Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Comfort Breakfast Club: The Glenwood

If you've been a student at the U of O since the Animal House era, you've most likely been to The Glenwood at least once -- and probably, judging by the Sunday lines, it was on a parents' weekend because the Glenwood is the place everyone thinks of when they realize that their usual breakfast haunt (be it Keystone or the burrito refrigerator at 7-11) just isn't quite nice enough to take Mom and Dad (particularly when they're paying).

The Glenwood has one of the most mom-and-dad friendly menus in town. Whether your mother is back on Weight Watchers (and thus drawn to entrees like the Oatmeal with Blueberries for $5) or your father is trying South Beach (and thus will be chowing down on Huevos Rancheros with a side of cottage cheese for $7), there's almost literally something for everyone at Glenwood. Spent your first year in college discovering the beauty of veganism? You can swap out the eggs for tofu under the Ranchero sauce and even get a veggie patty on the side. Spent last night getting so hammered that nothing but the finest in pig products will do? There are sides of thick bacon available; you can also order an espresso drink, even if Mom and Dad are sticking to Cafeto coffee, strawberry lemonade, or Coca-Cola.

Portions at the Glenwood are deceiving: the food comes on plain plates with no decoration, often heaped into little piles slid-right-off-the-griddle piles, but that first disappointing glimpse means nothing. There is more food in every order than you will need. Do not be fooled by the simple, slight-sounding "two egg breakfast." It may sound virtuous, but by the time you've paired it with their just-this-side-of-hashbrowns home fries (a small fist-sized pile of thin, chopped potatoes browned crispy on at least one side) and, say, a link of chicken-apple sausage, there's more on that plate than just two happy (scrambled, poached, fried, hard boiled, you name it) eggs. There's a stomach-sized meal.

The Glenwood boasts an impressive four full -- full -- pages of breakfast entrees, and they will and should catch your attention over the lunch and dinner specials. Though the entire menu is written in a ridiculous script font, let neither that nor the many choices dizzy you. Stick to basics: dense pancakes in four varieties, including sweet potato; forearm-sized omelettes stuffed with nearly any topping you can find in the Northwest (so, yes, avocados, but also smoked salmon, black beans, shrimp, Tillamook cheese, etc.); and eggs Benedict and Florentine. I'm reliably informed, by my own tastebuds and K's, that the Glenwood boasts the best Hollandaise in town -- creamy, just tangy enough, and, on the weekends, sometimes gone before noon.

Beyond the Hollandaise, though, you'll find plenty of comfortable food at comfortable (sub-$10) prices here. Nothing I've eaten there for breakfast, besides the Florentine, has really wowed me; I don't crave their specialities as I might others', but I know that the Glenwood will provide a consistently okay eating experience. Nothing on the expansive but cautious and familiar breakfast menu is a bad idea. Hazelnuts, after all, are good on (and in) pancakes and waffles, even if their addition no longer feels very creative.

Few places are as perfectly Eugene as Glenwood, in both of its incarnations. Then again, few places try as hard to embody Eugene in a menu as the Glenwood does, so that works out just fine.

The campus location has seating up and downstairs; choose upstairs for slightly better acoustics but often slightly slowed service; downstairs is great for people watching and constantly refilled water glasses. The Willamette location, when full, isn't the best for your most hard-of-hearing guests, but it has a bit of parking-lot-adjacent outdoor seating that's nice in the summer. Expect to wait at either location before noon on Saturdays and Sundays, particularly if it's parents' weekend. Locations:
Campus: 1340 Alder Street.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

South Eugene: 2588 Willamette St.
Hours: Weekdays: 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Glenwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shockingly good: El Super Burrito

Truth be told, I have eaten here three times in the last four days. Once, I told myself it was so that I could write this blog post and provide you with some photographs, but then I forgot my camera, and ended up eating here anyway. Twice.  I think I am officially obsessed with this place.

Once, it was Bene Pizza, and it was the cheeky, upscale awesome pizza-and-salad place I craved most often. But Bene went toes up not too long ago, and this place moved into their location. I giggled at the name and sign combination.  "El Super Burrito"has a logo that is actually a little donkey wearing a mask and a cape. It killed me every time we drove past, but I couldn't ever seem to convince G we should try it.

Yesterday he relented, and so we tried it! And it is my new obsession.  I think I have a new first love when it comes to cheap Mexican food.

