My first memories center around my hometown of New Orleans; yet I wouldn’t say I love all Cajun cuisine. Grits hold a special place in my heart – every gooey mouthful transports me back to breakfast at my best friend’s house. I can remember the Summer sun bobbing in the thick air and the steaming gold blob of butter running down the white mountain of food.
Crawfish were always a little bit too much effort for the pay-off, but I wouldn’t turn down a mouthful held out between my mama’s fingers, pecking at it like a baby bird and opening my trap back up for another round. Oysters were a slimy delicacy that I only dare attempt once I’d moved across the state line into Houston and came back for a routine visit to Kenner Seafood. I wouldn’t say oysters were my best friends; more acquaintances that could be called upon to impress a new friend in casual conversation.
I did love a good serving of jambalaya, even if it was a box (gasp!) of Zatarain’s. However, I never expected I’d be overtaken by an irrational need for jambalaya when I moved to Portland this year. I made it nearly 11 months without a thought of Southern cooking; then Mardi Gras rolled around and suddenly I could not shake the daydreams of cinnamon-loaded bites of Manny Randazzo’s King Cake, with the white frosting and sprinkles gushing out the corners of my mouth (Important note: not the stock cakes smattered with overly sugared dye you find at the grocery store).
Thankfully, I had a work trip to Bend and was absolutely delighted to see “Vegan jambalaya” on the daily special at Broken Top Bottle Shop. This place boasts food “for everyone,” and I agree; from the vegan/vegetarian plates to even a doggy rice bowl, you’re sure to find something to fit your dietary needs.
The Vegan jambalaya came out beautifully plated, with dashes of Cajun seasoning on the rim and a fresh splash of arugula and mixed greens. The topping added a healthy portion of veggies you probably wouldn’t find in an authentic New Orleans restaurant, but it married the traditionally Southern dish with the health-conscious Pacific Northwestern palate.
I would recommend a visit to Broken Top Bottle Shop and plan on returning there next time I’m in town. I usually don’t get dessert, but their vegan ice cream sandwich featured local dessert shop Bonta‘s coconut gelato and it would fool any vegan-cuisine scoffer (my dairy-loving co-worker approved).
I joyfully found myself in Eugene on business once more this past weekend. I gave Morning Glory Cafe a visit last time around but wasn’t impressed- HOWEVER, I did get about the most healthy item on the menu so I figured I’d go back and try out a specialty and they did not disappoint.
The Happy Morning Sandwich is vegan, reasonably healthy, and chock full of southern comfort of its own twist. What makes Morning Glory Cafe’s dishes unique is a hint of dill. A scratch-made biscuit enfolds a soysage patty, tofu patty, and a cream cheese spread accentuates the savory bread with their signature herb. Sensuous gravy smothers the side of cubed breakfast potatoes yet remains subtly salty.
The portions at the cafe are hearty, leaving you with a satisfactory follow-up meal. If you’re looking for a meal in a rush, do not go here. The staff is laid back and not in a hurry to seat you (I waited about 15 minutes after being asked by almost every waiter whether I’d been helped or not). This however is the charming part about Eugene as a community and can be partially avoided by going on any other day except Sunday.
It’s a pretty established fact that if you’re of the Vegan persuasion, Oregon is the place to go; this truth is what spawned a spur-of-the-moment holiday to visit a friend one February that would eventually lead to starting a new home in Portland, Oregon.
Not two hours south is a quaint hippie town called Eugene, home to some exceptionally stellar natural products established long before it was in fashion. Arguably the best vegan food you can find in Eugene is at Cornbread Cafe. The Food Network’s Guy Fieri’s autograph is found etched above the cash register as you first make your way through the brick hovel. It resonates an uncanny fifties vibe that establishes the home-cooked handiwork to come and sets your salivary glands into motion.
I frequently head down to Eugene for business and I’m not ashamed to say that every time I go, I know that I’ll be vistiing cornbread cafe for a plate of undeniably authentic vegan comfort food that hold its weight with the traditional form. If you don’t believe me take a look at the photo and imagine sinking your teeth into BBQ seitan that bounces back with the chewy consistency of a pork chop. Upon first bite, the savory gravy forming a welcomed pool above a snowball of mashed potatoes gently shocks your taste buds with a kiss of salt that will send you into ecstasy.
If that’s not enough, if you sit at the diner-style bar in front of the short order cook window, there’s a refrigerated box of sweet goodness ranging from coconut cream pie to cheesecake in a jar. I’ve yet to sample the desserts, but that’s what return visits are for!
Be sure to stop by Cornbread Cafe if you’re in Eugene- I’m sure they’ll make a repeat offender out of you to.