A Palatable Partnership

The last time EW caught up with the dynamic duos behind Party Cart (Tiffany Norton and Mark Kosmicki) and Red Wagon Creamery (Emily and Stuart Phillips) in fall 2012, they were cultivating a culinary following at the corner of 28th and Friendly, serving savory seasonal plates and ambrosial scoops of ice cream respectively. At that point, there were only murmurs of a brick-and-mortar establishment; it was more of a long-term dream than a short-term reality. What a difference two seasons make; after unexpected growth in their businesses, a Party Cart and Red Wagon Creamery joint restaurant-bar and ice cream parlor venture will open in early May.

“We really couldn’t do it without each other,” Norton says. The Phillips would often eat at Party Cart with their creamery wagon in tow, heading straight there from the Lane County Farmers Market. It wasn’t long before Norton and Kosmicki encouraged them to share the lot.

“It made us realize that we get along personally,” Stuart says, “and also our businesses were very symbiotic and not just in the type of food that we did, but the way that we approach food: local, fresh, seasonal with a spin.” 

With the help of the Downtown Revitalization Loan Program, NEDCO and Community LendingWorks, the quartet will be will be opening a full-blown gastronomic hotspot downtown in the renovated 3,400-square-foot space that once housed Club Snafu. (But don’t fret foodies! The carts will remain open as well.)

The restaurant and bar, Party Downtown, will be nestled on the lot’s northern end with Mediterranean blue-stained concrete floors, sconces sculpted by local artist Jessie Rose Vala and an open kitchen where partiers can “watch the magic.” That magic includes what Kosmicki calls a “hyperseasonal, hyperlocal” menu with Party Cart favorites like mini pies and tiny biscuits with bacon honey butter, and new items like goat T-bones and whole smoked chickens. Daytime will be counter service (there is a six-foot deli case with grab-and-go options) and nighttime will be full service; brunch will be served on weekends.

 “We still want to be casual and fun and serve really high quality food in a non-snobby environment,” Kosmicki says. Which is why, Norton points out, menu items will range from $3 to $17. 

“We’re going for smaller portions for a lesser price so you can try multiple things,” she says. Party Downtown’s bar will be helmed by “bar chef” James West (of Marché fame), with Oregon-centric spirits and beers — there will always be an Agrarian brew on tap.

Pass the bar, shared lounge and penny-tiled bathrooms and enter ice cream nirvana: the Red Wagon Creamery ice cream parlor that will overlook Broadway. Stuart describes the vibe as “upscale San Francisco bakery,” with cherry-stained oak floors, wooden tables (crafted by Emily’s stepdad Elisa Ruiz) and a window open to the churning room.

Emily says the larger space and the addition of a pasteurizer will allow for more experimental flavors, like “Russian meteorite” (vodka roasted-beet ice cream with a fudge-sauce swirl and chocolate malt balls), wholesaling their ice cream and other confections (all made in-house) best kept from your dentist: sundaes with caramelized bananas and homemade marshmallow topping, sesame and chocolate cones, seasonal mini-baked Alaskas, baked goods and candies, old-timey soda fountain drinks.

“I love a nice spicy root beer,” Stuart says with a sly grin. “I’ve been developing a recipe of my own.” And for the after dark crowd, look for ice cream cocktails (e.g. a frozen mimosa mixed with orange sorbet and sparkling wine) as well as “poptails” (alcoholic popsicles).

But perhaps the most exciting of all for the flavor-hound will be the crossover, like when Kosmicki prepares pancetta for the “Fig and Pig” ice cream or the Phillips craft a dessert cheese plate for Party Downtown with three different cheese ice creams.

Eugene, this is the beginning of a beautiful, and highly scrumptious, friendship.

Party Downtown and Red Wagon Creamery’s ice cream parlor will open in early May at 55 W. Broadway. 

Photo by Todd Cooper.