Eugene, Oregon has an illustrious and storied history and I’m not talking about my epic college career. Eugene is where Animal House was filmed, The Blues Brothers concept was solidified and the birthplace of a tiny little running shoe company you may have heard of, NIKE, of course! With these credentials, it shouldn’t be surprising that Eugene has been a hotbed of musical activity, an area that has more great restaurants in its small city than many places twice its size (Houston, I’m talking to you!) and a serious sports town that has earned the moniker “Track Town, USA”. Prefontaine, anybody?
Maybe I got a little carried away, but I lived in Eugene for 6 years so I know what a rad little spot Eugene is. Well, in July, I had the opportunity to go back and revisit some of my favorite old haunts while staying with some good friends at their farm outside Eugene.
I was pleased to discover that the magical “Voodoo Doughnut” has now expanded its domain from Portland down to Eugene, so I was able to enjoy some of their decadent doughy delights. And Frog is still selling his world famous joke books at Saturday Market.
Even if you’re not into dreads, pachouli oil or tie dye, you should definitely check out the Saturday Market. It’s fun to peruse the funky stalls and grab some lunch at the food section. But hungry Saturday Market wanderers beware: Although the Pacific NW crowd is partial to Ritta’s Burritos, if you’re from anywhere where they serve real Mexican food you will be disappointed by how bland Ritta’s burritos really are. Do yourself a favor and take a pass. When you go to the food section of Saturday Market you will notice that Bangkok Grill has a line that winds back and forth like in an amusement park. There’s a reason for that. Their pad thai may not stand a chance compared to a street stall in Bangkok, but at Saturday Market you can’t do any better.
Instead of breaking down everything I did in Eugene, I’m going to give you a quick list of spots to eat, shop and things to do.
Voodoo Doughnut – Doughnut Nirvana. I wrote a whole post about this place. Not to be missed.
Bruno’s Chef’s Kitchen – Amazing daily menu at very reasonable prices. Bruno and Bessie have been rockin’ since the mid 90’s. I was one of their first customers. Way back when they served their incredible meals on paper plates with plastic utensils.
Keystone Cafe – Oatmeal-sesame banana blueberry pancake. Damn. I wish I could make this at home.
Prince Puckler’s Gourmet Ice Cream – Get the Euphoria Sundae. Fresh Banana ice cream is a good choice as are the coffee flavors and the chocolate raspberry. Hey even Obama stops here when he’s in town. Don’t believe me? Go check out the photos on the walls.
McMenamins – This is a classic Eugene/Portland Microbrewery. They have nice eats and even better beer.
Newman’s Fish Market – Attached to the Fish Market they have a side window where they make fish ‘n chips with super fresh fish. Used to have hot chicks working there when I was in college. Just a bunch of dudes now. Oh well, some things change for the worse.
Allan Brothers Beanery – Go to the one on 5th Street and enjoy some coffee and maybe even some live music. There are better coffee shops, but none with the same history.
Poppi’s Anatolia – Indian and Greek food at the same spot? Holy grape leaf tandoori! Yes, it’s true. An odd combo, but it works. Try the potato & onion bhajias and Vindaloo chicken if you like your food spicy.
Cart De Frisco – If you’ve met me, you know I only eat chicken if I’m desperate, but this place serves the best damn chicken sandwiches anywhere this side of the Mississipi, so I will happily make an exception to eat here.
Do not. I repeat, do not allow people too stoned to give good advice, your drunk ass friends, the hotel staff (or anyone else for that matter) to convince you to eat at Oregon Electric Station. The food is overpriced and mediocre at best. Same goes for Ambrosia and Jo Fed’s. Trust me. Well intentioned people will tell you to go to these places. Politely decline.
I feel kinda bad I left out tons of great restaurants. Oh well, such is life.
Passionflower Design – This is one of my girlfriend’s all time favorite places. It’s filled with wonderful ephemera. You can really do some great gift shopping in here. You will find stuff your friends will dig. It reminds me of an awesome store in Seattle named Watson Kennedy.
Things to do:
Rent a bike at Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life and ride along the Willamette River. Or just ride around town. There’s lots of bike lanes and Eugene drivers are very aware of cyclists.
Hike Spencer’s Butte. Do be aware of what time the sun sets, and bring a flashlight if you are going to be up there after sunset or you’ll be forced to use the flash on your camera to help you navigate the path back down. Not one of my brighter moments!
Visit Saturday Market. As long as you eat at Bangkok Grill, I won’t be mad at you. Get the pad thai and pork on a stick. Otherwise, enjoy the weird. Track down Frog and buy his latest joke book.
Go to Sundance Market and buy some Genesis Juice (Apple), Toby’s Tofu Pate and some Great Harvest Bread. Of course, if you accidentally wander into the vitamins section, you’ll probably run into a classic Eugene Archetype. The long-haired, emaciated new-age hippy Don Juan. This is the dude who will be just a bit older than the coeds. Probably around 27, and he will be really into yoga and full body cleanses, but not actually into bathing. His funky smell will be covered up with the ubiquitous patchouli. He may or may not have dreads, but his hair will be long. If you’re there long enough, you can watch him work his magic on the young wanna-be hippie girls who’ve discovered that they don’t like to shave their legs or armpits and that going to drum circles is a great way to meet these dudes. Anyhow, it can be amusing to watch from afar. Just don’t take any nutritional advice from this vegan dude, unless you want to lower your testosterone. For badass nutrition advice from a vegan who knows what he’s doing, check out this article from Mike Mahler.
Now take the stuff you bought at the Sundance Market and go to Hendrick’s park for a picnic. Make sure you swing on the two swings that are between the giant trees.
Catch a movie at the Bijou Art Cinemas. This place is a Eugene institution and is in a mission-style building and has $5 matinees/$5 late-night/ $7 general admission. They show art flicks and some regular movies.
Places to get hammered:
Really too many to mention, but here’s a few:
Mcmennamin’s (High Street, East 19th Street) – I know I mentioned it under places to eat. Well you could just go to drink! I recommend the Hammerhead and the Terminator Stout (6.45% alcohol by volume. By comparison, Bud has 5%).
Mac’s at the Vet’s Club – If you’re into the blues, check this place out. Not so sure about the food. Best to just get drunk.
Sam Bond’s Garage – Live music, chill atmosphere and a full bar (which includes regional microbrews and the omnipresent PBR) make this a good hang.
New Max’s Tavern – This place is rumored to be the inspiration for Moe’s Tavern on the Simpsons. It’s a divey place to get lit and check out the weird locals. Perfect.
You could also check out Jameson’s, The Black Forrest, McShane’s Bar and Grill, John Henry’s and/or the Old Pad, depending on what your liver can handle. Each has its charms which I will leave for you to discover.
Peace. And remember, it’s always 420 in Eugene.
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