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Sunday, March 23, 2014

New Addition to Medford's Dining Scene

New Addition to Medford’s Downtown Dining Scene

Larks Restaurant at Inn at the Commons

Story by Valerie Coulman

Food photography by David Gibb

When looking for a memorable dining experience, Medford offers many options. Among them is the new Larks Restaurant at the Inn at the Commons, a familiar name in a new setting in downtown Medford.

First established in Ashland in 2005, Larks Restaurant began its story set in the historic Ashland Springs Hotel. With a focus on what they refer to as “an authentic farm to table experience,” Larks quickly became known for its fresh and locally focused menu offerings. It’s a reputation that they are now bringing to Medford as part of the expanding downtown renewal, and they are excited about their new location. “There are so many great restaurants in Medford, it’s exciting to be a part of that,” says Ava DeRosier, director of food and beverage for Larks Restaurant. “People expect something particular at Larks,” she adds, seeing their strength as providing “a really great dining experience” combined with an emphasis on offering the best of Southern Oregon’s bounty.

It’s reflected in their menu, which provides tried-and-true choices as well as unique variations throughout the year. “We truly follow the seasons,” says Karolina Lavagnino, director of sales and marketing for the Neuman Hotel Group, the family-owned driving force behind the notable Ashland Springs Hotel & the new Inn at the Commons. “We choose our menus to reflect the produce and other foods that are available.” It means ongoing variety for customers, from “home-kitchen cuisine” to healthy and unique options for those with food sensitivities (or just a sense of adventure), including gluten-free or alternate grain choices.

Whatever the season, local flavor remains their special focus. “When we began, we sought out those relationships with the community and local purveyors, [to find] what the local bounty has to offer,” says DeRosier, who reports that the team explored the area for the highest quality ingredients from farms, orchards, creameries and wineries. And in time, she recalls, local growers and businesses started approaching them with a variety of products and produce that have only added to the options on their menu. “There seems to be no end to the possibilities.”

That eye for possibilities is a trademark of owners Doug and Becky Neuman, who joined Medford’s downtown renewal when they purchased the former Red Lion Inn in 2013, and reopened it as the Inn at the Commons. Now home to Larks Medford restaurant, which boasts a uniquely contemporary but relaxed feel designed by Becky Neuman, and provides an ideal spot for an evening out. “It has transformed in such a short amount of time,” says DeRosier. “It’s becoming a really charming environment.” Their staff is focused on providing the best service and guidance possible, working with each visitor to create a memorable experience. With a range of choices, on their lunch, dinner and lounge menus, as well as a delectable brunch and dessert menu, Larks offers something for every taste.

Larks also partners with a variety of local businesses to provide unique opportunities outside their own restaurant. “We definitely want people to try Larks, but we open them up to the other wonders of Southern Oregon too,” says Lavagnino. “They are part of a variety of packages including hotel stays, wine tours, theater outings and more, and also actively support the community through participation with Medford ACCESS (the community action agency), intern programs, farm-to-school projects and THRIVE (The Rogue Valley Initiative for a Vital Economy).

Ultimately, their focus is connection, both within a community context and for each person that enters the restaurant. “For me,” says DeRosier, “we want to create something that will bring people joy. To see that come to fruition—to see people come in and have a conversation with a friend, or enjoy a cocktail or a fine meal—that is exactly what I’d hoped for.”

Larks Restaurant

200 N. Riverside Avenue, Medford


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