Monday, May 31, 2010

Country Kitchen in the City: Original Pancake House

I remember that, for a time in the 80s, my father was fixated upon having a house with cream-colored siding and dust-blue shutters. This was during the height of the Country Kitchen craze in Kansas, where even women who had never set foot on a farm or eaten an egg fresh from the chicken were suddenly decorating their kitchens with wooden geese dressed in aprons. I blame this time for the popularity of places like The Country Kitchen, which is a truckstop masquerading as homecooking -- and it works, because most of the people sucked into the Country Kitchen craze had mothers who never, or rarely, cooked good food at home.

Anyway, all of that history made me wary of ever trying The Original Pancake House in Eugene. It seemed like the kind of place that might just have sprung fully formed from my dad's early-90s decorating dreams. And inside it does, indeed, feel a bit like a city kid's idea of a country grandmother has been pasted to the walls. None of that really matters, though, if what you want is tasty pancakes -- because that's what this place provides.

Not cheap pancakes; not quick pancakes; not IHOP pancakes. Big pancakes made with a mind-stretching number of ingredients that show up unaccompanied (except for syrup).

creamandcoffee.jpgTo give you an idea of the nutritional standards here: your coffee will come with a sidecar of whole whipping cream, should you choose to dilute it. Yes, that's right: shake that creamer too long and you'll have your very own whipped cream -- or butter, depending on your patience. If that sounds like a cholesterol dream come true, this is the restaurant for you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I prove I'm my mother's daughter at Albee's New York Gyros

When I was small, my mother used to periodically get a real craving for gyros sandwiches. This was in the affluent suburbs west of Kansas City, and while there might have been authentic Greek food downtown in the 80s, it was not to be had in Johnson County. We'd go to the Mr. Gyro's on Metcalf so she could get her fix, and usually she was eating alone. My little palate wasn't down with the gyros, with all its weird yogurt sauce and onions and the dreaded tomatoes. (I was a horrid little picky eater.) I probably went home and made myself some macaroni and cheese.

Later, I came around to the gyros love. (Learning to like yogurt, onions, and tomatoes probably helped!) We had dabbled in a few places in Eugene that serve gyros, and I even like some of them, but when I heard through the grapevine/Internets about Albee's New York Gyros, I had to go try it. Thanks to the blog, I had an excuse, and away we went!

So, Albee used to run a food cart, and I sort of still expected this to be a food cart venture since it is cash only, but Albee has a pretty sweet little storefront these days. The menu is very simple: Gyros, either meat or falafel, with your choice of lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, onions, olives, feta, and peperoncinis. The regular size is substantial, and it costs 6.00. There is a new Junior sized option for 4.00, too, which would be good for a lighter option. He also has a New York beef hotdog, spanakopita, and baklava (more on that in a minute).

So we ordered a meat gyros and a falafel gyros, two cans of soda, and a baklava. It came in at 16.25 for a LOT of food, and I dropped the rest of the 20.00 in Albee's tip jar, because he worked hard to get our food together fast, and he was incredibly pleasant to talk to during. Not to mention it was delicious. G and I swapped the two sandwiches back and forth so we each got to try both, and then we split what turned out to be the best baklava I have had in ages. It was honey-soaked and absolutely FULL of cinnamon, and there may or may not have been a plastic utensil fight afterward about who got to scrape out the paper tray in which it came.

I loved this place, in spite of a few minor quibbles. The olives are domestic-type, not the kalamatas I expected. The tzatziki could have been a little more flavorful. But everything was HOT like it should have been, or cold and crisp. It comes wrapped in a foil, perfect for eating on the go, so on-balance, this place is still full of win. If you want fancier, more 'Greek'-style gyros, you might try Poppi's Anatolia, but this place has a pastiche that's all its own, and it's very worth checking out. Albee is as charming as his business, too.

When my mom visits next, the gyros are on me.

Location: 391 W. 11th St, Eugene

Hours: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Monday - Saturday.

Discounts: a punchcard that gives you a free sandwich after you buy ten.

Albee's New York Gyros on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Next Best Thing to Real Italian Coffee: Caffe Ponte Vecchio

Nestled into a medical office park and not too far from the hideous clusters of undergrad housing near Autzen Stadium is a coffee shop that seems very out of place. It seems, in fact, like it would rather be in another country -- Italy. The walls of Caffe Ponte Vecchio have been painted with a mural of Florence, Italy, the town where Ponte Vecchio -- it translates as "old bridge" -- arcs over the Arno, connecting two sides of the two with a bridge built up with little jewelry shops.

The people who run this shop seem to be from that same region -- though we've never met, I've heard both Mario, who is the owner, and Rosa, who is the baker, speaking Italian to guests and friends. Like most coffee shops, they offer a wide range of espresso drinks, coffee and tea; unlike most places, they bake their own breads and treats on-site, and they have pasta, pizza, and calzone next to the panini on their menu. And these aren't microwaved hot-pockets were talking about, but fresh dishes with seasonal ingredients: on one visit, they had an eggplant calzone that nearly stole my heart, and my wallet. I would've been happy to lose either to it.

The coffee and espresso are good -- dark and rich on both counts -- and you pay for that privilege, as Caffe Ponte Vecchio has drinks that rival and sometimes beat Starbucks for priciness. Then again, for that price, you also get to imagine, briefly, that you're back in Florence. Of course a real café over there wouldn't look like this -- Italian bars are more likely to feature old wooden boothes than the brand new lime-green leather couches that this café offers -- but in both, you have a lovely view of Il Duomo, and it's nice to be able to pretend.

What you won't have to fake is a deep love of their sweet pastries. We've tried a number of them, from the shop's specialty -- a lavender scone with chocolate -- to some of the other comes-and-goes goods. The cannoli, which are stuffed with fresh ricotta and mini chocolate chips, are divine, with a wrap that breaks delicately in your mouth, the perfect marriage of flour and olive oil. Every other sweet I've had a chance to sample has been equally good. Don't think you can go here and not partake, either: nearly every time we've visited, Rosa has been around, baking something new. If that smell doesn't entice you, well, you may not be human.

This makes a good stop for coffee, lunch, or even a very early dinner. They offer a few outdoor tables on their patio, and though the view is only of traffic on Garden Way, the taste is really, very nearly, of Italy.

Location: Chase Village / 330 Garden Way, intersection of Garden Way and Centennial.

