Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen
400 Blair Blvd
Eugene, Oregon 97402
I’ll go a little easy on this one, what with the owner passing away not too long ago and all. But I still have to maintain my journalistic integrity (huh?) and warn you not to expect anything approaching the 5-star rave reviews that this place tends to get online.
First a nitpick: This place opens at 12 noon. If you arrive at 11:45, the door will be locked and everyone inside will studiously ignore you. (Oddly, you would think they might look up from what they were doing when they heard and saw someone at the front glass door trying to open it, but you would be wrong.) OK, that’s fair. you’ll come back later. If you come back at 11:59, the door will still be locked and everyone inside will still ignore you. Go shopping at that red barn-ish health food grocery store for some tempeh and come back much later…Uhh…Would it have killed them to open the friggin’ door for me, oops, I mean you, at 11:59? Nevermind. Onward!
Service: On the day I ate at Papa’s for lunch, the table area was covered by two metro-sexual types who chatted up a storm with each other. Back and forth, on and on, loudly talking to each other across the room. It was like a cliched off-Broadway show that would only run for one week. I expected them to break out a “you go girl!” at any moment. When my server did take a short break from the festivities to actually serve my table, he was fairly attentive and friendly.
Decor: I suppose this is the main reason for this place getting such high star reviews. The atmosphere is super cool. Yes, cooler than Cornucopia even. It’s sorta southern and sorta run down but not actually run down. Oooo…look at the mason jars they use for drinks! We’re getting a real southern experience here, Buffy. (Explanation: It really does feel cool, but it also feels like a very “planned” and slightly Disneyland-ish version of the south. I don’t know…Maybe I am getting too cynical in my old age?)
First problem: Is this really smoked BBQ? My gut tells me it’s not really smoked but rather cooked over a grill with charcoal or whatever…like a couple of college kids might do on the balcony of their apartment with a grill and some Kingsford briquettes they bought this afternoon from Safeway. It does not taste at all like slow-cooked BBQ that uses wood for heat.
Second problem: Since when is BBQ brisket served with sauce dumped over the top?! My brisket was barely visible under the tsunami of sauce with which it was smothered. For once in my life, or at least on this website, I am not exaggerating. This is just wrong. (I would make the same comment regardless of the taste of the BBQ sauce, but to add mild insult to psychosomatic injury, their sauce is just so so. Very vinegar-y and seems like it has not been aged more than 5 minutes. Maybe this is a Louisiana thing? No idea, but it ain’t workin’.)
Third problem: Massive slabs o’ fat. My brisket was probably 2/3 white blubbery fat and 1/3 meat. The meat itself was also laced with plenty of fat making it very soft and mushy. For me and my snooty Texas brisket attitude, it was completely foreign. Brisket should have the fat trimmed off it to some degree, plus the meat should be firm and maybe even slightly on the dry side. The meat should also taste like the wood that was used to smoke it.
I finished about 1/4 of the brisket and could not stomach any more. My chatty server was very unchatty when he saw the plate.
Summary: I feel kinda bad about this review, but if you are looking for authentic smoked ribs or brisket, then lower your expectations a lot, enjoy the atmosphere…or look elsewhere.