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All That Jazz

Two women live their restaurant dreams at Jazzy Ladies Café and Coffeehouse
Gluten-free chicken and waffles. Photo by Todd Cooper.
Gluten-free chicken and waffles. Photo by Todd Cooper.

“It’s good but not as good as Michelle’s,” is something Carmen Nasholm heard often as her seven kids were growing up. Michelle Reid, Michelle’s husband Dave and their two children became friends with the Nasholms through church in 1993. 

“We always talked about how great it would be if I could have a place that sold jazz CDs and books and Michelle could have a lunch counter,” Nasholm says. In September 2015, once all but two of Nasholm’s kids had flown the nest, that dream became a reality with four tables plus a handful of stools in downtown Eugene. And, of course, a soundtrack of Nasholm’s preferred Dixieland jazz (most of the time).

Michelle Reid says she’s been told all her life that she should open a restaurant. 

Her husband, Dave Reid, concurs. “I told her she should,” he says. “I love reading our Yelp reviews where someone says they just had the best biscuits and gravy in their life, and I’m like, ‘Yep, I’ve known that for 20 years!’”

In the middle of a busy weekday lunch, customer Lou Lynner came in craving a turkey and cranberry sandwich. Lynner hadn’t been in for a few weeks, and after giving both ladies a hug and catching up, Michelle Reid tells him she can’t make the sandwich because she can’t get fresh cranberries. Next year, she tells him, she’ll plan ahead and freeze more.

Lynner chooses smoked chicken tacos instead, and says he’s been coming in since Jazzy Ladies Café and Coffeehouse opened. “The food is very fresh, it’s friendly, quaint, cozy and has a good feeling to it,” he says. “It’s very personal.”

Reid admits that she sometimes starts to tear up when she’s making dough for the from-scratch cinnamon rolls. “It’s my grandmother’s recipe,” she says. “I remember her telling me that I would learn to feel when the dough is ready, and when I feel that, it’s very sweet to me.”

The kitchen smokes its own meats, including 50 pounds of bacon every two weeks and pastrami on alternating weeks. The menu revolves around what’s available from the local farmers market right outside the door and the smoker, which could be chicken, ham, brisket or pork. 

Their proteins come from Long’s Meat Market, dairy is from Lochmead, eggs are free-range and staples come from Hummingbird Wholesale. Reid grinds wheat berries on-site for fresh wheat bread from wheat grown by Camas Country Mills in Junction City. 

They also have gluten-free options for many of their menu items — and many are naturally gluten-free. Reid, who is gluten-sensitive herself, says her goal is that her customers can’t tell the difference. 

Other than years of good, from-scratch home cooking, neither woman has a restaurant background. “We can break the rules,” Nasholm says. “We don’t have any expectations to follow of what a restaurant is supposed to do, so we just do what’s good.”

Jazzy Ladies Café and Coffeehouse is at 45 E. 8th Avenue (Membrillo’s old location), open 8 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am to 3 pm Saturday. See jazzyladiescafe.com for more information.