Hours: 7 to 6 daily; closes at about 3 on weekends, though hours seem to vary.
Caffé Ponte Vecchio on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Happy Hour That Makes Me Happy: Hop Valley

Last summer, C and I were casting around for something new to eat that was in the vicinity of Springfield's Triangle of Grease1 but wasn't, well, greasy. So we stopped in at Hop Valley, a brewery that seemed promising.

There are three things that keep us going back to Hop Valley: the vanilla porter, the smoked mozzarella cheesesticks, and the seared ahi sandwich. The first two are things I love; the last is C's favorite, and he gets it every time we go.

Our first outing here was actually our best. The place was still kind of new, so it wasn't terribly crowded, and they had a special featuring that same seared (rare) ahi on top of pasta that C still talks about longingly. The sandwich is a compromise, and there have now been a couple of times that the searing has stolen almost all of the precious pink from the tuna. Still, when it's good, that tuna is (apparently) very good, and at $11 it's not a bad value.

That price includes a side dish -- I actually think these are the strengths of the Hop Valley menu. You can get fries, seasonal veggies, or a baked potato, all of which are typical; garlic mashed potatoes, which come in a fragrant, Close Encounters-type pile; cream cheese sweet corn that is pretty much exactly like my mother's recipe, except it uses grilled fresh sweet corn; or the soup of the day, which is made in-house and has usually seemed to be pretty good. Last time we were there, it was something like Curried Carrot, and it was very smooth and tasty. Not enough to distract me from the corn, but still -- quite good.

The Happy Hour specials are the best part of Hop Valley's menu. They offer burgers for $3.95 (with fries!) from 3-6 on weekdays, along with smaller-sized nachos for about $2.95, fries and onion rings for $1.95, and -- my favorites -- the smoked mozzarella sticks for $3.95. Beers are also slightly cheaper.

There's one caveat I'd level, here, and it's kind of a big one: This isn't somewhere you go for atmosphere. In terms of decor and comfort, Applebee's even has this place beat. The ceiling is high and uncovered, the tables are close, and there are TVs everywhere. Since it's now busier every time we go in, I'd say this isn't a place to schedule for a quiet dinner, or for a dinner with anyone who has trouble hearing. It's also probably not the place you come if you're terribly worried about a) your diet or b) local, fresh ingredients or c) particularly creative culinary adventures. It may not even be a staple of fast service -- though we've always had friendly servers. Hop Valley has solidly American brewhouse type fare -- think burgers and barbecue, and rejoice, vegetarians, that there's macaroni and cheese on the menu.

Still, we keep going back. The call of the porter -- and the tuna, and the smoked mozz -- is strong.

Location: 980 Kruse Way, Springfield, OR (intersection of Beltline and Gateway Street)
Hours: Need to check!

1 The Triangle of Grease is the shape formed by drawing a line from the Springfield IHOP to Denny's to Shari's and back. All within this triangle face risk of death and tasty fried things, 24 hours a day. And yes, including Elmer's, this can be expanded to the Rhombus of Grease, but that's not so catchy.

Hop Valley Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 24, 2010

Viva La Cart Culture: Viva! Vegetarian Grill

There's a reason Viva! Vegetarian Grill place has a 100% approval rate on Urbanspoon. If you go, you go because you know what you're getting into: cart vegetarian food. Now, if you're reasonable, you know this could go very wrong, and so when it doesn't -- when they hand you over your steaming fake philly cheesesteak after only a few moments -- you feel relief. I haven't been taken for a ride, you think, even before you take your first bite.

And that first bite, well, that's what usually separates the day traders from the pros, the part-time vegetarians from the faithful. Part-time vegetarians get excited over things that taste like vegetables, over weird combinations, things that make being a vegetarian "special" and "fun." Long-term vegetarians, in my experience, form two lines: the vegan line and the line that, on occasion, wants something reminiscent of their meat-eating days without the attendant meat.

Viva satisfies the second group. The first group might be happy there, too, though only if they bring their own salad.

Here, we have the aforementioned Fake Philly, which is, incidentally, vegan, complete with a cashew "cheese" sauce. Does that sound troubling? If so, don't go. If you read "cashew 'cheese' sauce" and think, why would you do that?, well, you haven't had cashew "cheese" sauce. You have to understand the subculture of "food in quotes." I live here. I eat "burgers" all the time. And I loved my "Philly" with cashew "cheese" sauce. So did C, who still -- from time to time -- ventures into real Philly land. The sandwich was large and satisfying, hot, salty, and with enough fake meat and real veggies to make it a thing of lunch glory: a one-stop.

But since we were sampling, this wasn't the only thing I tried. I also picked up a little basket of the tempeh satay, which came with a phenomenal (and simple) peanut dip. When the two sticks of (normal, blandish) tempeh were gone, C and I both eyed the little paper cup with the peanut dip inside, pretty much ready to fight for the right to lick out the insides. I can't remember who won (me).

C also tried the Tempeh Reuben. This has been a mistake at every place he's ever tried it, and I think Viva! was the cart that finally convinced him to take the Veg Reuben on its own terms, to not compare it to meaty adventures past. Seen in that light, it was something he liked, though I'm not sure it's an adventure he'd try again. Still, the sauce here was good again, and it inspired confidence in the cooks. C was also delighted by the condiment bar, where one could load up on several typical dressings in addition to sauerkraut, vegan cheese, raw onions, and something called "Charlie's Numb Sauce" that called out to me -- to avoid it.

On our next trip -- and you bet there will be one -- C's got his eye on the Fake Philly. Me? I'm thinking summer is probably a great time to try Viva's Polish Soysage, since I liked the caramelized onions so much on the first trip.

Viva! Vegetarian is installed in a parking lot on Willamette street, so this is pretty much dedicated to-go food. (There are a few -- maybe three? -- chairs provided in a covered area, but at lunch time, I bet that space is really scarce). You can also call or text ahead orders to 541/595-VIVA, which seems like a good bet if you're in a hurry.

Location: Willamette and 12th, east side parking lot
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays only
Discounts: $.50 off if: a) you ride your bike there; b) you show a student ID; or c) it's raining.

