It’s the last day Screamin’ Jay’s is open for the fall term when I stop by for a sandwich. The food cart opened Oct. 1, and its regular customers are already so hooked, they need one more sandwich before it re-opens for winter term.
Jesse Gandy, one-half of the business, is inside what used to be the Soup Nation cart, making sandwiches and salads and chatting with customers while what sounds like The Rolling Stones plays in the background.
After talking with Gandy about Morrissey, Iggy Pop and life, I order the vegan meatball sandwich — because you can’t eat meat after talking about Morrissey.
This isn’t your typical vegan meatball sandwich featuring meat alternative substances with Beyond or Impossible in their names — not that there’s anything wrong with that. In addition to soft, garlic buttery bread, the sandwich’s filling is the Goldilocks of vegan meat: not too crumbly and not too saucy. It’s just right.
The other half of Screamin’ Jay’s is Fiona Gledhill (she and Gandy are married), who learned some of the ins-and-outs of the restaurant business when working for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Gledhill grew up in Eugene and was involved in one of the city’s most historical moments: in 1997 when then-Mayor Jim Torrey was vomited on.
But don’t think about repeating that incident with a bellyful of Screamin’ Jay’s.
The vegan meat substance is created from local sources — no processed foods are involved — and is created at their downtown kitchen. The sandwiches can be so meat-like that once a college student came back crying after eating the vegan Townes Van Zandwich pulled pork sandwich, Gledhill says.
“We do everything from the beginning to the end: the textured meat, the seasoning, the proprietorial process of getting them to taste meaty,” she says.
Screamin’ Jay’s traditional meatball sandwich recipe comes from Gandy’s teenager job at an Italian restaurant at Lake Mitchell, Michigan. But it took all summer for Gledhill and Gandy to nail the vegan recipe and get the seasoning and texture right.
Gledhill says they’re looking at offering new dishes, like a Brussels sprouts Reuben sandwich, more rice bowls and re-introduce gumbo.
For now, Gledhill says they’re happy with their food cart, but she says she’d like to see it become a brick-and-mortar someday.
“If we could play some rock ‘n’ roll and pour some beers, we’d be happy with that,” Gledhill says. “They go pretty good with meatballs.”
Screamin’ Jay’s is located at 1398 Kincaid outside PLC Hall at the University of Oegon. For hours of operation and daily menu, visit their Facebook page at ScreaminJaysEugene or ScreaminJays.com.