The millennials who run in Australian millionaire Tim Gurner’s circle apparently spend $19 on avocado toast a few times a week. He blames such generational extravagances for their inability to buy homes of their own.

Laura Sprinkle, 28, begs to differ.

“I don’t want to buy a house,” she said, schooling her elders as she ate a healthy lunch at LB Kitchen on Congress Street, one of several restaurants in Portland that sell avocado toast. “That’s the old dream of graduate, buy a house, get married, have kids. That’s your dream, not mine.”

Ouch.

Turns out there’s a lot of reasons why millennials aren’t buying houses. Avocado toast is not one of them.

Gurner made his remarks in an interview with the Australian version of “60 Minutes.”

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each,” he said. “We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.”

Millennials around Portland interviewed Wednesday generally agreed with what Gurner said – they’d rather spend their money on life experiences than a mortgage. None of them was actually eating avocado toast, even though Portland restaurants sell it for much less than $19.

Sisters Jamie and Jordan Rowe left the Portland Pottery Café on Washington Avenue with a bag carrying an avocado BLT – the country cousin of avocado toast.

“Yeah, we probably need to stop eating out so much,” said Jamie, 23. “But I like it.”

“I love eating out,” said Jordan, 27. “To me, I’d rather eat out than have a mansion. Especially in Portland. There’s too many options to stay in every night.”

Neither of them own a house, but they admitted they would like to start saving for one “maybe in a few years,” Jamie said.

Classic avocado toast was once a simple thing – avocado mixed with olive oil and lemon juice mashed onto toast and topped with a little sea salt and maybe some chili flakes. Followers of the Paleo Diet swore by it. Then restaurants started dressing it up by adding eggs, a dollop of yogurt or goat cheese, or a few herbs, and charging discriminating diners more for it. In some places, millennials were willing to shell out as much as $22.

Voila – avocado toast became a tasty metaphor for the generation gap.

THE FAST RISE OF AVOCADO TOAST

In Portland, most places charge $6 to $10 for avocado toast, and it might come with eggs or a little salad. Union Restaurant just added the dish to its new spring menu and is charging $12: “Fork-pressed avocado, whole wheat toast, shaved egg, ricotta salata, petite greens, radish and preserved lemon emulsion.”

Avocado toast has been labeled the most popular food on Instagram – and the most annoying food on Instagram.

At Portland Pottery Café, the avocado toast is simple, drizzled with olive oil and a little lemon, and served with a demi salad for $9. Server Amy Gubrud, 20 years old and sporting purple braided hair to match her glasses, said most of the people who buy it are women, many of them in their 20s.

Gubrud, who does not own a home, finds the Australian mogul’s remarks “kind of annoying.”

“They have to come up with some excuse why we can’t buy a house,” she said. “It’s always in our hands. It’s what we’re doing with our money, and not the economy or something bigger, like the structure of society that may have been a little bit different when they were growing up.”

At LB Kitchen, The Avocado Addiction – made with Standard Baking Co. bread, truffle oil and “teeny greens” for $8 (add an egg for $1.50 extra) – is “our No. 1 seller,” said chef/owner Lee Farrington.

Jason Bisson, a real estate agent born in 1976 who is on the very edge of the millennial generation (some say the generation began in 1976, others 1981), was enjoying a lunch of bone broth ($6) and a salmon bowl ($14) at LB Kitchen. He owns a couple of homes. He said he’s found that it’s important to millennials that they live in certain neighborhoods in Greater Portland – the Portland peninsula, Back Bay, Deering, or the Willard Beach area in South Portland – so they can walk everywhere and go out to eat a lot.

“I think a lot of younger people today, maybe more than what we’re used to, have decided not to buy,” Bisson said. “They’re happy renting and spending money and going out.”

Bisson also believes younger people are more interested in a healthier diet, “which sometimes means spending more money on food.”

“They’re willing to go out and buy a $6 cup of coffee or a $7 beer and hang out with their friends and walk to something, instead of being frugal, staying home and not doing something to pay a mortgage,” he said.

Bisson loves avocado, but has not yet tried “The Avocado Addiction.”

“I’m gluten free, so I’m not eating toast,” he said.

SOME JUST DON’T WANT A HOUSE

Laura Sprinkle, who was eating lunch with her friend Katie Brunelle, said she and her husband are looking for investment properties that they could eventually rent out. They would use the money to travel and live in both the United States and Bolivia, her husband’s native country.

Brunelle, 36, works at the Adulting School in Portland. She once owned a home, but since her divorce she’s been renting. She said she thinks Gurner’s remarks are “an unfair statement.”

“I think it’s a misconception that cutting out things like coffee and avocado toast will actually amount to a house,” she said. “If you budget correctly, you can have money to have coffee or avocado toast and save for a house.”

But Brunelle said market research shows that it’s not necessarily that millennials can’t afford a house – it’s that they just don’t want one. They find the idea of owning a home “almost a little trapping.”

“They want to travel, so their financial priorities are different than a Gen Xer or a baby boomer,” she said.

Brunelle said lots of real estate agents have proposed having a first-time homebuyers’ workshop at the Adulting School, but they have been turned down. Instead, the school is planning a workshop on how to find an affordable rental, buying investment properties, and building up credit for the day people do decide they want their own home.

Not everyone disagrees with Gurner. Lucy Dutch, co-owner of Dutch’s on Preble Street in Portland, said there’s probably some truth to the millionaire’s opinion. “Millennials do eat out a lot,” she said.

The $6 “Everything Avocado Toast” at Dutch’s – thick-sliced country toast, avocado mash, everything seasoning, chili oil and scallions (add an egg for $1) – is one of customers’ top five choices on the breakfast menu, Dutch said.

“It’s particularly popular with the ladies,” she said.

MAKE TOAST AT THE HOME YOU BUY

Maine food blogger Leah Haydock, a 40-year-old photographer who owns a home in Casco, said she thinks Gurner has “a valid point.” She said that although she loves experiences, “avocado toast is not an experience.”

“It is crazy to buy avocado toast for $22 when you can make it with a piece of bread and an avocado,” she said.

Haydock said she would rather make avocado toast at home and spend her money on lobster rolls, oysters or crudo.

“Maybe that’s why I own my own house,” she said, “because I make my own avocado toast at home.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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