Viva! Vegetarian Grill - Food Cart on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Worst Teriyaki in Eugene

Not too long ago, G pointed out to me that neither Jenn or I had written a negative review of a place we'd eaten since we started the blog. I'd said some things about particular dishes I hadn't liked (pasta salad at the Bier Stein, for instance), but on balance, I hadn't had a bad eating out experience in a few weeks. I've certainly had bad food in Eugene, but we're careful with our eating out dollars these days. The blog was at least partially an exercise in forcing ourselves to try new things.

It was with that purpose in mind that we went to Ron's Island Grill. We'd thought about trying it before, but always managed to be pulled into Burrito Amigos or Quiznos instead. There are several of these around town, it seems, all with the same menu. I ordered the Huli Huli chicken (the number 3), in part because their menu proclaims it to be their MOST POPULAR DISH! in huge bold letters. G ordered the Kalua Pork (the number 10). We ordered it to go, with some trepidation about how much styrofoam that would entail, and we were pleasantly surprised that the answer was none.

So we took it home, and found out a couple of things. First, G's pork should have been dressed at the condiment bar at the restaurant. It was tasty, but it was just plain, shredded, roasted pork served over white rice. He liked his coleslaw and the slice of pineapple it came with. Second, I should have ordered something else. The teriyaki sauce in which the chicken had been marinated tasted like nothing so much as the chemical flavor additives used to make teriyaki beef jerky. It came on a bed of pleasantly sticky rice, but the flavor of the chicken was nothing like mirin or even soy sauce, just that weird jerky flavor. I had some of G's pork after we swapped trays for a while, but eventually he wanted his pork back (and rightly so) and I was forced to finish what I had ordered.

I don't know if I will go back. Certainly if I do, I won't order the Huli Huli Chicken. There are way better places to get teriyaki in this town.

Location: There are a couple in town. 1677 Coburg. Also, near campus on Alder. Others.

Hours: 11 - 8:45 Monday through Friday; 2 - 8:45 on Saturday; 4:30 to 8:45 on Sunday.

Ron's Island Grill on Urbanspoon

Go for the Tacos, Stay for the Chips: Fina Taqueria

I have one party trick. It's neither fancy nor disgusting. My trick to impressing at a party is to show up with a bag or two of the chips from Fina Taqueria. This has never failed me, and it never fails to elicit the question, "Where did you get these chips?"

I got them from Fina, a sister restaurant to the Mucho Gusto/DickieJo's empire of the West brothers. Their chips are made by slicing up corn tortillas into sixths, dropping them into boiling oil, and then assaulting them with French Fry Salt. What's French Fry Salt? It's French for "holy crap this fried thing tastes great!" I have bought guacamole and salsa with these chips before, but it's completely unnecessary. They are a taste-force unto themselves, and cost only $2 a bag.

Unlike MuchoGusto, here the burritos and tacos are made in the kitchen, not on an assembly line before your eyes; for me, that's not a bad thing, because you only have to offer your order to one person standing calmly at a register, instead of several people trying to keep track of multiple orders at a time. Like the other restaurants, its closing hours vary but are generally early (8:30-9ish on weekdays), so this is not a taco stand made to attract kids after the bars get out. This is a taco place meant to attract people who want to taste the ingredients inside their burritos, and congratulate themselves on finding a way to eat Mexican-like food in a somewhat healthy manner.

So what are these ingredients?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Bean Curd: Ocean Sky Restaurant

Eggplant Garlic PhotoDon't even start with me, Eugene transplants, and your whining about a lack of good Chinese. I don't want to hear it and I also don't care, because I, my friends, have found love, twu wuv, at Ocean Sky Restaurant.

Well, OK, I've found the sibling of twu wuv, because my heart's first desire is Ocean Sky's sibling restaurant in Corvallis, King Tin (more on that place when my Corvallis Correspondent pipes up). Ocean Sky, however, does some very tasty things very well -- and in enormous portions. Say good-bye to that old problem of feeling hungry again an hour after polishing off your Chinese take-out; this place will offer enough food to get you through a night of every-hour feedings, and you'll probably still have some rice left the next morning.

So what you're probably getting here is the heart of the matter: this isn't the Chinese restaurant you go to when you want a wide variety of different-tasting dishes, tenderly prepared by a caring chef who agonizes over the details. That restaurant -- no, it doesn't exist in Eugene. But Ocean Sky does, and it's the one you go to when you have a general desire for "Chinese food," and want to satisfy it as briskly and completely as possible. Some call this mediocre; I call it "what are we doing for dinner tonight?" (Yes, our love is based on low expectations. What can I say? I'm that kind of girl).

Have the Soup at the Bier Stein. Twice.

So, in deference to trying new things for the blog, as well as G's near constant hunger for good burgers/sandwiches/pub food, we went this week to The Bier Stein here in Eugene. I had been wary of this place, since it reminded me strongly of a fratty bar in my hometown where the food was definitely just ordered to prevent you from puking your guts out on the wide variety of beers they served. You came for the beer, and if you needed to eat, they could help you with that, but few if any went to this other bar for the beer. The Bier Stein and I had to get over this one tiny flaw in our relationship:

I am not a beer drinker. The coolers full of beers were novel, fun to look at, but I was here for the food, and the Bier Stein would have to rise or fall in the review on that basis alone.

But, as it turns out, you don't have to be to find reasons to go to the Bier Stein. This week was cold in Eugene. Windy, rainy, and COLD. It was good soup weather, but I was so busy with work and school that we kept missing our window to go have the delicious ramen at Toshi's, which closes at 3 and reopens at 5.

So, having read around a little at Urban Spoon, I suggested we try the Bier Stein, which features one of my very favorite soups every day of the week. So the Cheese Beer soup was a real draw, and G was amenable, so we went this week.

The First Visit
I ordered a bowl of the cheese beer soup for us to share, and we each ordered a sandwich. I got The Dip, a modified French dip sandwich with caramelized onions and horseradish mayo, grilled panini-style on ciabatta bread. (Minor, grammar snob quibble: a sandwich like this is served au jus, not WITH au jus, which makes no sense.) For my side, I selected the pasta salad, which had looked AMAZING when it came by on someone else's plate. G went with the German sausage sandwich and a side salad.

The soup: Completely amazing, especially on a cold day. Generous portion when you order the bowl, enough that I hardly wanted to knife G for his half.

The Dip: Good. I can't really say that the roast beef was top shelf, but the gooey mess of cheese, onions, and horseradish mayo really overwhelmed any qualms I had about the roast beef.

