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Belly Restaurant Sees Changes, Former Owner Eyes New Options

Chef Brendan Mahaney sold his popular Eugene restaurant, Belly, to new owners in September, but he already has plans to open another place. 

“I’m dreaming of a casual, New Orleans-style restaurant,” he says.

Contrary to rumors, Mahaney says his choice to sell Belly was “bittersweet,” but not made for any dramatic reason. 

“Basically, another five-year lease was looming, and I loved what we were doing, but I also knew what another five years would entail,” he says, adding that the strain of running both Belly and his other restaurant, Belly Taqueria, was a factor in the decision.

“What I really wanted was to give my wife and I more time to see the world from the perspective of having a Friday and Saturday night off,” he explains.

Mahaney says he decided to put Belly on the market in late summer, and only a few months later, Diana and Steve Lee came forward to buy it.

The Lees own Sushi Seoul off Coburg Road, and they used to operate Tokyo Tonkatsu in downtown Eugene. 

The Lees brought on a new chef, Adam Bretz, who worked at Café Soriah before moving to Belly. 

Bretz says that while he has his own unique inspirations and culinary background, he plans to continue in the traditional vein of Belly, creating “simple dishes with quality, local and delicious ingredients.”

Manager Bruce Jensen, who has worked at Belly for a year and a half, says the owners intend to “keep it as Belly — French provincial and local cuisine.” Jensen says the restaurant may expand its hours, with eventual plans to open for lunch. 

As for Mahaney, he and Ann Marie Mahaney, his wife, are recently back from a month-long trip, and he says he’s focusing his efforts on Belly Taqueria. He’s enjoying the ability to invest time in the restaurant, a chance he didn’t always have while also running Belly.

But Mahaney isn’t one to take a breather for long — he’s envisioning a new restaurant with offerings of gumbo and red beans and rice. He says he likes the flexibility that New Orleans cuisine offers, and he plans to create a menu with “a healthy, local kick,” throwing out the idea of Vegetable Appreciation Wednesdays. “Kind of a modern, healthy twist on good old Creole food,” he explains.

Mahaney says he hopes to see the Louisiana-inspired restaurant come to fruition in 2016.