantly for any pizza, the crust is delicious without any dipping sauce. And it can be enjoyed gluten-free for an additional $4.

Creekside Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A daily lunch special ($7) includes a side salad, pizza slice of the day and a drink. Dinner is served from 4 to 11 p.m., and the dinner menu also features fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti and spinach garlic tortellini ($10 to $12). Meatballs, grilled chicken or smoked salmon can be added for $3, $4 or $5, respectively. Delivery is available from 5 to 10 p.m. Call 541-482-4131 for information.

Overall, it’s the pizza that brings people back for more tasty toppings and delicious crust. The biggest downside to our evening at Creekside Pizza was not having any leftovers to take home. There’s nothing better than leftover Creekside Pizza.

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