The Pasta Salad: Bad. Really stunningly disappointingly bad. It was cavatappi pasta with chunks of veggies (Squash, chickpeas, red pepper, zucchini) mixed with pesto. All the elements of good, and yet it tasted like nothing at all. I don't know how that happened, but neither G nor I thought this was at all worthwhile.

German Sausage Sandwich--Sausage itself, mediocre, but actually split and grilled, and served with a delicious mustard that G was raving about.

The Salad: We were both impressed with the blackberry vinaigrette, which was fruity and acidic, over pretty fresh spring greens. A far cry better than the pasta salad.

We liked it well enough that we went twice this week, since yesterday was REALLY cold, and it was 3:05 before we realized how good soup sounded.

The Second Visit
The Soup: Still excellent. Still worth every penny. Wondering if I could eat a whole bowl of it with a side salad as my meal, except that I would miss out on these amazing sandwiches.

The Turkey Club: Not called this on the menu, but you get the idea. Similar to the dip, in that it was a melty, gooey mess of goodness, but this time, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the turkey. A good sandwich, but for one thing: it would really be improved by the addition of some tomatoes. I was smart this time and had the side salad. Much better.

Final Verdict: Have the soup. Have one of the panini-style sandwiches. Avoid the pasta salad.

Location: 345 E. 11th St, Eugene

Hours: 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM, every day.

The Bier Stein on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Follow the dairy-free road: Holy Donuts

I was skeptical of Holy Donuts.

I'd seen their donuts at places like the Friendly Street Café, where they looked small, scrawny, and dry next to their fluffier, non-vegan cousins. The day that I ended up at Holy Donuts, my original goal had been VooDoo Doughnuts downtown -- but that place is, so far, only inconsistently open.

F252BBC1-9AE9-4660-8E1E-F6EB71A3C068.jpgSo it was that on a gorgeous Saturday night, C and I walked past the Eugene Mail Stop, down something called "the holy trail," and finally saw, for the first time, the adorable little shop and courtyard of Holy Donuts. It really is a cute little building, painted green, with a wide window showing off the donut case inside and fairy lights strung through the tree branches. A few sturdy outdoor tables and a less sturdy swinging sofa dot the grassy courtyard and its constructed, flower-lined path. This place, I'd already decided, was much cuter than I'd expected (as I'd been expecting no open space behind the mail place, just a crowded, converted back room).

Then, inside, we saw something to further change hearts and minds: a vegan donut with bacon on top.

The Pizza Is the Star: Mezza Luna Pizzeria

Mezza Luna Pizzeria was one of the first restaurants I ate at in Eugene, for one simple reason: they offer a fantastic lunch special. For a then-starving student, the prospect of huge, affordable slices of pizza and free refills on soda was too much to pass up. I think I read most of Chekhov at their downtown bar.

The slices-of-the-day run from $2.75 (cheese) to about $4 (meat/specialty), and you can add a plain or Caesar salad for $3 at lunchtime. Since the slices are the size of my head, one does it for me, though I did occasionally venture into salad land -- where the candied pecan, gorgonzola, and cranberry combo became an instant favorite.

Still, the pizza is the star, here. It's made in enormous, flat pies that have just the right amount of sauce (whether tomato, pesto, vegan, or olive-oil-and-garlic) to keep things moist and together, but not so much that the crust gets soggy. The tomato sauce is mild but still -- miracle of miracles -- actually tastes like tomatoes. If you build your own pizza, things can get expensive, and tasty, very quickly, as they offer a respectable list of not-quite-the-usual ingredients (three kinds of mozzarella cheese, for instance; roasted eggplant and roasted rosemary potatoes; chicken sausage). Each addition costs $2.25 on top of a large ($17 base).

You don't have to spend a fortune here, though you easily could. Their lunch special slices aren't just the typical cheese and pepperoni (though these are often included). The last time we visited, they had those two standards plus a pizza with roasted red and yellow bell peppers and pineapple; one with an olive oil base, feta cheese, and sliced kalamata olives; and an Italian sausage number. I had the pepper pizza, and it was divine -- pepper chunks large enough to require more than one bite to finish them, pineapple oven-seared into sweetness, and cheese and tomato blithely tying it all together.

That's a pizza. Now, if only they delivered.

Mezza Luna now has two locations: downtown (on Pearl) and way up North (in Crescent Village). Both locations offer indoor seating at tables and a small bar; the Crescent Village location also has about three outdoor tables, in good weather. Both also offer wine and beer in addition to soft drinks and juices. Both offer excellent people watching, as well, though the crowd to be viewed will be very different depending on the locale.

Location: Downtown: 933 Pearl Street

Crescent Village: 2776 Shadow View Dr.

Hours: Downtown: Monday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sunday: Noon - 9 p.m.

Crescent Village: Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sunday: Noon - 9 p.m.

Mezza Luna Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 17, 2010

Simple, Serious Coffee: Perk & Play

At Perk & Play, they are proud of their foam.

They're proud of the coffee that's under that foam, too, but this is the only coffee shop in town where they give you a demitasse spoon to go with your drink, "so you can enjoy all that foam!" The foam in question is pretty good (even if it doesn't really belong on a latte), and it comes with artistic leaf shapes made by the barista. Never mind that mine looked slightly like a penis; I appreciate the effort.

Their coffee drinks are served in big ceramic mugs that you can enjoy in the store's eclectic interior, which is part coffee shop, part nursing-home events center. This is a store that is as earnest about its Perk as it is about its Play.

IMG00249.jpgThe menu here is all about the coffee: espresso drinks dominate the menu, starting at $2 for a simple shot and rising through $5 for large versions of their Frappes or a specialized flavor concoctions. There's a little snackage available in a cold case and a bakery case: string cheese, locally made muffins and cookies, and some packaged juices and milk for the kids. This isn't the place you come for lunch, though -- it's the place you come to get away from the lunch crowd. There's a puzzle on the card table toward the back, a towering bookshelf full of vacation thrillers (John Grisham) and local favorites (Bowerman and the men of Oregon). The store has two cozy chair sections and several big and small tables, but the standout feature here is a tiny section built just for kids. Yes, this may be the only coffee shop in Eugene (at least that I can think of) where kids are not only welcome, but catered to. There are some pleasantly quiet toys, and some pleasantly hand-printed rules: kids are welcome, if they're kept entertained and relatively quiet. ("Active Supervision is Needed at All Times!"). The owner/barista who served me later engaged happily with a mother and child who stopped in for a much-needed espresso, and no one in the shop seemed at all disturbed by the child's delight over the provided storybooks.

