Café Yumm! has it down. Once a typical college town eatery, it has now turned into a viable franchise supporting six thriving locations with a business plan to include 50 more in the next five years. Founders Mary Ann and Mark Beauchamp have been able to blend their crunchy aesthetic of serving rice and beans in a variety of combinations with a modern, PC atmosphere appealing to everyone from the latent hippy to the blatant yuppie.
From its user-friendly, aesthetically-pleasing website, to underwriting Eugene's public radio station, to creating food that infuses the Deep South with the Far East, Café Yumm's concept comes close to what most say is impossible - pleasing all of the people all of the time. It's the Starbucks of beans and rice.
The first east-of-the-mountains location recently opened up in the Old Mill. Filling a gaping dining void in this bustling shopping area, Café Yumm! is the alternative to more traditional and expensive sit-down meals.
Based on the simple pairings of beans and rice, the Café Yumm! menu is built on bowls, wraps, sandwiches, soups and salads. There are specialty items like the Tempeh Rueben, the Bento Box and tofu, Tempeh or chicken skewers. The menu reflects Yumm!'s health consciousness and green thinking. It may even make you reminisce about those slightly grungy spots around campus that fed you meatless meals for the change in your pocket.
Set up "cafeteria style," the diner is greeted with sayings like "Yumm! is the state of pure deliciousness contained in simple nourishing beautiful food" and "Yumm! What is it? Close your eyes and open your senses. Savor the moment" as they decide on his or her meal. Friendly black-clad Yumm-sters take your order and your money and you take a tented number back to your table. A few minutes later, one of those Yumm-sters brings out a tippy tray full of freshly-made food.
One of the signature flavors of Café Yumm! is the Yumm! sauce. The pale yellow, creamy concoction of almond, soy, nutritional yeast and miso is slathered on many of the dishes and sold in huge bottles. It is vegan, wheat free, has no hydrogenated oils and tastes fabulous. It's the kind of flavor you want to put on just about anything from vegetables to sandwiches, salads to meats. It is a part of all the Yumm! Bowls and enhances salsa, chili, stew and everything else you'll find in the Bowl recipes.
Seasoned Yumm-ettes are in the know about pairings that will knock your socks off but do not appear on the menu, like the "Medium Souper," a medium original Yumm Bowl topped with the soup of the day. Don't miss this if the Hickory Lentil Soup is offered. It's an amazingly simple pairing with intense flavors that left me wanting more even though my stomach was full. And don't skip the Fritter Bowl, a house-made Ginger Garlic Veggie Burger served in a bowl over rice with the fixings and sauce.
The obvious socially-conscious sensibility in everything from food sources to décor makes up for the interior's slightly upscale mall ambiance. While it may feel a bit Macheezmo Mouse, Café Yumm! embodies green building and global consciousness upon closer examination. The business philosophy waxes eloquently on humanity, tolerance, creativity and innovation. Every location uses biodegradable utensils, table tops from composites like crushed sunflower shells and recycled paper, flooring made of flax, decorative panels of pressed sorghum straw and wheat fiberboard cabinets. There are no garbage cans in the seating area - diners place dishes and trash in bus tubs that employees sort in the back to make sure everything that can be recycled is recycled.
The bottom line is that beyond the tasty food and affordable prices, the PC warm fuzzies run deep at Café Yumm!, which may be reason enough to become a Yumm-ette. I, for one, have fallen hook, line and sinker.
Café Yumm! - $
The Shops at the Old Mill (behind Chico's). 318-9866. 10am-9pm Mon-Sat, 11am-7pm Sun