Canned Cheese, Pedo-Chinese & Inoffensive Japanese
The day after I paid a visit to my favorite, non-NYC semi-supermarket, Grocery Outlet, fka Canned Food Outlet, an online walk-thru appeared on The Laughing Squid. Yet the only item I found in common was the Wis-Con nacho cheese.
Sadly, the Eugene location near my sister’s house wasn’t even half-way hideous. It was actually kind of pleasant and full of useful things. They had real Willamette Valley wine, organic snacks and hair products, Starbucks ice cream bars…and fresh meat, which they reminded you of on signs inside and out as well as over the intercom. I wasn’t in the market for fresh meat. None of the crap I remember from my younger years trolling the aisles of the Tigard location was to found. Who can top ninety-nine-cent chocolate-flavored wine, though?
There is a fondness for ground meat in tubes. Not the advertised fresh meat, I presume.
We had to drive to neighboring Springfield to fuel my desires for the darker side of suburbia. After reading the haunting Yelp reviews for Gateway Mall (seriously, I’ve wanted to go ever since stumbling on them in April) I knew that I not only had to see its faded glory for myself, but that I needed to eat somewhere nearby.
Far Man, a.k.a. Pedo-Chinese it was. I knew this was the spot the second I typed in the CAPTCHA that granted me access to the filtered review about the former owner’s underage prostitution ring.
A quiet vacuum made a nice tableside sculpture. Its noise, however, might’ve been preferable to the half-man half-grizzly outbursts blasting from the saloon doors separating the dining room from the dark bar filled with more patrons than the restaurant. The voice, akin to that sound of burping out the alphabet but more menacing, appeared to be in response to something on the Discovery Channel. James gathered this intel from peeking into the murky abyss that still felt smoky despite the mandated lack of cigarettes. Normally, it wouldn’t take much to convince me to grab a cheap beer in the middle of the day but he couldn’t talk me into crossing that imaginary line between sane and not-so-much. The staff seemed jumpy and cowed. I wasn’t taking my chances.
Instead, I solaced myself with the cheap and fried. Thursday’s $4.25 special was (and is every week) sweet and sour pork and a shrimp eggroll that’s really filled with celery mush. Minus the sunshine yellow egg drop soup included with most combos, the food is crunchy, greasy, beige broken up by neon red rivers of corn starch thickened sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. You’ll never finish the whole plate, and you probably shouldn’t. Our waiter brought over styrofoam takeout containers mid-way through the meal, umprompted. American Chinese at its finest.
The best part of the Gateway Mall (which houses two movie theaters—one with $1.50 tickets!) was not the newish Cabela’s that I was not allowed to go into because some coworker of my sister’s also works there and she didn’t want to see him (there is a lot of this avoiding people thing in Eugene. My issue was more with the strangers saying hi on the streets and involving you in conversations about time travel unbidden). It was the Ross. It’s always the Ross. My sister and I both found the exact same $6.99 polyester rainbow swirl wrap dress in each of our sizes that we thought would be amazing to wear to a rare family bbq the following night. A trip to the dressing room quelled that fantasy, however. It is no bargain if you look like a crazy lady in a bathrobe.
I almost wish we had held out for Hometown Buffet. I haven't eaten at one since 2001 in Reading, PA. Once per decade is probably a good guideline.
I’m not sure if it’s more socially acceptable to grab a drink at Far Man or the mall’s Nascar bar in the middle of the afternoon.
There are a lot of empty storefronts.
There are also havens for Christians.
As per the comment left by a DragonVine employee on my original speculative Gateway Mall post, "Steampunk is only a wee fraction of what we have."
Epris? Never heard of it. Same for Bello and maurices, two other mystery retailers. This felt very Chinese (not Far Man Chinese). The malls I encountered in Shanghai and Beijing looked so American but so many store names were completely new to me. My favorite was Valued Squirrel.
Now that I am a year older, and maybe more maturely than prematurely gray, I may have to adopt the older women having a blast look featured on one of the boarded up shops.
You do not have to eat sub gum chow mein or even aggressively vegetarian while in Eugene (I was scared of the ‘70s avocado and sprouts on everything legacy). After a stop for a few pints at the Ninkasi Brewery, I shared perfectly nice small servings (not calling them tapas) of Japanese-ish food at Izakaya Meji, across the street. Not only do they stay open until 1am (late night dining was problematic even in more bustling Portland) they do classic cocktails, which is not exactly an overdone trend in these parts. An Aviation for $6? It almost made up for the disappointment of the distressingly normal Grocery Outlet.