The first thing you’ll notice when you duck inside the bright, cheery new Lion & Owl space is the 1977 Airstream Land Yacht parked inside.
Gleaming and lustrous, this gorgeous chrome leviathan hosts a full bar and cozy tables, the perfect spot for an intimate, delicious meal in what is surely one of Eugene’s most elegant and adorable restaurants. Maybe you remember when the Airstream was parked next to the Backyard Farmer, a spot it occupied from May 2017 through last October?
“When we originally opened the Airstream, we were inspired by an Alphonse Mucha exhibit we’d seen in Rome,” says Lion & Owl co-owner Kirsten Hansen. She and her wife, chef Crystal Platt, were drawn to Mucha’s turn-of-the-century advertisements.
“The curves, the art nouveau — blending that vintage and modern line,” Hansen says.
Even on an overcast spring day, the Lion & Owl is bright and cheery, saturated with Mucha-inspired soft blues, golds and creams.
The pleasing design envelopes you in intentional but unfussy moments, from the striking live-plant wall, created without a watering system yet flourishing and green, to the live-edge tables designed by Urban Lumber, to the bubbly chandeliers that dot the ceiling.
“We wanted to make organic choices, incorporating originality with the feel of a modern space,” Hansen says. And the beautifully intentional dining room aesthetic creates the perfect atmosphere to enjoy delectable brunch and dinner menus.
I sample the toasted oat groats, featuring grilled celery root, black truffle vinaigrette and cured egg yolk.
“The egg yolk is cured in salt and sugar and then shaved fine,” Hansen says.
Whatever magic the chef has employed to realize it, this lovely dish is sweet and savory, with a rich, filling texture, the groats delectably creamy and studded with pops of celery root.
Grilled bitter radicchio greens, with apple, French feta, hazelnuts, radish, and dusted with sumac, a powdery Middle Eastern spice, brings the idea of “salad” to new heights.
But it’s the blackened cauliflower that slays me.
“Crystal chars the leeks, and rubs the ash on a whole cauliflower and roasts it,” Hansen says, as I tuck into the best cauliflower I have ever eaten in my life.
Featuring sunflower seed-sun choke tahini, grilled Meyer lemon, black garlic and chickpea crumbs, this dish is delicate yet hearty, with surprising layers of flavor.
The Lion & Owl is open seven days a week for brunch, and Thursday through Saturday for dinner, offering appetizers, a full Irish breakfast, vegetarian dishes, oysters, caviar, champagne or temptations for heartier appetites like burgers, schnitzel, pork chops and, if you saved room, to-die-for desserts.
I think I have found heaven, right next to Eugene Toy & Hobby.
The Lion & Owl: Open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Wednesday, 10 am to 9 pm Thursday through Saturday and 10 am to 3 pm on Sunday. It’s located at 60 E. 11th Avenue in Eugene. Call 541-606-0626 for more information, or to reserve a table in the Airstream.