I was excited to read this morning about a new retail space opening far, far away from me in North Eugene. Then I put on my curmudgeon hat. Eugene, declared the owner of one of the new establishments, needs a gelato shop!
Actually, Eugene needs a gelato shop like that old saying about a fish and a bicycle. Eugene most emphatically does not need a gelato shop. We have at least two places that sell wonderful gelato, Sweet Life Pâtisserie, one of Eugene’s greatest treasures, and the upscale Market of Choice on W. 29th. Sweet Life’s gelato bar sells another of Eugene’s treasures, Coconut Bliss, the vegan, coconut-based iced confection that is the only ice cream substitute I’ll eat. And let’s not forget that Eugene also boasts some of the best fresh ice cream in the country, Prince Pücklers, milord of the ünnecessary ümlaut.
So enough already.
We don’t need another Pan-Asian restaurant either, another promised establishment. Spare us the indignity of another Paul Fleming Chang’s. Please. In fact, we don’t need another Pan-Anything. Seriously, does any small town in American have *more* Pan-Asian and Pan-Latin restaurants than we do? (I, for one, am kind of excited that the owners of El Vaquero, Red Agave and Asado are thinking of selling — just to stop more expensive Pan-Latin restaurants from propagating.)
You want upscale? How about a great, Japanese-run, experienced Japanese-cheffed sushi bar that serves fresh sushi. Not Pan-Asian. No Pad Thai sashimi. No bulgogi miso soup with sweet-n-sour pork nuggets. I’d even suggest holding the rolled-up abominations of seven kinds of fish wrapped in fake crab, doused in sweet sauce and deep-fried that have become popular at American sushi bars, but then everyone would shush my crazy talk.
Or branch out, if you don’t think the Eugene crowd can handle sushi alone (and newsflash: they can). Mix sushi with izakeya food, if you must. Japanese bar cuisine. It’s big in places like San Francisco now and totally delicious, totally authentic (basically) and simple food: boiled dishes, grilled dishes, deep-fried dishes involving just a few ingredients.
Or how about a Szechuan restaurant? It would be the first time a chili pepper set foot in Eugene. Someone who knew how to make authentic, beautiful, simple, non-MSG-poisoned Chinese food. I mean, dudes, that Fuchsia Dunlop cookbook has been out for AGES.
Or Belgian. Honestly. We have great beer and seafood and local beef sources. Belgian bistro food. Get us out of that repetitive French mode — and this is from someone who truly loves French food, but enough already. Surely someone knows how to make simple french fries that aren’t frozen and/or soggy here. Yeah, yeah, I know you like tater tots. Deal.
I won’t even suggest Ethiopian, but damn, Eugene needs an Ethiopian restaurant. We have to drive to Portland to get it. But I think it’s just too exotic for Eugene, unfortunately. And the ingredients would be just about impossible to keep stocked. So never mind.
But Persian! REAL Persian. We have a Middle Eastern grocery store now, Pomegranates, neare the Southetowne Shoppes. I’ve never met a kebab I didn’t like. They’re simple and easy to make — even kids like them. Meat served with rice and a tomato and cucumber salad. And tons of yogurt. We have a local yogurt company, Nancy’s, for goodness sake! Please!
Or just as yogurty and even less exotic and politically charged — Greek! Roasted fish with lemon and olives, variety rotating daily. Beautiful little dips. Lamb. Soups. I’m thinking Baltimore’s The Black Olive (who catered our Baltimore wedding party, thanks again to my husband’s parents!), and their grilled fresh fish, served simply with lemon and olive oil. Oh, and the desserts. God. So. Good.
Or salad. Big, huge beautiful salads that you can buy without dodging children and hot wings. I’m thinking of Café Intermezzo in Berkeley here. It’s not that hard, really. Yes — a café that sells hand-tossed salads with simple ingredients, simple sandwiches on Metropol baguettes, and perfectly prepared coffee drinks. That’s what Eugene needs.
We’re not all suckers hungry for a theme restaurant or something that’s supposed to be classy. We want good food, a variety of options, ethnic food prepared with the intention of authenticity, at least, and simple deliciousness. We’ll pay for that.