Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thanks for doing the dishes: Cafe Yumm

Let me answer for what may not even be a burning question at your house: Is it possible to like Cafe Yumm without loving their namesake Yumm Sauce? Yes, my friends. It is.

Let's back up and talk about the sauce: It's an "egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, and low sodium" sauce that, if the Internet's imitation recipes are correct, consists mostly of hummus ingredients, curry, and a lot of nutritional yeast. The combination is stunning and strong, as it's meant to be: it's a sauce that's supposed to be the star of whatever dish it tops, be it plain brown rice or a bowl full of beans and spices and relishes. It comes on almost anything you order at Cafe Yumm, because they know that it's what makes their otherwise easy-to-fix-at-home dishes something you'd leave your house for.

Yet here I am, someone who doesn't dig the special sauce, and I still get a Cafe Yumm craving from time to time. Why?

Mostly, it has to do with avocados and a little dish called the Chilean Zucchini Yumm Bowl. It also has to do with price and convenience. For about $5 I can get a large bowl with brown rice, zucchini-corn-tomato stew, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, avocados, cheddar, and olives. To make that at home, it would take at least an hour (if I made the stew and the rice simultaneously) and cost between $15 and $20 in materials. (Or less cost, if I make the salsa myself, but more time). Now, true, I'd have more helpings, but I'd also have many, many dishes to do, and many, many nights of eating the same thing ahead of me. Cafe Yumm solves that problem very neatly.

This is true of nearly every dish they serve. The basic Yumm menu item is a bowl (available in three sizes) with brown or jasmine rice in it, to which you can add beans (red or black), greens, sauces, and a mess of other condiments. All of the bowls come with cheese, avocado, tomato, sour cream, black olives, and cilantro by default, but since they're made fresh, you can leave off what you don't like. The same is true for the sauces, which include the Yumm variety and a fair number of other salad-like dressings, like Sweet Ginger Miso.

Those same dressings are often used to baste chicken, tempeh, and tofu cubes that are sold on skewers at the front. Or you can have them tossed with a salad, next to a bowl of one of the soups of the day. There are usually three or four, and there's almost always 2 vegetarian options, if not more. Chilean Zucchini is a staple, but trust me, it's better in a bowl with rice and avocado.

The Eugene and Springfield Cafe Yumm locations also usually have sandwich options available. I've seen the vegan Ruben in action, and though it wasn't a hit as a Ruben -- Yumm Sauce snuck in, and the tempeh wasn't really what my meat-eating companion was looking for -- it was at least a well-thought-out sandwich on its own merits. (There are also other sandwiches available, including some pre-packaged in their front cases. These are a mix of meat-free and meaty, with chicken and salmon usually the only non-veg ingredients in evidence. I can't attest to their quality, though, because I always want whatever the best avocado delivery mechanism is, and pre-packed sandwiches don't win).

In the mornings, most locations also serve breakfasts -- basically, Yumm bowls with scrambled eggs or tofu added. Most days, I'd gladly take that power breakfast, along with a mug of tea or an espresso to go.

Cafe Yumm is a franchise, and recently, it's been growing in our area (and in Portland). All of the local restaurants have the same look: wood floors, wooden booths, a splash of chiptole-colored paint here and there, a tiny flash of chrome. It's basically all done in eco-modern, and while it's not uncomfortable, it also doesn't encourage lingering. That's a good thing, because unless you go in the dead-middle of the afternoon, you'll find a line and perhaps difficulty getting a party of more than two into seats.

You can stop in at their largest franchise at the eastern corner of Franklin and Alder and find a seat any day of the week, or try the smaller stop at Willamette and 18th if you're in a hurry. There's a small store in the Oakway shopping center, too, next to Mio, and a very new Cafe Yumm out off of Delta Highway, near Gold's Gym and FedEx. There are also two Springfield locations: one is in the new gigantic hospital, and the other is on Gateway near Best Buy and Starbucks, if you're across town but need a hippie-food fix.

I say that with love, by the way, because ultimately, I do like these places. Cafe Yumm is essentially a fast food restaurant, with all the attendance up-pricing for convenience. It manages better than most restaurants in Eugene to offer good, wholesome food at a price and speed that doesn't make you want to run for the nearest Big Mac.

Hours: Vary slightly by location, but all stores are open at least 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays (except for the hospital location, which is open later on weekdays and only open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends).

Locations: Here we go:
  • Franklin: 730 East Broadway
  • Oakway: 130 Oakway Center
  • Willamette: The Meridian Center, 1801 Willamette St.
  • Delta Highway: North Delta Center, 1005 Green Acres Rd.
  • Springfield: The Crossroads at Gateway, 3340 Gateway St.
  • Springfield: Sacred Heart at RiverBend: 3333 RiverBend Dr.

Cafe Yumm! on Urbanspoon


  1. Weirdly, I didn't like the Yumm sauce on first or even second try, but now I really do like it. We even buy the big bottles from their restaurants and make our own bowls at home.

  2. Thanks for the review! You're right, there are a bunch of options for non-Yumm! Sauce fans. One of my favorites is an Edamame Bowl, minus deluxe toppings, and substitute Yumm! Sauce for Asian Slaw & a side of jalapeno sesame salsa.

    I'm also posting the link to your review via Twitter (@CafeYumm).

    - Kelli from Cafe Yumm!

  3. Anyone have a recipe for the Chilean zucchini stew?