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Eugene Weekly : Back To Campus : 10.06.05

BACK TO CAMPUS 

No Closing Time

Where to find good grub in the wee hours.

By Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Eugene goes to sleep early. By the time the sun sets, most of downtown has already shut down. By 10 or 11 pm, the remaining businesses — restaurants, mostly — have also closed their doors, leaving nothing but a spattering of bars and pubs to light the night.

So when it gets late, when the bars are closing and there's little left to do but go home, where can a hungry Eugenean get a good bite to eat? Sure, a few fast food drive-through windows stay open, and there are always the 24-hour chain diners. But when you're out late and looking for something better than a value menu and less annoying than fighting high school kids for a booth, where can you go?

The Pita Pit

Located right downtown at 1087 Willamette — halfway between an Indigo District barstool and the comfort of my bed — the Pita Pit wins my approval for its sheer convenience, even though it's not technically open all night. Open 24 hours a day until just a couple months ago, when the restaurant stopped offering breakfast and started closing at 3 or 4 am, the Pita Pit serves up pretty much anything you want in a big piece of pita bread. Until around midnight, the shop is a high-traffic area for groups of teenagers. But by 1 or 2 am, the crowd thins out to a few tipsy 20-somethings at a time. You can be out the door, pita in hand, in five minutes flat.

My favorite menu item is the gyros pita, a big mess of lamb-and-beef kebab smothered in tzatziki, a yogurt-and-cucumber based sauce, and topped with feta cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and olives. I stopped in late one night and sampled one. At $5.25 each, tonight one gyro was enough for two people. But if you're in a gluttonous, drunken stupor, you might want your very own.

Burrito Boy

Katie Matthews and Dusty Locke scarfing down some nachos at Burrito Boy.

Perhaps the best-known Mexican joint in town, Burrito Boy has five locations in Eugene. But for the late-night snacker one of them matters: 510 E. Broadway, which started offering 24-hour service back in March. At midday, Burrito Boy is often my first choice for a quick lunch, although during peak times, the restaurant can be crowded and the wait time long. But at night, after the dinner crowd goes home, Burrito Boy is a second home to college freshmen living in one of the UO dorms just a block away. After spending a Saturday evening at a Downtown Lounge hip hop show, we wandered down Broadway in search of some much-needed sustenance.

At 1 am, Burrito Boy was still half full: couples stopping in for to-go orders, a table of students and us. Seeking the answer to whiskey sours on an empty stomach, I ordered the $4.75 Carne Asada Boy Burrito, one of my favorite items. The burrito, filled with small slices of steak tossed with cilantro and onion, beans, rice and cheese, was freshly made and delicious.

My friends Dusty and Katie shared a $6 Wet Veggie Burrito, Katie's favorite meal: beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream rolled into a tortilla and slathered with mole. Even late, the food was as good as ever, and so was the service. Twenty minutes later, we were sated and ready to teeter to the Horsehead for one last round.

 

Muchas Gracias

In the world of 24-hour Eugene eateries, Muchas Gracias is the newest. The restaurant, a St. Helens-based chain with locations across Oregon, opened in May in the old Burger King building at 1535 Franklin Blvd. A bit out of the way for the downtown crowd, it's within walking distance from the UO's residence halls and other student housing east of campus. And perhaps best of all when you're not on foot, it has a drive-through. On this particular night, I had skipped dinner and Katie had been subsisting on Wheat Thins all day. So we headed out late to try the Muchas Gracias fare.

The first thing I noticed was the price. From tortas (Mexican-style sandwiches) to combination plates to giant burritos, the food is almost as cheap as Taco Bell and the portions are massive. Katie ordered a simple $2.15 bean and cheese burrito, but I opted for the $3.30 Oregon Burrito, a mixture of steak, potatoes, cheese and Mexican salsa.

By the time we'd chosen a booth amongst the few other diners, our orders were called. The burritos were huge, But as I bite into my meal, I had my first disappointment in my hands-on research for this story. The steak was under-seasoned, the potatoes were bony and the whole thing was greasier than I'd hoped. On Katie's side of the table, the grease dribbled from her burrito — not what she expected from beans and cheese.

The food isn't actually bad, but it's too greasy, and Burrito Boy's ingredients are better. But then again, a burrito down the street would have cost $2 more, and sometimes, especially late at night, cheap food wins. I washed down an overall satisfying meal with an orange Fanta and we headed home, content in the knowledge that although Eugene may sleep early, we'll never go to bed hungry again.    

 

24-HOUR SCARFING

Many Eugene restaurants are open 24 hours a day. Here's a list of some others not previously mentioned:

• The International House of Pancakes serves its requisite breakfast menu, as well as burgers and fries, 24 hours a day. Its downtown diner at 355 E. Broadway is convenient for locals, and the Springfield location, at 3427 Gateway Blvd., gets freeway traffic.

