Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ultimate hangover breakfast: Caspian Restaurant

So you walk into a restaurant called "Caspian Mediterranean Restaurant," and you see Mediterranean-ish food on the menu. What do you do? Probably the wrong thing: you order it. In so doing, you've already messed up. There's a right way and a wrong way to order at Caspian, and if you walk in expecting the restaurant to live up to its name instead of its decor, well, do you also think the Original Pancake House was the first one ever?

Caspian is a campus diner that does good business as exactly that: a diner. American to its core. Skip the exotic parts of the menu and focus on the things you'd order if the name was "Bob's" or "Tex's" instead of The Caspian. In so doing, you'll notice there's a double cheeseburger special available, with fries and a coke, for about $6. It will be made quickly on a grease-covered grill, possibly by a man whose name I don't know but whose prison sentence I've heard tell about and who makes (from all reports) a very mean, tasty burger. When he finishes cooking your meal, he'll probably go outside to smoke again. Feel free to join him.

Not feeling like lunch? Good, because the burger and reasonably crispy fries are all I know to recommend. Breakfast is where it's at here. Standard diner breakfast, the kind that sounds good first thing in the morning but better at midnight, after you've spent the evening investigating the campus-area bars. (Let's face it; after much time at Taylor's or Rennie's, Caspian looks like a dream come true). What do I recommend? Several taste sensations: first, the pancakes. They're made with real buttermilk, and sometimes, they're a little sour. That's the price you pay -- oh, wait, no, the price you pay is $2.95 for two large pancakes soaked in syrup and butter. They're available to go, and if you take them to class, everyone's going to want them.

Next, if you're a meat-eater, try the Bacon Maple French Toast. It's three thick slices of French toast covered in syrup, butter, and crumbles of actual bacon. I've yet to see someone order this only once.

The egg dishes are also pretty good, and here you can even get away with trying a Mediterranean variety. The Greek scramble, which comes with olives and feta, about a 1/2 pound of homefries, and toast, is a salty, greasy masterpiece that can take on up to a case of PBR in your stomach and win the battle handily.

The atmosphere here can leave something to be desired, sure. You have to fetch your own sodas and waters, find your own silverware, and bus your own table. If you sit downstairs, you'll have a constant stream of students trooping past, and you'll most likely sit at a table no one's yet had a chance to clean. Upstairs, it's quieter, usually, though further from the sodas. Never mind; drink the water. You probably need it.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Location: 863 13th Ave

Caspian Restaurant on Urbanspoon


  1. Woo Caspian!

    A few things to add:
    1) When you get the pancakes, you can add 2 eggs, 2 sausages, or 2 pieces of bacon for a buck. Splurge and get all three!

    2) The French toast is made with sourdough bread. It's tasty and amazing, but since someone of my acquaintances isn't a huge fan of sourdough, I thought I'd point that out.


    Sigh. I miss the Caspian.

  2. And the double-cheeseburger! Oh my god, the burger. Yes. Two greasy patties with american cheese slices and a soupcon of mayo... Buns toasted on the grill...

  3. I hope that one day I can try it out- sounds great

  4. Wow. It really sounds like you have missed the point of Caspian. And how could you not miss the point of Caspian if all you had was a burger and fries? :) Sorry to say this, but I've been eating there for over 6 years, and the place isn't and never was the way you describe it.

    The man you describe as merely an ex-con or a smoker has worked there for all these years and he knows that food way too well. If all you want to settle for is a burger and fries, good for you, but don't mistaken that for all that is good there or for their specialty. Ask him (or anyone who works there) about their Kebabs... or their chicken with grilled veggies over rice... or any of their Greek dishes... or burritos.

    Of course they serve typical American food, too, but to recommend pancakes or French toast at Caspian is like recommending someone to go to Rennie's for, say, a pasta dish... or to McDonald's for apples.

    I'm sure their burger and fries are amazing, but the place is, in fact, a Mediterranean-specialty restaurant, and I hope you'll get a second chance to see that at some point :)

  5. I go there all the time, Sabina, and I sewar I meant no disrespect in classifying them as a diner. (In fact, my intention was to defend them against the negative reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp!). But under your advice, I'll definitely go outside of my menu comfort zone next time I'm in (which is pretty often!).

  6. Pam and I get to visit Eugene once a year and one of our first stops is always Caspian for breakfast. Omelettes are great and there bacon infused french toast is off the charts. they also serve great coffee including expresso.