So a couple of months ago, rumors hit my Facebook world of a vegan yogurt place that was opening near the Chipotle on Coburg. I'm from the Midwest, and though I have a soft spot in my heart for a lot of vegetarian fare, veganism is a little more advanced. Vegans are thin on the ground in Kansas, as you might suspect. I'm sure I have eaten vegan, though only by accident, and as a lifestyle choice, it would require that I give up pretty much everything I enjoy eating. I could give up meat, if I had to, but dairy? Honey? Perish the thought! I've seen vegan desserts in many places around town, but I am just....wary of the notion. A vegan cupcake? Really?
But, as it turns out, Vanilla Jill's isn't only vegan, although they do have dessert options for your favorite animal product-shunning diner, unlike most ice cream joints in town. They are actually weighted toward the dairy-consuming pretty heavily, and I felt immediately at ease, among my dairy-eating people.
We stopped in on a very rainy day in late May after several abortive attempts to get late night yogurt. G is a reluctant yogurt eater, and I am an old pro, though my experiences were mostly with chains like TCBY. Vanilla Jill's is REALLY not TCBY, and that's a good thing. The couple who owns the place is sweetly enthusiastic about their new venture, as they should be, and if the place isn't too busy, glad to offer tastes of all the yogurts. They have vanilla (of course), chocolate, a flavor of the month (Strawberry), a yogurt made with xylitol, and the vegan option--a coconut lime flavor. There also was, if I recall, a sweetened brown rice dish which would also be vegan.
I opted for something, anything, that would let me try the delicious looking fresh strawberries on the topping bar, and ended up with a small strawberry shortcake sundae: vanilla yogurt, sliced strawberries, pomegranate syrup, and little cubes of possibly-homemade vanilla cake. G opted for a turtle sundae: vanilla yogurt, Dagoba chocolate syrup, caramel, and nuts.
The verdict: I won the ordering war here. The vanilla yogurt itself, while tasty, has a tanginess that G and I agreed went best with fruit. It was harmonious with the strawberries and syrup, but it clashed with the chocolate and caramel. It's possible that the chocolate yogurt would fare better, but that will have to wait for another trip. I have since found their Facebook page, and I'm thrilled to know that the owners buy as much of the fruit for the topping bar at the Saturday Market as they can.
Vanilla Jill's is a charming local business worth checking out. They seem committed to keeping Eugene dollars in Eugene by using local produce, and I think that's worth supporting. Let me know if you have the brown rice dessert, and if it was good!
Location: Behind the Chipotle on Coburg Road in the Coburg Station shopping center.
Hours: They close MOST nights at 9ish (so says their sign), but weekend nights (Friday and Saturday) they're open until 10ish.