Scott Zeppa, EDN
“You can’t go home again,” is a cliche that is readily applicable in a number of contexts. It can be particularly salient in the world of bars, clubs, and restaurants. Today’s hot spot may become tomorrow’s cold sink, and the epicurean delights served on one enchanted evening may be replaced by barely acceptable fare the next. There are also a number of bars, restaurants, and live music venues in the Eugene and the ‘Tuck that I used to frequent in a previous life before that life had to change in a number of ways. I have begun the process of establishing my new relationship with the “scene.” But it’s been over two years since I’ve visited many formerly favored local venues. For a bar, club, or restaurant, that can be a lifetime with respect to the atmosphere, amenity, and quality of product, be it food, beverage, or entertainment.
It was in the frame of mind above that I read of the theft at Mac’s at the Vet’s Club at the end of July. Mac’s! That’s right, they had all those autographed guitars, what a shame! I thought to myself. They had a killer french dip, too. Maybe I should go back and check it out, see if it still rates. I decided on Tuesday evening, a quieter time, perfectly apt for sandwich investigation.
I arrived at @ 7:45 pm on a brilliant summer evening, and was pleased to find the place bike friendly and making ample use of the Veteran’s Hall porch space. The Veterans Hall is one of those stately, colonial, plantation-lite looking public halls, with the interior of Mac’s occupying about half of the ground floor. The interior was as I remembered, intimate feel, great bar, and a musical theme with an assortment of autographed guitars and other instruments adorning the walls.
All the other patrons were out on the porch, so I sat at the bar. I was promptly greeted, served my soda, and given a menu. For starters, Mac’s offers the typical (quesadillas, chicken strips) to the more bold and unique (oysters, bacon wrapped apricots). They also offer a standard array of salads, sandwiches, wraps, and burgers, many with a signature touch. Full entrees offer select preparations of chicken, ribeye steak, salmon, and oysters. Fish & Chips are also available, as well as Memphis Slim’s Mac & Cheese described by a few patrons as, “the ultimate.” I find the menu prices to be reasonable, but some poor college students may disagree. But I already had my target in mind, the french dip, now known at Mac’s as the Prime Rib Dip.
For red meat lovers, the french dip is the dream of sandwiches. Roast beef stacked between french bread with maybe onions, maybe swiss cheese, maybe horseradish depending on taste, and au jus. Au jus, that lovely fatty juice of the roast cookin’s! There simply is nothing like the melt in your mouth beefy, bready goodness of a french dip, period.My sandwich was crafted and delivered promptly with a side of potato wedges and garnish.”
The quantity of meat was substantial and the quality was excellent. The bread was soft, yet held up under dipping conditions. This puppy had the dip works, swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and horseradish on the side. The caramelized onions really enhanced this already satisfying sandwich, and the cheese was well melted and evenly distributed. The au jus was a little thin in my view, but certainly legitimate and very flavorful. The potato wedges really exceeded my expectations, too. Seasoned, but not overly so, and just the right density! They dipped well. This large sandwich, side, and soda ran $14. Completely worth it in my view, but not an everyday thing for the budget conscious.
After I made sure I wasn’t going to have to pan the food, I talked briefly with a few employees and regulars about what’s going on at Mac’s and how people feel since the burglary. They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays at 4pm, with minors allowed on premises until 9. Tuesdays are $2 Tuesdays (wells), Wednedays feature jazz and free wine tasting, and Thursdays through Saturdays Mac’s touts itself as Eugene’s “Home of the Blues” showcasing live entertainment.
Sara, a bartender/server who started right about the time of the burglary is a fan of the Wednesday wine tasting and recommends the whiskey cured prime rib. If it’s the same prime rib used on my sandwich, I can’t doubt her there. She said beverage specials are constantly evolving, and Mac’s offers a full array of house specialties, including the Mac’s Fizz. The secret apparently is emergen-C, but I don’t investigate such things anymore.
Long time (15+ yrs) patron self-identified as Madjim is more specifically a fan of $2 Tuesdays and the overall ambiance of the club. While Dylan Ficker, a chef at Mac’s for over 2 years, recommends Mac’s version of chicken piccatta and is a fan of the live entertainment and activity of Friday and Saturday nights. They all agree, however, that they are not going to let actions of the recent past, curb their enthusiasm for the future of the club.
“Things happen,” says Sara, “I’m maintaining a positive attitude and moving on.” Her sentiment is shared by all present.
Based on this experience, I have to think that maybe sometimes you can go home again, once in a while. I look forward to returning again on a Friday or Saturday night.