Eugene Eats: Membrillo Latin Cafe

I have always enjoyed trying new things as well as new foods.  I inherited the trait from my dad who would always encourage my brother and I to “try something new” when we were out to eat. My dad would always encourage us to never eat the same thing twice. At the time I would want to order my favorite dish, but now looking back, I’m grateful. Growing up, my family almost never ate at chains or “American” food restaurants. Instead my palette was exposed to exotic Indian curries or spicy Thai food dishes. I thought this was normal to be exposed to ethnic and international cuisines. That was until I moved to college where some of my friends had never even tried pad thai or ventured outside the land of burgers and fries. I am so lucky to have grown up in a “foodie family” and have been able to try new international cuisines.  I often think of my dad while out to eat and his “trying something new” phrase sticks in the back of my mind.

I am not that familiar with Latin American cuisines, but ever since watching the movie “Chef” I have wanted to try Cuban food.There has been a lot of hype around a new Latin cafe in Eugene called Membrillo. Yelp reviews rave of the unique menu options and deliciously prepared specialties. Today I went with my roommates for brunch and was blown away by the unique flavors and cozy ambiance.

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I ordered the Picadilla, which is a traditional Spanish and Latin American dish(see picture above). Membrillo described it as a Latin sloppy Joe. It is a “tomato braised ground beef sofrito and potato hash + two sunny eggs & toast”. I have never had anything like it before-it was mouth-watering.  The meat mixture had green olives, beef,  and a spicy chili flavor. When the waitress was describing it, I thought it would be a little heavy in the morning, but was surprised it was actually very light and was perfect drenched over a potato hash. The runny sunny side eggs on top were a great flavor combination.

I went with my roommates and everything from the steak and eggs, to the latin omelette, to the dulce de leche latte, was delicious. By far one of the most unique and flavor breakfast places in Eugene. The only down side was that there are only a few vegetarian breakfast options.

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Tortilla Espanola, Photo: Jenna Barasch

Membrillo was also a great experience because of the laid-back ambiance and friendly service. The chef and owner came out and greeted us once we were seated and gave us some menu recommendations as well as background on the restaurant. Never before have I had the chef of a restaurant come personally introduce himself. The chef, Cory, grew up in Miami where Cuban cuisine was, and still is, popular. After working at a local brewery-Falling Sky, he broke off to start Membrillo. Also all of the ingredients at Membrillo are fresh. While we were finishing up our meal we saw Cory, the chef, come back with a giant container of fresh vegetables from the farmers market that was happening across the street.

In addition to the traditional Latin fare, Membrillo has a very personal, cozy atmosphere, There are only a few tables and you are seated very close to the kitchen. It feels more like you are in someones dining room rather than a restaurant. It has the true “cafe” feel. The hand painted ceramic coffee cups, cute yellow quince logo, and small cozy atmosphere add up to a quirky Eugene hot spot.

Honestly, I can’t wait to go back and ‘try something new’!

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