Posting this in the hopes that it’ll be useful to someone else, because it certainly took me a long time and caused a lot of frustration.
There’s a bizarre bug that a few people, myself including, have run into when upgrading to Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon release: the applications menu is blank.
Some recommended deleting ~/.config/menus/applications.menu, but, in my case, this didn’t recreate it.
Here’s a tip, though: there’s an /etc/xdg/menus/applications.menu. Copying it to ~/.config/menus/ fixed my problem. And now, I have an applications menu. Hurrah!