Notes from Ranty McRanterson, Eugene Curmudgeon, who shakes her fist at today’s world:
1) The grocery store bag hysteria is sweeping the nation. Yes, I do need a bag for the dozen things I have just purchased at your grocery store. Yes, I have a reusable bag, but I rarely use it at the grocery store. Yes, I know plastic bags damage the environment, and paper bag manufacturing pollutes. But I actually REUSE my plastic AND brown paper bags, and I NEED them in my efficiently run, eco-conscious domestic economy. I’m happy to pay a few extra cents for them, if necessary. I am not happy to be chided at the grocery store for using them. I am also not happy to have all my groceries stuffed so full into one bag that I can’t lift it by the handles, just so I can save another bag from extinction, like a spotted owl or something. I am also even more not happy to have to tell the clerk to rebag my groceries so I can carry them. Am I alone in this? This happens at all our local markets (not just Market of Choice), and it drives me crazy.
2) Dear gyros establishments in town, thank you for existing, but please put more garlic in your tzatziki. As in put SOME garlic in your tzatziki. We can handle it, I promise. And no grated cheese. Ack.
3) Bought my first tayberries of the season at Lone Pine Farms the other day. The prices! OMG!! Even worse than strawberries. Looks like it’s U-Pick for me this year. Good news is that strawberries, on their way out, are being discounted at some local farms. Thistledown has Bentons and Shuksans. Lone Pine thought it has Shuksans (it did, from the looks of it) but had no idea what kinds of raspberries it was selling. Time to get on that — people are asking.
4) On my way home from the airport, I spied a Thai food cart way out on Hwy. 99. Ubon Thai is like a cry in a desert — why so far out of town? Haven’t checked it out yet, but the menu and hours are posted on Craigslist. Craigslist?
5) Bar 201 recently took a debilitating hit; will it survive? I was sad to hear bartender and cocktail menu developer Richard Geil left for understandable reasons and is now manning the bar at Café Zenon. Good thing for Zenon, as I was recently horrified by a friend’s “Old Fashioned,” served with scotch. Bad thing for 201, since no one else seems to know how to make a standard, much less a creative cocktail. What a shame. And “Dressed to Kill” ladies night, with prizes for the best dressed barfly? Ugh. Well, maybe it will distract from the drinks. But a rather bad PR move for female customers who want to enjoy a cocktail without having their bodies mauled by prize-giving eyes. Jesus Christ.
6) I’m getting irritable, as I always do writing about Eugene’s dining scene, so…Dickie Jo’s. My husband, who doesn’t mind it, was spot on when he said it was a restaurant designed on a spread sheet. Simplified menu, cheapest ingredients possible that still allow the gold star of keeping the ‘premium’ label, highest prices possible. Soft-serve instead of real ice cream for the shakes, high school sweat shop labor, thin burgers that encourage ordering up to a double patty, etc. The faux 50s diner branded with “Westraunt Concept” absolutely repellent. Someone stop these people.
“There’s no pickle on the menu so I couldn’t order a burger,” I said grumpily, when the weirdly hovering owner came over with my iceberg and blue cheese salad, noting aloud that the lettuce wedge was too big and needed to be downsized.
“You have to ask for them,” he said. “They’re the best pickles in town. All natural, with no lactic acid. And the secret code for getting double pickle is to tell the cashier to ‘hit it twice.'”
Lactic acid is crucial in the fermenting process of “all-natural” pickles made with brine, and I hardly think his pickles are better than mine. But whatevs. I was more interested in way the West Brothers are appropriating the In-n-Out concept. For those of you who haven’t had the joy of living in Southern California, In-n-Out is a local chain/cult. You can read more about it here, on one of my fave food blogs out of Portland, Guilty Carnivore. The red and white color scheme, the “secret menu,” the limited options: all In-n-Out. The huge difference, of course, is the prices. Westronauts, take note: a double burger at In-n-Out costs $3.50. Dickie Jo’s charges double that. You’re charging WAY too much, even for Eugene, which is used to getting reamed for mediocre food.
My iceberg wedge was saturated in blue cheese dressing, the burgers were decent but greasy, and the garlic fries were soaked in oil and a little bit of parsely and garlic. (There’s no need to add more oil when you toss them with the garlic topping.) A pickle, I’ll admit, when brought to the table after my grumbling, was pretty good, though I think I detected some lactic acid in there.
Meh. Am I just bitter about another burger joint in Eugene when our dining scene so desperately needs diversity? Perhaps. But the last thing we need is an independent local business that acts like a chain, and a pricey, gimmicky one at that. Some of us are really, really tired of “fun” dining concepts and being treated as unsophisticated chumps. Feel free to disagree. My dollars are going elsewhere.
6) The good news is that just a block away, a little slice of heaven has burst from the clouds, and drifted down into my coffee, dreamlike. Vero Espresso House, on the corner of 14th and Pearl, is the opposite of EPIC FAIL. It’s a cute renovated house, with great coffee (Stumptown) prepared well, and cozy indoor and outdoor seating. There is a limited menu of pastries, cookies, panini and soups. According to the barista, the menu’s in flux, so expect some new sandwiches (e.g., roast beef) and a more stable soup menu (i.e., set days for specific soups) soon. I’m a huge fan already.