Decades before taking over Washburne Cafe in 2016, its current owners were attending Springfield High School together. Purchasing the Main Street Springfield café wasn’t their collective teenage dream, but it is now a place where they have poured money, energy and even their own home appliances to serve breakfast, brunch and lunch staples, offering artisan takes on the doughnut and fried chicken.
A love for coffee and food brought the three owners together: Derek and Mindy Weber, who wanted to open a café, and Charlie Hester, who had spent the previous 10 years playing and touring with the band Parson Red Heads and wanted to open a coffee shop in Springfield.
The result is the Washburne Cafe. “When we started we didn’t have any romantic ideas about the restaurant business,” Mindy Weber says. “We just wanted to be a part of this community because this is where we were born and raised.”
Since buying the café five years ago, the trio have found themselves bringing in their home appliances to support the business. When they moved in, Mindy says, they realized their home appliances were an upgrade compared to what was in the kitchen, so they slowly started to bring in items from their living room and kitchen.
Then, right before the start of the pandemic, the café’s stove broke. Mindy remembers Derek and their nephew bringing in the oven from their home at 11 pm to the café. “We lived for six months without an oven at our house,” Mindy adds.
Washburne Cafe’s menu isn’t large because Derek Weber says the café prefers quality over quantity, but it does have variety, whether you want a coffee and pastry or a full meal.
“We try to travel a lot,” Mindy says. “We feel like you have to choose between the quality coffee shop and the breakfast spot. We want to have a place that’s both.”
What stand out on Washburne Cafe’s menu are its doughnuts and fried chicken, both items that Derek says he wanted to sell when they took over the cafe from the previous owners in 2016.
The café’s fried chicken, which is featured in sandwiches or paired with waffles, begins with an overnight salt water brine, Derek says. “The brine is a salty, sugary, lemony, herby brine we make here,” he adds. “The brine makes the biggest difference because it keeps it nice and juicy and just imparts this flavor that you don’t get from coating it.” The café breads and fries every order of chicken to order, he adds, and it’s all placed between an in-house made biscuit or bun.
That means getting your fried chicken can take a while, but the café also offers fresh doughnuts on weekends — some of the best to be found in Eugene-Springfield, where your options are either simple or over-the-top.
The doughnut is fluffy because it’s brioche-based, Derek says. The dough rises overnight, he adds, then in the morning the staff roll and fry it. The glazes, which are thick and sugary, are made in-house, and offered in chocolate, strawberry, maple and vanilla.
Whenever visiting bigger cities, Mindy says they like to hunt for doughnut spots. But in Eugene-Springfield, Mindy says there isn’t that artisan doughnut shop. So Washburne’s recipe is an answer to their desire for a great doughnut in town, Derek says.
Washburne Cafe is known as a breakfast spot, Derek says, but it does offer a lunch menu. Since the café gets much of its produce from local farms, it allows the lunch menu to change with the season, such as offering a BLT sandwich during summer, showcasing local tomatoes and greens, he adds.
Springfield’s Main Street is a different place than when the three owners were attending Springfield High School, a place that now has record shops and restaurants instead of what was once standing — the strip clubs and bars. And it’s changed in the five years since the Webers and Hester took over Washburne Cafe.
Before the pandemic, Derek says, the owners wanted the Washburne to become more than a breakfast and brunch spot; it would also be a dessert spot like Sweet Life in Eugene for those who’d eaten at a nearby Main Street restaurant.
Then the pandemic happened.
Planning for the café is difficult at this time, but Derek says, in his mind, there are three things that he sees in the future: doughnuts, coffee and fried chicken.
Washburne Cafe is at 326 Main Street, Springfield. Hours are 8 am to 3 pm Wednesday through Saturday and 8 am to noon Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday. For more information, visit WashburneCafe.com or find on Facebook and Instagram.