First Meal:
G--chicken fajita burrito.  So yummy.  Everything grilled, including the interior vegetables.
Me--a ground beef taco salad (it was the daily lunch special, so it came with a drink and was just 5.00. Ridiculous. Really good.)

Second Meal:
G--Torta Cubana--this sandwich is a wonder. Friend chicken cutlet, carnitas pork, and a slice of ham. Tomatoes, chipotle mayo, slices of avocado, and sour cream. Copious meal for 5.00.
Me--Ground Beef Enchiladas--not overly wet. Not tubes of cheese. Tests like its component parts and not just a gooey mess. Also really good.

Third Meal:
G--Super Fries--french fries covered with a meat of your choice (carnitas, in this case), cheese, beans, and sour cream.  Ask to add tomatoes. They make a huge difference.
Me--Torta Cubana--Still yummy. I didn't put it down after I picked it up.

This place has served us six completely delicious and extremely reasonably priced meals, so far, and I have to say the real stand out remains the torta cubana.

ETA: On the weekends, they make a special hot sauce that is not to be missed.  I asked if they had a name for it, and they don't, so G and I have been calling it "weekend sauce." It's tangy, and tastes like the underlying ingredients have been roasted.  SO good.

El Super Burrito on Urbanspoon

Hours: Everyday, 8:00 AM to 8:30 PM

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Two Cheers: Three Forks Wok and Grill

The avalanche of groupon-imitators that began last summer has brought C and I to a near-stand still on eating. We have a basket full of coupons and can never decide where to go next -- in part because once we use one, we usually want to go back to that place immediately. Such has been the case with Three Forks Wok & Grill, a restaurant we frequently shop and study near, but not one I regularly craved, until a half-off coupon reminded me of the beauty of their sweetly-crunchy slivered almonds set atop coconut curry, jasmine rice, and tofu.

Three Forks is a Eugene-grown business that has semi-recently expanded from a single storefront in the Willamette south strip mall to a second location in the Delta Oaks area. It is also a regular participant in every festival that cascades through Eugene in the summer -- my first taste of their wares, in fact, was at the UO's Street Fare, nearly five years ago.

The menu here is eclectic and difficult to define except in the way that the sign does: all of the food is either grilled or cooked on the wok. Another way to describe this place: it's a local, pan-Asian Chipotle model.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Delightful, It's Delicious, it's De... vegan?: Divine Cupcakes

I have an apology to make.

I have tasted The Divine Cupcake's wares a few times before, but not under optimum circumstances. I've had them at food fairs three times: twice under a sun that's normally illegal in Oregon and once during a downpour no one was prepared for. I've also had them late in the day in a coffee shop, where they had been sitting in a plastic case that was probably left open for a few hours during the morning rush. Every time, I've been enticed by the flavor combinations -- real ginger in your gingerbread cupcake? Sure! -- and each time, I've been disappointed by a slightly dry cake under admittedly scrumptious frosting.

My apology is this: I have blamed veganism, and for this, I am sorry. I should, instead, have blamed the weather, the venues, and my own sorry supposition that it's ever fair to judge a food when it's out in the wild instead of on its home turf. These aren't Cheetos we're dealing with, after all -- they're sweet little baked goods. There is a certain required delicacy that must be respected.

So I went on safari to stalk the Divine Cupcake in its lair on 11th Street recently, and I've discovered that my earlier samples were, indeed, not representative. In fact, the cupcakes I tasted there -- and took home in a box -- were spongy, fresh, and rich in flavor. The choco-classic cupcake is dark and satisfying; the pumpkin chocolate chip was so moist as to put pumpkin pie to shame (or at least to bring it to mind). They actually stayed very tasty for two additional days, as we picked new samples from the refrigerated box.

My blood-orange cupcake on a more recent visit sung with notes of real fruit under its flat chocolate topping, and C's "Tao of Green Tea" cupcake (matcha green tea cake, green tea frosting) tasted like a cup of tea itself -- warm, rich, and strangely refreshing.

Like with most dining experiences, the atmosphere is key; thus, the extremely cute Divine Cupcake storefront is almost necessary to the experience. Walk in, and you'll find a pleasant coffee-shop front lounge, with a small couch and two matching armchairs, a few tables, and a four- or five-seat bar. Local art (some of it referencing cupcakes, and all of it for purchase) hangs on the colorful walls. Just past all of this lies the shop, where not only the cupcakes but all of the cupcake accoutrement is kept. There are cupcake accessories (tiny wooden sticks that say, "Happy Birthday!" for you to use at will), there is cupcake art, there are cute bags and lamps and virtually anything one would need to start a book group where no one really reads the book but instead gets together to eat sweets.

