This is not the story of an orthodox Philly cheesesteak nor is it the story of a modern one. There was no Cheez-Whiz-like goo or quail eggs (ahem, Bourbon Steak). This is the story of a simple cheesesteak perhaps more Northwest than Philly. It is an anecdote not a review.
Cornucopia, 5th Street, downtown Eugene. Wednesday April 18, 2012. 2:30 p.m.
I took a seat at the bar, no menu necessary. I was here for the cheesesteak. The gatekeeper obliged, putting my order in. Six minutes later it arrived. During the interim she helped me pick a beer. It’s not something I’m accustomed to. With a slight allergy, all I can take is one beer. But it was “Philly and a Brew” day, and I couldn’t pass up the deal–I am, after all, a college student. When I explained the situation, she intuitively moved to one side of the tap explaining which beers had the least barley. Drinking has always been a bit of an adventure here. Once, I was explaining to my waitress how dirty I wanted my martini. She responded, “Don’t worry, hun, I’ll ring it in as ‘slutty.’ That should do the trick,” and with a wink she was off. This time I went with the less risque option: Oakshire Meandering Monk.
In an effort to be semi-healthy I had (sadly) substituted salad in place of fries. When my not-so-Philly Philly arrived, it did so with fries. I stared at it awkwardly, wondering if it was fate, if I should just eat the fries. My server saved me the dilemma, whisking away to the kitchen for my missing greens.
There it sat, my favorite sandwich: A house-made hoagie brimming with dry-aged steak, half-cooked peppers and onions, and white American cheese oozing out the bottom, coagulating on the paper-lined basket. The beef, aged as it is, can’t be sold in stores because it will go rancid too quickly. The cheese, though unorthodox, is the highlight of the sandwich. It holds no secrets; it’s simply American cheese. Its gooeyness holds everything together both literally and figuratively. And the veggies, they’re fresh, which makes all the difference.
The most popular section of the menu at Cornucopia is the burger section. There are many great finds, like the Wild Bill, which comes with barbecue sauce, cheese and bacon. Cornucopia goes through about a cow’s worth of meat a day between its three locations. Its Oregon-raised cows are grass-fed says Katie who is both a bartender and the owner’s daughter. She says one of the reasons Cornucopia’s burgers and steaks are so flavorful is that the cows are herded by dogs, which is less stressful than being herded by humans. In the Philly, the meat is rightfully unseasoned; full of flavor but not in the form of grease. One can’t live on cheesesteaks alone, but if one could I’d recommend Conrucopia’s.