|PartyCart’s humble cart contains many tasty delights! Photos by: Jackie Varriano|
Restaurants can come in many different shapes and forms, and sometimes you find greatness in unexpected places. For example, a new addition to the Eugene dining scene boasts a true commitment to local products, changes their menu weekly, and makes as many items in house as possible – from bread to bacon. It also happens to be a food cart.
Meet Tiffany Norton and Mark Kosmicki, chefs and owners of the PartyCart. Situated in the parking lot of the Healthy Pet on the corner of 28th and Friendly St, the fox-adorned cart is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 9pm. They’ve been open since April and except for their Facebook page (boasting 326 fans at the time this article was written), have done no advertising; instead attracting eaters with their refreshing approach and consistently terrific food.
|Tiffany Norton rolls out handheld pies in the PartyCart kitchen.|
“Originally I wanted to be a vet, like forever and ever,” said Norton as she rolled out tiny pies in the cart. “But when we started this we thought we would always want to have a food cart, never want to have a restaurant. Once we opened, we were like, we are a restaurant, we don’t have typical cart food.”
For Norton and Kosmicki, food cart or restaurant is a little like tomato/tomahto. They both have extensive restaurant resumes, where they honed their skills before breaking out on their own. It’s this background that makes it possible for the duo to push past the normal cart mentality of specializing in one or two items to creating well-planned, holistic meals. The cart is open 45 hours per week, and Norton and Kosmicki often put in an additional 25 to 30, from prep work to shopping. Of their working relationship Norton said, “We work 70 hours a week a piece usually…we’re here at eight or nine in the morning, until 10 at night. I can’t imagine spending that much time with anyone else, so basically it’s great.”
|Chicken & chickpea pita w/red pepper fennel slaw and arugla. Yum!|
When it comes to the menu, Kosmicki is the bread baker and charcuterie master, while Norton creates the desserts. They both contribute to menu selections, usually making major changes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Many restaurants boast local commitments, but at PartyCart they use as close to 100 percent local ingredients as possible. This means using honey, as local sugar isn’t available. “One of the vinegars out of six are not local, but we use all local flour –Hunton’s and Stalford, the wine we cook with, we get an organic tamari out of Salem…if we can get it locally, we’ll probably figure out a way to use it,” said Norton.
PartyCart has tables, chairs, music, and quirky Goodwill-sourced cutlery and dishes; all the trappings of a traditional restaurant. In addition to the food, Red Wagon Creamery stops by to scoop ice cream every Thursday from 2-9pm, and local start-up Indie Pop Soda provides fizzy concoctions. A recent visit to the cart featured crispy kale chips, a chicken and chickpea pita with red pepper fennel slaw and arugula, a cherry tomato blue cheese tart topped with a perfectly fried egg, and cherry tomato basil yogurt butter head salad. Prices range from $2 to $8, and they take credit cards.
The next time you find yourself in the area, or want to make a trip out to someplace new, stop by the PartyCart for some locavore goodness!
Jackie Varriano is a freelance writer who loves pin-balling around Eugene’s restaurants and food carts. Keep up with her at seejackwrite.tumblr.com.