Perk & Play has a back patio, but it doesn't seem to be in use anymore; instead, a few small tables crouch on the sidewalk that wraps around the corner store.

There's a certain earnestness to the place, and to its owners and employees, that bleeds through into everything they do. Their doorways and paper cups are hand-rubber-stamped with the "Handcrafted Espresso" logo, and this is what they seem to take the most pride in. They know their coffee. They will, at the slightest provocation, treat you to a small, friendly lecture on its origins, its taste, how carefully it's made, and how good it will taste when they hand it over.

That part isn't a lie. This is a pretty good coffee stop, usually quiet, and sadly tailored only to those who don't work 8-5. Still, with free wifi and no particular judgment against patrons who linger, it's not a bad place to study or relax with a cup of that hand-crafted espresso.

Location: 2866 Crescent Ave., Eugene

Hours: M-F 6 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. -- noon.

Perk and Play on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ladies Who Brunch Love It: The Cornerstone Cafe

On the north edge of Eugene, there's something of a yuppie ghost town, also know as Crescent Village. Of course, Ghost Town implies a town that's been hollowed out, which is not the case with Crescent Village -- this is instead a small "lifestyle enclave" that was built in anticipation of a flood of upscale shops and cafés and, oh yeah, residents. It had the misfortune to open in the middle of the recession, and now its single street (lined with empty store fronts) makes it seem like something that needs only a Wild West pistols-at-dawn meet up to be the most bizarre movie set ever.

What's survived so far in Ghost Town are a few small restaurants, probably supported in part by the people who can afford to pay $1,000 a month to live in the spacious apartments just above them. At the entrance to this tiny main street, there's a restaurant called The Cornerstone Café, which serves upscale café fare at upscale café prices, and has done so for about two years. We brunched there recently.

Humble Bagel: Putting the kill on Einstein Bros. cravings for good.

So, I suppose some disclosures are in order: I have never lived on the East Coast, though I did once see Larry King at a Georgetown bagel shop when on vacation in D.C. (It's almost surprising he didn't try to marry me. It seems I'm the only woman in the country he hasn't considered trying the knot with.) My bagel experience is very narrowly defined by Lender's bagels in the grocery store and Einstein Brothers (formerly Bagel and Bagel).

Inspired by recent adventures in bageldom by my co-blogger, I decided to try one of the other bagel joints here in town. G and I haven't been out for a bagel since we moved to Eugene two years ago, though we always intended to give a couple of them a try. So this morning we settled on Humble Bagel, in part because the parking seemed easier to manage than Bagel Sphere downtown.

So we got to Humble Bagel, where the menu is tiny, battered, and leaning against the wall precariously. No frills here. The choices are fairly standard for a place like this: blueberry, cinnamon raisin, onion, poppyseed, everything, and salt, though that it not an exhaustive list. They have plain and flavored cream cheeses. Is it a New York bakery? No. Please see the sidecar on this subject.

G opted for a benchmark of bagel shops: the toasted plain bagel with fruity (in this case: Marion berry) cream cheese. Cost: 2.35. It was crusty on the outside, very chewy on the inside, and considerably smaller (fit easily in the palm of my hand) than the big-as-your-head chain store bagels I am used to. The cream cheese was tasty: sweet but not too sweet, and clearly made with actual Marion berries, which added a hint of sourness that I found really pleasant.

I am fond of a savory breakfast myself, and so I opted for the bagel scramble, which is billed as two eggs scrambled on a toasted buttered bagel of my choice. Cost: 3.75+. There were a handful of ingredients that could be added to the scramble for $.85 each, and I opted for avocado and cheddar cheese. What came out several minutes later was amazing. The egg part of the scramble was basically an omelette with cheese cooked directly in the eggs. It wasn't some fake round egg disc of microwaved scariness. Fluffy, cheesy goodness, folded in half and laid across a toasted everything bagel absolutely covered with smashed avocado. It was so tall I cut the egg in half and ate the halves like open-faced sandwiches. I could have eaten more, but I left sated, which is probably a better way to be at breakfast than stuffed-to-slowness that you can get when the bagels are too big.

At some point, mid-breakfast, G said to me "You know, since we moved, I have been sorry there wasn't an Einstein Brothers here. Now? I can't remember why." High praise from a carb-loving bagel-eater. I have to agree: these might be the best bagels I have ever had.

Hours: Hours: M-F 6:30a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun. 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. You can only get the delectable bagel scramble until 10:30 on weekdays and 1:30 on weekends, though!

Location: 2435 Hilyard St, next to the Sundance Market.

Discounts: Day-old bagels, by the half dozen, half-price. We bought some to freeze, as well as a tub of herb cream cheese.

Humble Bagel Co on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lee's Donuts: Like the Little Donut Shop I Grew Up With It

Growing up, there was a little donut shop by my elementary school. It was called Mr. D's Donuts, and it was owned by a really nice Korean couple who loved the kids who would come in before school to buy an early morning donut. For a while, it was a semi-regular stop on my way to classes, and I would sit at the counter and have a cinnamon twist or an old-fashioned and a pint of milk, reading a book, waiting for class to start. As far as I know, the donut shop is still there, though it's run by the next generation of that family, now.

I moved away, though, and had to settle for Dunkin Donuts in the college town I lived in after I left home. It has a certain mall food appeal: everything is exactly the same, at every Dunkin Donuts in every town all over the country. But, when we got to Eugene? No Dunkin Donuts. We went on a search for the Good Donut Shop of this town. I don't know that we've found it, but we have found one thing that bears mentioning here: the best apple fritter in the Eugene/Springfield area.

You'll find it at an unassuming little donut shop in West Eugene. We have to drive about 20 minutes to get there, so it requires a little advanced planning if we're going to have donuts on any given weekend morning, but it's SO worth it for the apple fritters.

