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Posts from the ‘Eugene’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Two Meals in Eugene

mame duo

Mame It took the longest time to realize this restaurant was pronounced mah-may not like mame as in Auntie. Sushi in Eugene is something I never thought I’d care to experience but I told my sister I would take her and her husband out for her birthday and she chose this place, which requires reservations weeks in advance, not typical of this town, because Mame is tiny but also because it has a good reputation.

The sushi was very good, a mix of traditional and creative. I didn’t parse it. We were just drinking a well-priced Honjozo sake and having a good time. (The server animatedly described every single bottle on the menu. This would be weird in NYC–or I suppose, Tokyo–but she was just excited about the list she’d put together.) Omakase starts at a bargain rate $20 so I went wild and asked for $40 per person.  The top photo illustrates what was presented for three. My fear was that Mame wasn’t the best idea for my sister’s vegetarian husband (both former vegans) was unfounded. Duh, it’s Eugene. He was presented with tons of vegetarian sushi, a noodle dish, followed by hand rolls that he couldn’t finish, and we were only charged $30 because the chef (I think the partner of the server) didn’t think the ingredients merited $40. The dinner was capped off with a free red bean cheesecake for the birthday girl.

My sister, with a critical eye, said that none of the diners looked like neighborhood types. I couldn’t tell because I have no idea what passes for upscale in Eugene. I had just seen a man with a hook for a hand in a bar. I guess not living under a bridge? The bathroom isn’t inside the restaurant. It’s outside, around the back. We were joking, after my sister returned, that a homeless guy was camped out in the bathroom and the wildly ebullient server overheard (there’s no private conversations in this space) and apologized. Eugene is very earnest.

The Vintage Probably not my first choice for brunch. The website makes it seem more modern, but it’s kind of fusty. Can you shoehorn a restaurant in a old house (I don’t think this is only an Oregon thing but it’s definitely not an NYC thing) and make it feel otherwise? I don’t really even do brunch but I hadn’t seen my friend from college for at least eight years and this was her pick (everyone in Eugene is more money-conscious than I’m used to in NYC, and I don’t hang out with anyone rich–this friend had been at the same retail job for 15 years, making $2.25 above minimum wage–and I didn’t want to inadvertently choose someplace pricey). There was a 20 minute wait for a table and another 20 minute wait for food. It’s all crepes during the day and fondue at night, in a two-story old house, self-described as “quaint.” Enough said.

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?

Grocer outlet ground meat

There is a fondness for ground meat in tubes. Not the advertised fresh meat, I presume.

Far man sign

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 facade

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.

Far man vacuum 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.

Far man lunch
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.

Cabela's gateway mall

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.

Hometown buffet
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.

Nascar sports pub

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.

Gateway mall empty stores

There are a lot of empty storefronts.

Tree of life

There are also havens for Christians.

Crafter's alley
And crafters.

Dragon vine

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.

Having fun at gateway mall

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.

Meiji 2

Meji 1

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.



Even though I was only in Eugene for less than 24 hours, there was no way I was going to let any hippie food into my system. Brown rice, tempeh and soyrizo have a way of creeping up on you.

Not me. Instead, I sought out Belly, a pork-centric, small plates restaurant that had an Aviation on the menu. Could I get the same without leaving Brooklyn? Sure. At least I thought so initially. Now that I think about it, we don't really have a restaurant like this in my neighborhood or else I would go eat there and stop whining about Carroll Gardens. Belly is smaller and more rustic than, say, Buttermilk Channel.

Belly baby back ribs, spicy molasses, cornbread I dined with five others and shared a few dishes. Even the vegetarians were happy with options—that might be one difference between Eugene and NYC where you’re likely to only find a token dish or two free of meat or else get used to eating pasta and salad.

The pile of stacked baby back ribs were served with a spiced molasses sauce that was actually pretty heaty. The cornbread was good for soaking (the word sopping kind of creeps me out) up the pool of sauce.

Belly shredded beets, mint These might be the only vegetables I got in my system that whole week. Shredded beets flavored with mint were refreshing. While yogurt makes sense, I’m fairly certain the white dollop was crème fraiche.

My main dish was a bit hearty for late summer oxtail-stuffed tomato with spaetzle. I liked the tender shreds of meat against the springy pasta.  Belly oxtail, spaetzle, tomatoI’ve never thought of oxtail as being an oddball meat—it’s beefy—but it seemed to freak out an old college friend I was eating with and I happened to catch part of My Life on the D-List where Gloria Estefan took Kathy Griffin and Rose O’Donnell out to eat Cuban food and they were completely traumatized by the idea of eating oxtails. Flan, too, for that matter. That’s just weird.

Belly * 291 E. Fifth Ave., Eugene, OR