Glenn Liu’s wife Jenny Liu spent so much time at Portland locations of the California chain Zero Degrees, he asked her “Why are you waiting in line? Why don’t we try to buy one?”
Jenny Liu’s favorite thing to eat at Zero Degrees was the popcorn chicken, a popular Taiwanese snack food served with salt and pepper or honey barbeque and fries at an extra cost.
“Her parents owned restaurants before,” Glenn Liu says, so opening a Zero Degrees location wasn’t completely out of the question. Since Jenny was a graduate of the University of Oregon, the couple settled on north Eugene to launch their venture, making it only the third Zero Degrees location in the entire state.
And in their short time in business, the place has been a success. “So far so good,” Glenn says. There’s a line out the door every day.
Known for Mexican/Asian fusion, Zero Degrees serves smoothies, coffee and teas, and hot snacks like chicken wings, carne asada fries, XXtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Cheese Fries (so hot, there are two “x’s,”) and classic elotes, a popular Mexican street food this time made with mayo, cotija cheese and spices.
Included on the coffee and tea menu is strawberry horchata, cucumber limeade (made with fresh cucumber bits) and a sea-salt green tea.
But what Zero Degrees is really known for is the mangonada smoothie, made from mango slush, with chamoy sauce, a popular spicy Mexican condiment frequently used as a dipping sauce for fresh fruit. There’s also Tajin seasoning and fresh mango chunks. Tangy and spicy, Tajin is also often used in Mexico to enhance the flavor of fruits and vegetables.
For an extra charge, you can get your smoothie with a tamarind straw and a mango twist, like a spiral staircase of sliced fresh mango, also seasoned with chamoy and Tajin.
I ordered the mangonada and loved the mixture of sweetness, tanginess and spice, making it a good virgin option for fans of margaritas with a salted rim, or bloody Marys. Lick the chamoy and Tajin off your fingers after eating the twist, and pop the lid off to get at the fresh mango chunks at the bottom with a spoon.
Also on the smoothie menu, there’s an ube milkshake, topped with toasted marshmallow and the gummy candy called sour belt. Ube originates in the Philippines, and it’s made from a bright-purple sweet potato, boiled and mashed with condensed milk and butter, giving it a creamy consistency and a mildly sweet flavor.
Ube is sometimes described as “dessert mashed potatoes.” Dessert and mashed potatoes — everything you didn’t know you needed, but exactly what you wanted.
Zero Degrees is open Monday through Thursday 11 am to 9 pm and Friday through Sunday 11 am to 10 pm, at 1777 Coburg Road in Eugene. For more information search Zero Degrees Eugene on Facebook or go to ZeroDegreesCompany.com.