They're absolutely huge, for one. A single one is well over a meal for one, with a cold glass of milk. Sometimes, they could have a little more apple in them, but I have almost never had a fritter so perfectly fried. It's doughy and delicious inside and has the perfect outer crust and light coating of glaze. When we go, I get two, because they save well enough to make a late night snack or a second day breakfast, and they lose almost none of their deliciousness after 12 or 24 hours, provided you keep the bag closed tightly. If you're a fan of this kind of donut, you should definitely go have one soon!

They also have ice cream, though we've never partaken. Inside, the shop is pretty much exactly a suburban donut joint, complete with a TV that is usually tuned to TNT, as far as I can tell. We always just take our donuts to go, and Mr. Lee is often nice enough to slip us an extra donut for the road.

Location: 1950 Echo Hollow Rd, in the same parking lot as Big Lots.

Hours: I think they close at 3:00 PM.

Lee's Donuts on Urbanspoon

Sidecar: You can't get "a decent bagel" in this town. Deal.

sidecarlogo.jpgAmong the many complaints I've heard about the Eugene food scene (lack of good Chinese food, Middle Eastern food, bars, etc.), one that's consistent is the complaint that Eugene lacks a decent bagel place. This isn't unique to Eugene -- I believe it is, in fact, a complaint that everyone west of New York City who's ever been to New York City utters at least once a month: "Where can I get a decent bagel?"

The truth is, nowhere. Once you leave the East Coast, you should say good-bye to your "decent bagel" standards and instead prepare to embrace the regional imitations you'll encounter in the rest of the country. These are all, essentially, bagels, in that they follow the same boil-and-bake standards of the East, but once you leave New York tastes change. Bakers feel a need to make up for their lack of cheap, blue-cupped coffee and smog by adding flavors. Their customers actually demand this. It comes from a lack of acquired taste: If you didn't grow up eating bagels, your first impression isn't "hey, here's a sturdy staple of my weekday breakfast diet." Your impression, instead, is, "This is a little plain." So in the Midwest, you'll meet the Cinnamon Raisin bagel over and over and over again; on the West Coast, please expect for reusable boxes of Oat Power Bagels and metric tons of Asiago Bagels.

In Eugene, it's not that much different. The bagels are oversized and overtopped at all five of the dedicated bagel stores in the area. Bagels are one thing that haven't quite been hippied up here, yet, so we still roll with the best of the West Coasters, throwing cheese or cranberries into everything.

Despite these five stores -- and a handful of other bakeries willing to try their hand at the bagel business -- the question remains open: "Where can I get a decent bagel?" If you're pining for the thick, chewy, palm-sized bagels of your favorite New York Deli, you can't get that here. Give up.

Your Suburban Bagel Stop: The Daily Bagel

Nestled into a loop of a commercial neighborhood just to the north of Valley River Center lives a little bagel store that badly wants to be your destination for flavored bagels and coffees. The Daily Bagel is attached on one side to The Cleanery, a busy drive-up laundry service store, and boasts a small concrete patio to the other side, allowing four tables to overlook two busy roads and a dentist's parking lot. Inside, there are about a dozen kinds of bagel and a dozen kinds of cream cheese awaiting your order, along with a menu that treats bagels like fancy substitutes for sandwich bread or hamburger buns, and an espresso machine and racks of sugary syrups that can create the coffee drink of your dreams with only a short wait.

All of this is to say: The Daily Bagel wants to be the suburban solution for your bagel needs, and it is a solid success.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quick bite: Allan Bros. Camp 13 Beanery

I stopped in at the new Camp 13 Beanery (so named because it's on campus at 13th and Agate, inside the Glass Castle that is the new Student Athlete center) for a quick bite at lunch recently. I had earlier sent two scouts (C & R) to check the place out about a week ago, and they reported back that it was modern, weird, and definitely served food.

All of that is true. It's a full-fledged Allan Bros. operation, with the same fare the Hilyard Beanery has on hand: coffee and espresso, pastries, quiches (4 selections at lunch today: three were vegetarian!), soups, and salads. What this one adds is a selection of pizzas and a handful of sandwiches that I can't remember seeing at the other places. There are vegetarian options galore, but also options like Thai Chicken Salad and your usual meat-eater pizza fare, with prices starting at about $4.95.

That's the food. Here's the weird: Most of the food is named for famous UO alums. So for lunch today, I had the "Leann Warren," a panino1 with three cheeses (cheddar, jack, and cream cheese), spinach, tomato, and pesto on a thin-crusted focaccia-type bread. Did it feel weird to order Leann Warren for lunch? You bet it did.

The sandwich itself was pretty good -- toasted to the point of drippy-melting cheese and not at all hard to eat. The cost, though, was a little alarming: good ol' Leann cost me $8.40, with a bottled soda. Eep!

150C1563-6F1E-4269-A39E-0164C65B2646.jpgThe place itself is definitely done in Nike Modern, which is to say there's the touch of money everywhere. The café is open to the lobby and has about 12 booths, half of which are two-seaters, all of which are strange modern drop-from-the-wall numbers. It was busy at lunch time but not quite overcrowded -- two small tables outside seem to signal that there will, eventually, be room for overflow outside. And I suppose one could take one's coffee and bagel to these odd couches around the indoor fire, if one was so inclined.

Final note: when I asked about the restrooms, the cashier warned me "not to freak out, because they are kind of scary." That's a pretty accurate assessment. The bathrooms have floor-to-ceiling frosted glass stalls with heavy, slow-closing doors; black, automatic sinks and toilets; and strange little LED light clusters in the blue-tiled walls. They also have a Dyson Hand Vacuum (or whatever it's called) instead of the oh-so-old-fashioned paper towels.

I think overall I'd rather spend $1 less for a sandwich than have a chance to use the "world's most hygenic hand-dryer," but that's just me. This would be a decent place to study in the middle of an afternoon, when the campus lunch crowd isn't around. It offers free wifi and two very shiny wide-screen Apple iMacs for those who can't bring their own.

Location: 13th and Agate, inside the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes.

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Sat: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; Sun: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Discounts: 10% off for students; $.35 cents off any drink if you bring your own mug.

1 It's panino if it's just one, panini if it's more than one. I know, I should adapt and "speak American," but this is one I can't let go of.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pub Food: Where to find it in Eugene

I read an article in the Guardian recently where a (possibly drunk) British writer tried to advise a British chef about what to serve in his newest pub. His list of ultimate pub food included miniature pies, rotisserie chicken, and some kind of suckling pig roast.