And oh, the sweets. They are displayed in a two-level case, and on my visits -- even late in the day -- there have been at least eight varieties on display, plus several others in the mini category. Cupcakes are available in two kinds: standard ($2.50 for a regular sized cupcake; $1.25 for a mini) and gourmet ($3/$1.50). The difference seems to be one of fanciness and imagination. Standards include chocolate, peanut butter, vanilla, fruit (banana, lemon, raspberry, etc.), and maple; Gourmet selections include red velvet, lime coconut, coffee, carrot, and mango, among others. Nearly all of the cupcakes can be special ordered without sugar or gluten or soy, but those in the case are only guaranteed to be vegan and organic (except on certain days, when there will be sugar-free or gluten-free guarantees -- see store or twitter for details). There are also drinks on offer: cappuccinos and lattes, using any kind of milk (cow included) that you can think of, European-style drinking chocolates, and a tea list that makes C get a little emotional (in a good way).

My only concern, having now gone native to experience the wild, divine little beasts in their natural habitat, is that it can be a little tricky to know what's what. Strangers from strange lands might walk in and find that only four of the eight cupcakes have labels, and if there's a crush of people (which, on Friday night -- game night! -- there certainly was) it can be difficult or embarrassing to have to ask for each flavor to be explained.

There are, however, kind cupcake guides to aid you -- and on every visit, there have also been many cupcake veterans to offer suggestions, too. This place is a magical, mysterious blend of everything Eugene has to offer: vegan tastiness, hippie culture, free wifi, and trendy little treats, all in one (biodegradable? I bet it is!) little paper wrapper.

Location: 1680 W. 11th, Eugene
Hours: Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 10-7. Notes: They also offering catering and advanced orders via their web site, and their baked good are available in a variety of shops around town.

The Divine Cupcake on Urbanspoon

Sidecar: Eat Charitably at Newman's and Chapala

Saturday night, C and I had the pleasure of attending a performance of Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor by the Eugene Concert Choir and the Eugene Symphony orchestra. While we waited for the show to begin, I noticed in our program that two -- and only two -- restaurants in Eugene are listed as sponsors of the choir. One of them, Newman's Fish Company, was the sponsor for the evening. The other, Chapala Mexican Restaurant, is, like Newman's, listed as a contributor of between $1,000 and $2,499 to the Concert Choir.

Since we live in a time when the arts are constantly under fiscal attack, and since we live in a community that likes to celebrate its efforts at keeping local business alive, it seems like a good idea to give some blogging high-fives to both of these places. Neither has yet earned a review from us, possibly because neither is a place that regularly makes my top ten favorite places to eat. (That's not because there's anything wrong with them; there's just a lot to eat in Eugene). Yet now, both places are on my list for a meal sometime in the near future. If they -- in hard economic times for restaurants -- found it in their hearts and wallets to support the creative arts, I can certainly find it in mine to support them.

What other restaurants around town are notable for their charitable work? I'd be curious to know, and happy to post a list, if people have suggestions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Refresh, Refresh: Back to Food Blogging

Has it really been two full months since I last posted it? It hasn't been two months of hunger, I promise, that's kept me from the blog. Rather it's been all the things that keeps one too silent -- work, namely, but also a bit too much fun in the downtime. I will again resolve (and usually fail a bit) to get back to work here! I have also, since we last talked, acquired a new camera and a new computer (because the old ones were stolen), and both of these shiny new objects have made me more mobile and more excited about traveling around in Eugene and checking out fun food. So, a menu. I'll get back to this, and I promise to cover, shortly, the following places -- with pictures, with tastes, with, perhaps, chimes in from friends. If anyone has any additional suggestions right now, I'm absolutely open to them -- and this is not an exhaustive list, just the items that I know I can and will cover soon, because I have been there recently and have something to say.
  • The Vintage -- Brunch
  • The Divine Cupcake
  • Three Forks Wok & Grill
  • Studio One, with particular attention to eggs benedict!
  • Ciao Pizza
Also, C and I have been throwing around ideas for the following, and would love to have input from anyone:
  • Best places to take visitors (the quintessential Eugene places AND the try-to-impress places)
  • Best Eggs Benedict (we're on a mission)
  • Best Struggling Restaurants
Thoughts? Comments? Helloooo? I'm sorry for the slowness. We'll soon return you to your regularly scheduled tastiness.