Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Double-Burger-Feature: Cornucopia.

Eugene is a city of interesting dynamics.  You have a city that on one hand is known for its politically progressive leanings, and on the other hand is closely associated with mega-corporations Nike and Weyerhaeuser (who are not historically known for left-friendly policies).

It's a city that is known as a training destination for the worlds most promising distance runners, yet, as Lane County is also famous as a grass seed producer, many runners have a hard time training at all in the spring because of allergies.

So, it shouldn't have surprised me to see this week that Cornucopia, a business formerly only known to me for its vegetarian,vegan, and/or organic food items available at various local coffee shops and delis, was the winner of this years Best of Eugene Best Burger selection, but it did a little.

I have a deeply ingrained subconscious opinion, that although proven wrong on myriad occasions, forces me to be immediately skeptical of foods that are healthy, natural, or organic.  For some reason, when I see "all natural," or "organic" on an item's description, I immediately assume that there has been some essential flavor left out, and the food is going to suffer.

Of course, this feeling is total hogwash.  Often organic foods not only taste better, but you get the added benefit of having the satisfied self righteous smugness only found by doing the environmentally conscious thing, which is great.   

As it turns out, Cornucopia is a restaurant equally well known for having dynamite food as for its commitment to environmentally friendly practices and the healthy food.  Who would have known?

With that I move to the burger... err... burgers.  I had previously committed to some of my major supporters that at some early juncture I would try the "vurger" at Cornucopia, because it is, as far as I know, the only in-house hand-made vegetarian burger in town.  Thus, purely in  the name of science, this weeks review is, as the title suggests, a review of not one, but two different burgers (there was no way I was going to pass on a beef version of the "best burger" in Eugene).

Cornucopia uses free range beef grown locally at the Knee Deep Cattle Company without hormones or antibiotics in its hamburger patties.  The handmade "vurger" patties are made from fresh, locally grown tempeh that has been "seasoned to perfection."

I ordered a Big Boom Swiss and Shroom Burger (beef), and a Voluptuous Verna Vurger (veg).  The Verna is a tempeh patty with standard cheeseburger fare, while the name says it all with the Big Boom.  Both come out in a basket with a pickle and a generous portion of seasoned fries.

The fries were  crispy and tasty, but seemed like they just as easily could have come from Arby's as a sit-down; they were my least favorite part of the meal.  They have this orange seasoning coating on them that just seemed cheap.

As for the actual burgers, both were very good, but neither came very close to the high bar that had been set by my expectations of the "best burger."

I am not being totally fair to the "vurger" here because really it was quite tasty and to have had any expectations of it was probably a bit misguided on my part, but it just didn't knock me out.  Everything was super-fresh, and hot, but something about the tempeh... meh.  It was seasoned well, but the flavor just isn't... well, it just isn't a burger.  I genuinely thought coming in that the "vurger" was going to knock me out, but it came short of that.

If you are a vegetarian (or vegan, or neither), and have an opinion leave it in the comments as I am clearly not an optimal judge on the issue.

The beef burger was also really good, but not the cold-killer I would have expected a "best burger" to be.  I get the feeling that the beef patty with the standard fixings would have been really, really good (and probably warrants a re-do fairly soon), but the mushroom-swiss combo fell flat.

The actual beef was great, but the mushrooms were limp and not terribly flavorful;  the whole thing just seemed a little flat.

Cornucopia is clearly good eats, and they have a very good beer selection.  Unfortunately, through no fault of Cornucopia's, I came in with very high expectations, and felt a bit let down.  If you haven't been there, I recommend it, but go expecting a very good burger, and maybe not the "Best Burger."

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  1. Not the best burger in town, I must agree.

  2. Which burger is featured in the EBB Photo?

  3. That is "The Pub" from The Jackalope Lounge.

  4. You probably think McDonald's makes a better burger. You're nothing more than a wannabe.

  5. TOO OVER AN HOUR TO GET A SIMPLE HAMBURGER. Not worth $12.95. 28 minutes to take our order. Had to get up twice and go to the bar to refill water glass. Ordered simple burger fries, 48 minutes to get my order. IT WAS NOT BUSY AT ALL. NO MORE THAN A DOZEN PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE RESTAURANT. It was a Tuesday night and there is just no reason for that kind of service.