Nothing in Eugene is quite that fancy (or revolting, depending on your take), but there are certainly some decent places to go for good, greasy pub food. My list of requirements for good pub food is pretty simple:

  1. Decent fries. I like a pub fry that lets you know, "Hey, I've been fried." Pub fries aren't about the potato. They are about the crunch and the grease. My number one stop for these in Eugene is probably Villard Street Pub, where the fries have more than your normal outside skin of crunch, and where you can get a plate with cheese (and bacon) for about $4 during happy hour.

  2. Nachos. But not, ever, the cheese-from-a-pump nachos. I'm talking about real (not round) tortilla chips weighed down by at least one kind of shredded cheese and at least three of the following: pico de gallo, sliced olives, sour cream, guacamole, green salsa, fresh sliced jalapenos, or -- in a pinch -- fajita-style peppers and onions. (I am not a fan of diced raw onion). For non-vegetarians, I think crumbled beef chili is the most reliable pub-food addition to the nacho mess, though shredded chicken or beef seems to be popular, as well. Best bet in Eugene for these? If you want a decent margarita, nachos, and maybe a TV, the cantina at The Mission does a pretty good job. For more of a pub setting, Cornucopia's downtown location has a Macho Nachos plate that's very tasty -- but will set you back $12.

  3. Cheese sticks. Or cheese curds. Fried cheese is the child of nachos and French fries. It is what it is -- a tasty bundle of hot melted cheese in a crisp crust. It sounds like you can't go wrong, but oh, you can -- a few places in town (Villard, I'm looking at you) serve particularly flavorless cheddar inside very thin shells, which requires a dipping sauce to add any memorable taste. Good fried cheese should be a joy to eat -- and it shouldn't tempt you to simply nibble off the battered shell. For my money, the winner in this category is Hop Valley in Springfield, hands-down. They have a smoked mozzarella appetizer that combines a flaky outer crust with rich, smokey cheese. The marinara that comes on the side is unnecessary -- as well it should be. The whole plate runs about $3 at happy hour (4-6).

  4. Sliders. Ah, yes, well, I'm a vegetarian, but I do understand the concept of the bite-sized burger as a staple accompaniment to drinking. Several places in Eugene are happy to trot out a variety of these little guys, topped with all kinds of exotic toppings, but it is my understanding that the Bleu Ball Kobe Beef Sliders at the Eugene City Brewery are not to be missed. (Oh, for the days when The Vintage served grilled cheese sliders!).

What am I missing? There must be more to pub food, and more to Eugene, than these -- and I reserve the right to up-date this list as experience mandates, but of course.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tasty, tasty value: Taqueria Mi Tierra

Not too long ago, a friend of mine from the law school was bemoaning that she wasn't feeling well. She worried that perhaps she had eaten something at a local taco stand that had given her food poisoning. Somehow, this conversation, which happened on Facebook, evolved quickly into "Where are the best places in town to get good, cheap Mexican food?" Several places were mentioned, and I contributed a few. (Full disclosure: I am a complete sucker for Mexican food. I could eat it every day.)

The place that caught my eye among the recommendations was Taqueria Mi Tierra. It's just south of the Whiteaker neighborhood, attached to what I assumed was an affiliated carneceria. I read up a little at Yelp, then I sent the link to G plead my case for trying a new Mexican place.

You should not come here for the atmosphere, which is mostly vinyl tablecloths and a flat screen TV showing either soccer or telenovelas every time I have been here. You order at the back, often with the woman who will cook your food once she's taken your order. The menu is posted on hand-lettered posterboard pinned to the wall at your right. The big draw at the review site I found was the cheap, authentic tacos; many kinds are just 1.00 a piece, though you will pay a little more for the exotic meats as well as the veggie tacos, if that's your thing. One of these days, I'll try these, I swear. First, I just need to get tired of the first thing I ordered here.

My thing to order here is the taco salad. It's 5.00. It comes in a freshly fried flour tortilla. It is, however, not REALLY a salad. It's packed full of rice, beans, and meat with a generous portion of lettuce, vegetables, and slices of avocado, then dressed with sour cream and cotija cheese. It's really filling and delicious, and I have yet to be able to finish one by myself. It goes perfectly with the Mexican bottled Coke they sell in the cooler.

But, proof that best things are free, if you order more than 5.00 of food from this place, they give you freshly fried chips and delicious salsa for free! And every order comes with an assortment of sauces to dress your food as you would like. The best one is referred to by G and me as the Green sauce, both for its creamy green color and its flavor, which I would guess was some combination of avocado, cilantro, and lime. We have often gone through a third of a bottle during lunch, eating it on warm tortilla chips. It's delicious.

This is a great place. Not for food snobs or people who need a lot of refined atmosphere in their dining experience, but it's a perfect way to eat out for under 15.00 for two people. If you leave hungry, you did it wrong.

ETA: I have been back, and I tried the veggie tacos. They are also amazing, with a thick slice of avocado as the highlight of each one. God, I love this place.

Location: 632 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR

Taqueria Mi Tierra on Urbanspoon

The Joy of Gianduia: Lago Blu Gelato in Crescent Village

The other night, after Leftover Fiesta ended at our house, neither I nor C were particularly satisfied. "Do you want to get some ice cream with me?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, though the answer was pronounced the moment I said "ice."

Then began the debate of where to go. There were all the usual suspects: Prince Puckler's, Cold Stone Creamery, even TCBY came up. We mourned the passage of Baskin Robbins on nearby Willamette. We considered -- briefly -- the Safeway option. And then I remembered that we've been meaning to try Lago Blu Gelateria in Crescent Village for a while, and I suggested it. C was on board immediately, because he doesn't pass up an opportunity to visit The Ghost Town.

So we headed way, way north to Lago Blu Gelato. It's situated at the end of the strange, deserted little main street that is the heart and soul of Crescent Village, and it shares a space with Mezza Luna pizzeria. That's a fantastic piece of Italian design, right there: now you can have your Italian slice and your gelato, too, with an espresso at the end if you really desire.

18F3F45E-0C22-4AD0-A342-EFF9DDA5D079.jpgLago Blu itself is small and very much designed as a get-it-to-go ice cream shoppe. (There's ample sidewalk space outside, though, and already hints that this might become a seating area in the summer). The charm of this place isn't in its decor (which is modern, slick flooring with small wooden chairs and round two-person café tables -- nothing to write home about, but functional): It's the selection. There were about 30 flavors of gelato for sale when we visited, and this is apparently the norm.

