Downtown Eugene dim sum restaurant nears opening

Downtown Eugene dim sum restaurant nears opening

By: Elon Glucklich

(Source: Register Guard, October 26 2016)


A long-neglected downtown Eugene building will soon be serving up bite-sized morsels of Chinese cuisine.

By mid-November, John Li plans to open Spice ‘n Steam, a dim ­sum-style Chinese restaurant, in a vacant 5,200-square-foot building at 165 W. 11th Ave., just west of The Kiva grocery store.

“The sooner the better,” Li said of the planned opening, adding he doesn’t have a specific date. “Right now I’m hiring for waitresses. I just want to get everybody trained more properly.”

Li is an immigrant from the Chinese city of Guangzhou who moved to Eugene 10 years ago. His family had operated a restaurant in Guangzhou, formerly called Canton.

He said he has a long-term lease on the West 11th Avenue building, which is owned by Eugene ­investor Ada Lee.

Dim sum offers individual bite-sized Chinese dishes, like dumplings, rice noodle rolls and steamed buns filled with various meats. Its origin traces back to Chinese tea houses centuries ago.

Li said he sees opportunities for customers in a downtown bustling with newer student-oriented housing. The Spice ‘n Steam building is a block north of the Capstone student housing complex, and a block south of the Lane Community College downtown housing complex.

It’s also across West 11th Avenue from the nearly complete Home2 Suites by Hilton.

Numerous businesses have come and gone from the building since it was constructed in 1950. Ada Lee, the longtime owner of the property, operated Cathay’s Chinese Restaurant there in the 1950s and 1960s, an architect who represents Li wrote to the city last year. Lee owns more than a dozen properties around Eugene.

More recently, the West 11th building housed tenants including Rejuvenation Health Spa, La Ola Verde Day Spa and Doc’s Pad Restaurant & Sports Lounge, which has since moved to Willamette Street, according to Eugene and Lane County records.

But the building, which boasts a 30-foot-high decorative tower, has sat vacant since around 2010, when a tenant began remodeling the building but never opened there, the architect representing Li wrote.

It became a magnet for graffiti artists before Li began remodeling the building.

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