First Impressions of Cocktails and Dinner at Eugene’s New Bar/Restaurant, Rye

Rye on March 15, 2012, about 8:15 p.m. - the night after opening.

This is not a review.

Seriously – Rye opened last night (March 14, 2012), and so I don’t think it’s fair to write more than my first impressions. Also, I don’t eat meat, so that means no reviewing of a restaurant like Rye. That said, here’s how it all went down this massively rainy evening in the gloriously green and pink Eugene – complete with hell of blurry iFon photos (I’ll work on the food p0rn for next time, people):

First of all, I had a Wry at Rye – I mean, I could not resist. A friend with us and two different servers made sure to tell me how to spell Wry. (“I am aware of that,” I said each time with an increasing lack of wryness.)

A Wry (rye whiskey and ... some apértif that I forgot to write down even though I thought I did) at Rye. Tasty, tasty, TASTY.

Readers, that cocktail was seriously good. Also, seriously filled with alcohol. I drank it during the course of an hour as we waited for our food and ate our salads (er, not the fastest service ever, there, Rye, but it’s only your second night, so I am not too worried), and I was still slightly loopy near the end. My dining companions had a Mai Tai (which we were informed, at a rather hilarious length, by the owner/drinks inventor/researcher Wendy Watson, was more like the Mai Tai that Trader Vic himself actually invented something pineapple juice something something not too sweet etc. (I zoned out even though it’s interesting enough that I hope Watson will do a Q&A for this site about the cocktails); a Red Hook (not the beer, but the drink – so good, but a tiny bit too sweet for me); and … a “that pink chick drink.” I’m not kidding you; that’s the name of the drink. Check out the bar menu.

I don’t know what’s in it other than that it’s sweet because Watson, my friend who ordered it and maybe one of the other owners got involved in a discussion about how that pink chick drink came about – apparently the other bar/restaurants in town each have a sweet, often pink drink for women, so the Ryesters decided to develop one for their own restaurant. Which, OK. I didn’t taste that pink chick drink or the Mai Tai.

My dining companions are all meat-eaters. Rye, as I’ve said above, is a restaurant for them. Here’s the menu – poutine, potted meat, meatballs, pan seared duck* … Yes, there’s one vegetarian entrée, and there’s one substantial, yummy-looking-but-for-the-parsley quinoa salad on the menu right now, but I don’t think the hearts of the chefs beat for good vegetarian food the way they do for good meat.

Which is fine, if that’s what you like – and I suspect some of you do, right? Not to say Rye can’t do vegetables. Before the main course, three of us had beautiful all-greens house salads, and one of us had a warm goat cheese/greens/roasted beets salad that looked divine, but I forgot to get photos of the salads.

Here are the three meat dishes my friends ate for dinner:

Cassoulet

1. Cassoulet (left) – apparently the boudin blanc was fantastic, and the meat-eater having this one liked the duck as well.

Under the pork chop were ... hm ... some garlic-and-something "mashers"

2. Bourbon brined pork chop (right) – there was some oohing and aahing over this one, and it was mostly gone before I’d had five bites of my own meal.

Pasta special with steak

3. And the pasta special of the night (left). I stopped listening when the server said “steak,” so I’m not sure what else was in it. My friend said it was marvelous, and she was smiling a lot while she ate it, so that’s the info I have to give you.

Mushroom and tempeh ragu over rice

Meanwhile, over in the vegetarian corner of the table, I had the mushroom and tempeh ragu over ricebecause even though I’m not a big fan of ragus/ragouts, it is the vegetarian entrée until the menu changes with the season. This ragu contained mushrooms (portobello and porcini) and tempeh. The mushrooms were great; the tempeh needed to be cooked separately (perhaps crisped up a bit) before it got added to the ragu; and the whole thing was rather peppery. I’d go with one pinch less pepper and one dash more salt.

Then we ordered dessert – though we practically had to beg for a chocolate menu. (Note to Rye: You are not a super secret society. It’s OK to give your customers info on what’s in the drinks on the menu and also to give patrons the dessert menu instead of waiting for them to ask for it. Upsell, right?)

Full disclosure: I know the guy who made the desserts. So what I say after this may not be trustworthy. Now:

oh

my

god

that crème caramel was good. I had three little tip-of-the-spoonfuls.

Crème caramel and chocolates (and sugar bowl for the coffee - we didn't eat that) at Rye, March 15, 2012

I also had a Haystack chocolate, and we split an Almond Butter Cup. Because I’ve had the chocolate guy’s chocolates before, I knew what to order, and I was happy with dessert.

The bill came to $172 with tip, so $43 apiece. We all had drinks (two people, not including me, had two drinks), salad, entrée and dessert (though the desserts were not very spendy). I felt like this was expensive for me, but in general it’s a pretty good deal – and both the pasta special orderer and I took home half of our meals for lunch, so it’s an especially good deal.

***

Here’s a link to (my former student!) Addie Bash’s article in the Register-Guard about the three owners – Wendy Watson, Jeff Passerotti and Kiyallah Heatherstone – and the opening of Rye, and here’s Rye’s Facebook page. When I posted to Facebook that I was going to Rye, a friend in Louisville, Kentucky, posted that she had just eaten at Rye in Louisville. Looks like another excellent one for the meaties.
Rye in Eugene is at 444 E. 3rd Ave. (go down High; turn right on 3rd Ave, or I guess you can get there from the Ferry Street Bridge – bike parking is noticeably lacking, but I hear the chef’s a bike-rider, so maybe it’s on its way?). It opens at 4 p.m. every day but Sunday and closes at midnight except for Friday and Saturday, when you can get drinks and food until 1 a.m.

*The duck is a “Liberty Duck” from, I guess, a local farm called Liberty Duck? Not surprisingly, a Google search for “Liberty Duck Eugene” turned up a lot of UO sports sites, not the farm. But I will track it down. Our friend who knows this said, “And [the dessert chef] joked that they were being liberated from life.”

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