The flavors ranged from typical -- vanilla bean, stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip), and a few kinds of chocolate (Swiss and triple) -- to the more exotic: Fresh Coconut, for instance, caught my eye, because it was the bright almost bleached-white that you'd seen in a real coconut's innards. For those looking for a completely Americanized experience, there was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Marshmallow gelato (which did, really, look pretty scrumptious). For serious gelato fans, there was a Gianduia (hazelnut-chocolate) gelato that looked divine, along with Spumoni and Tiramisu.

I went with Swiss Chocolate; C ordered the Dulce de Leche. They were both deliciously creamy and sweet; mine was particularly well-flavored. C liked his, too -- it had thick ribbons of caramel over the creamy, caramelly body. (As he was eating his, though, the server told a waiting family not to try the Dulce de Leche -- she said it was "pretty bland" that day. This is, I guess, a vote of confidence toward the assertion of "made fresh daily," even if it doesn't make me particularly optimistic about their consistency).

Two medium cups cost $8 -- much, much more than a comparable size at nearly any other ice-cream-type vendor in town. Then again, most places don't serve this much gelato this seriously. They hand out tiny plastic shovels to eat the treats with, and that somehow makes it last longer. Though they advertise espresso drinks, neither of us were tempted -- the place just isn't particularly welcoming as a spot to linger, and it's not feasible to eat ice cream and carry a cup to go.

They are (we found out after ordering) willing to split a cup, so that you can try two flavors at once -- meaning it would take a little less than three weeks, at one halved cup a day, to try all of the flavors. I, for one, would happily take that challenge.

Location: 2870 Shadow View Drive (North on Coburg; East on Crescent; North on Shadow View).

Hours: Monday - Thursday: 12 pm - 9:00 pm; Friday 12 pm - 10 pm; Saturday 11 am - 10 pm; Sunday: 11 am - 9 pm.

Lago Blu Gelato on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of Lago Blu Gelato website.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Big News Downtown: VooDoo Doughnuts Has Landed

This is not your mother's donut shop -- even if your mother is Portland. The legendary VooDoo Doughnuts has landed in Downtown Eugene, taking the space once (briefly) held by 20 East. That means you can now take your Cock-n-Balls to Kesey Square and snack at will.

Cock-N-Balls. n. Doughnut. Cock-n-balls shaped raised yeast doughnut triple filled with Bavarian cream and topped with chocolate frosting!

D45E9DC4-09F8-4A9C-A901-A10B28545B25.jpgWhen I visited last Friday, there was a man in a partial clown suit standing on the sidewalk outside the place, announcing joyously the order of every one of the above-mentioned confections to a crowd that included both hungry college hipsters and darling-shall-we-go-to-the-art-walk townies. The line ran from the small counter well out the door; this is still definitely a grab-and-go donut shop.

On the plus side, the menu board here is clearer than the jumbled mess in Portland -- perhaps because the owners sensed, correctly, that they might draw a fair number of the uninitiated to this new location. It's slightly less intimidating than the rushed downtown Portland location, too.

No word yet on whether the centerpiece of the VooDoo line -- the bacon maple bar -- will make an appearance, but I'll definitely report back on that soon.

Location: 20 East Broadway, Eugene

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. OR until they run out of doughnuts!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seeing is Believing: Ginormous Pancake Saturday at Addi's Diner

Last weekend, we went for breakfast at a diner we'd never tried before. The review for said diner promised "manhole cover-sized pancakes." The group's consensus (OK, mostly between R and I) was that this could not possibly be true, but that it did signal some larger-than-usual pancakes that should be checked out. (We value our pancakes).

So we trundled over the river to a tiny little diner decorated with old license plates and Elvis memorabilia to try out the pancakes of legend. The menu itself also promised that one wouldn't need more than a single pancake to end hunger; there are no short stacks at Addi's Diner. There's just the one hotcake, for $3.25.

I ordered just this, figuring (correctly) I could also swipe some food from C's plate if needed. R ordered a pancake, egg, bacon, and side of "pitiful lookin' biscuit" with gravy (the restaurant's words, not ours). C went with a Reuben burger and potato skins.

And, oh yeah, an appetizer: deep-fried battered bacon.

That, my friends, is an appetizer America should be talking about. Move over, please, KFC Double Down. This is a real gamble: crispy-battered, salty bacon, in strips so long they must have found extra stretchy pigs to make it. The guys both admitted there was probably some permanent heart damage being done -- but they said this while dipping the strips in the included ranch dressing, to cut the salt. Despite groaning and prediction of apocalypse, the bacon appetizer was one of only two plates that were completely cleaned by the end of the meal.

The bacon was followed by delivery of the pancakes. On platters. That they over-filled. "I'll just move over so there's room for your pancake," C said, with -- I believe -- a bit of awe.

The hotcake -- I'm told there is a difference between "pancakes" and "hotcakes" and "flapjacks," but haven't yet researched this -- was gigantic and dense. No amount of syrup (which came, warmed, in a glass bottle) seemed like enough -- maybe because the pancakes came with what must have been a quarter-cup of whipped butter melting on top.

I made it through maybe a third before I could do no more. R's pitiful biscuit (it actually looked quite good) with gravy was only half-eaten, too, despite well-flavored cream-sausage gravy. C managed to finish his Reuben burger, but I was left to devour his potato skins (which were really just that: skins, fried to crispy with only a faint juicy film of potato flesh still clinging to the curves).

This was a delightful, if punishing meal, and we all ate for about $8 each with refillable sodas. If we'd gone for coffee -- $.75 -- it would've been even less.

As we watched our leftovers get carried away, R asked, "Why don't we believe what we read?" We had, after all, been warned about the size of the pancakes.

We decided it was a combination of factors: the unlikelihood of the pancakes being that large; the opposite likelihood of people exaggerating in positive reviews; and our general consideration of our own appetites as extraordinary.

Sometimes, you just have to see things for yourself. We're all believers, now -- at least, I believe we'll go back pretty soon.


Addi's Diner: Springfield
Hours: 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
Price Range: Cheap! ($2-$8 for breakfast foods; $4-$10 for lunch. Great combos; huge portions).

Addi's Diner on Urbanspoon