“We’re not a traditional restaurant,” says Billy Reid, chef and owner of Dueling Spoons. Reid says people are surprised when they find out that he’s the only person cooking the food.
“I’m one chef with five burners cooking for everybody,” he says. Reid compares the experience of dining at Dueling Spoons to having a private chef. “Someone asked me, ‘Why don’t you just hire cooks?’ And I said, ‘If I hire cooks, am I cooking for you?’”
Dueling Spoons is in Fall Creek, but that hasn’t stopped it from developing a loyal following of Eugene locals. “They come in, and they come in regularly,” Reid says. “We see most people once a week or once every two weeks.” He admits he’s never seen anything like it in all his years in the restaurant industry. One group has even eaten with them 44 days out of the 55 they’ve been open, he says.
Reid doesn’t think that the fine dining experience should be rushed. “We bring you in, sit you down, we get you a drink, and give you some homemade bread and butter,” he says. “And you sit and relax and chat and I’ll cook for you.” He says that guests call eating at Dueling Spoons an event, and he agrees with them.
“Sometimes you have to wait,” he says. “I can only cook so fast.” Reid believes that quality takes time and should be savored — the care that he puts into every dish is paying off. “I hear people tell me, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life,’” he says. Reid has plenty of stories: a young man saying that he started going through the seven stages of grief upon finishing his rigatoni pasta, a gentleman beckoning Reid over and asking if he could drink the lamb broth.
“I come out and talk to almost every single table,” Reid says. “When you come in you’re our guest. And once you’ve come here a couple of times, you’re our friends.” Seating only 36 in the dining room and 18 at the bar and hightops, Dueling Spoons is an intimate space. But Reid enjoys being able to greet the guests. “I’m from Ireland,” he says. “It takes me 30 minutes just to say ‘hello.’”
Reid hails from Belfast and moved to New York in the mid ’70s. At that time, he says there were a lot of Irish people working in the restaurant business. “I started out as a busboy and worked my way through the ranks,” he says. “Then I went to the French Culinary Institute in NYC and became a chef.”
Reid and his wife, Kathleen, were living in California when they visited Oregon and fell in love with the landscape. Reid remembers his wife saying, “‘We don’t live here. Why?’” Oregon’s lush greenery and rainy climate remind Reid of Ireland, of growing up in Belfast. “I love it,” he says. “Absolutely love it.”
He was looking to go into private cheffing when the opportunity to open Dueling Spoons presented itself. “We jumped on it,” Reid says. Though he has worked with and been trained by some amazing chefs, Reid says his food today is influenced by his family. “The standard menu that we have are all items that we eat at home,” Reid says. “We look at Dueling Spoons as an extension of our family.” Family favorites become menu items.
“I like to cook from scratch,” he says, emphasizing that fryers and microwaves are not allowed on the premises. Reid says the food he cooks isn’t influenced by the food he ate growing up. “We don’t have any fryers, so fish and chips wouldn’t really work,” he laughs. “My inspiration comes from markets or reading cookbooks and thinking, ‘Look at that, but I could do it this way.’”
Reid was pondering adding a pot pie special, came across some lobster tails while shopping and had an idea. “What if I took a lobster tail and braised it in butter and lemon and slowly poached it and then sliced it very thin and baked it into the crust of the pot pie?” he says. “It just came to me walking through the market, and that will be on the special menu for the week.”
Dueling Spoons is also a specialty market, Reid says. “You can come in and get a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, a pound of butter, a six pack of beer.” They sell imported Irish confections, gourmet pasta, oils, vinegars, hot sauces and wine, just to name a few.
Though Dueling Spoons has gotten increasingly busy since it opened, Reid aims to preserve the dining experience as much as possible. It stops taking reservations once it hits a certain number, leaving seating for walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis. “Our tables are nicely spaced apart — I could put more tables in, but I don’t want to. It’s not about that,” he says. “I opened it as a business, but I don’t need to make all the money. I opened it to feed people, but I don’t need to feed everybody.”
Reid says a guest described Dueling Spoons perfectly: “‘Relax, have a drink, wait your turn, it’s worth it.’”
Dueling Spoons is at 39074 Jasper Lowell Road, Fall Creek. Dinner is 5 to 9 pm Wednesday through Saturday,and brunch is 10 am to 2 pm Sunday. More info at DuelingSpoons.net