• Shari's, with four local restaurants, serves plenty of American favorites anytime. In Eugene, visit 35 Division Ave. or 2950 W. 11th. In Springfield, Shari's can be found at 1807 Pioneer Pkwy E. or 900 Beltline Road.

• Denny's, located off I-5 at 3652 Glenwood Blvd. and at 987 Kruse Way in Springfield, serves American diner food and caters to the freeway traffic.

• Jack in the Box has three locations open 24 hours a day, all in Springfield: 4172 Main St., 1805 Pioneer Pkwy E. and 3491 Hutton St.

• McDonald's now has three 24-hour drive-thru windows in case of a late night need to supersize: 5701 Main St. and 3405 Gateway Blvd. in Springfield and 2125 Cubit St. in west Eugene.

 

 

Cheap 'n' Choosy

Getting by in the land of the potluck, yoga and tofu

By Lynette Chiang

Welcome to fabulously frugal Eugene, land of the potluck, sliding scale, recycled bicycles, card-carrying careers in Goodwill hunting. But don't be fooled. Locals demand both style and substance for their shekel, and there are plenty of creative local businesses willing to step up to the plate. Here's a day's worth of tips and tricks for the choosy cheapskate. The stops were compiled by a "blow-in" who spent four years dodging the Eugene rain, hail and rain armed with a rainjacket and a purse that holds no more than a $10 bill. Pedal this way …

WAKE UP to the 6 am crowing of a Eugene train whistle (free). If you're a morning person, head down to the most affordable drop-in YOGA class in town (Core Star, 2nd and Washington), taught by the rubbery John Perry. 1-1/4 hour, $3-5. M-W-F-Sa at 9 am; Tu, Th, Su at 5.30 pm. Nicely limbered up, head to Keystone (5th & Lawrence) for BREAKFAST. Choose the delightfully gritty oatmeal sesame pancake $3.50 or the saucy, ricey Vegan Powerhouse $4.95. It's one place where the food doesn't taste of cooking margarine. The EW Calendar (free) is crammed with cheapies/freebies. You could get a BA on the meaninglessness of life for a fraction of your spendy college education. MOVIES 12 (Gateway Mall, Springfield) has a $1.50 daily special. Artier flicks are at the Bijou (13th & Ferry), $3 for late night, $4-5 Sun-Wed .

It's better outdoors on a sunny day and join the FAST NOON BIKE RIDE with Bike Friday (3364 W11th, M-F); see if you can pass guys twice your age. Let's do LUNCH. How about CHOW FUN, $8.50 at Ocean Sky (18th and Chambers), the best juicy flat rice noodle, Or PIZZA: Try a margarita slice $2.75, or Caesar+slice+slurp $6.50 at Bene (Lincoln and West Broadway), outstanding thin crust, pity their soda fountain is uninspiring. Or the avant-garde Pizza Research Institute (13th and Lawrence) Vegan Chef slice $4, a luscious fruit and veggie garden slathered in a tasty "proprietary" sauce. Or Cozmic's cheesy veggie slice $3.50, or Sy's NY (12th& Alder) $2.25; tip 'em nice or enjoy a slightly burned slice. Or elbow your way past school kids at the Taste of India (24th and Hilyard) lunch buffet.

SALMON WRAP: $6.50, Cafe Glendi (5th Street Public Market). Now walk off lunch on the SECRET WALK, a path winding up through moss covered trees, along a babbling brook with bridges and even a gazebo to contemplate the meaninglessness — all urban walkways should be like this. Mapquest your way to West 25th and Brittany Drive, look for the white path just near the bus stop. Nibble away on the best dark chocolate you will ever taste, local CHOCOLATE DECADENCE $2.19 (cheapest at Kiva, 11th and Olive) — the right break, just the right bitterness. Now for afternoon TEA at the upscale ambiance of Savoure (West Broadway and Lincoln) where they sell the best anti-oxidant rich Rooibos tea around. For $3.75 a pot with refill you get 5-1/2 cups. Cheap and very choosy!

WIRELESS is now at Allan Bros. (5th Street, open 'til 10 pm, Alder open til 9 pm), Jiffy Mart (East Amazon and 33rd, open til 11 pm), Friendly St. Market and 5th Street Public Market. No charge for these electrons.

Happy hour at Allan Bros (West 5th and Olive; 24th and Alder) is 5-7 pm every day, 2-for-1 drinks. Excluded is their luscious EXPRESSO SHAKE, $3.50 that goes right to the top of the class; you need a shovel to make a dent in it. The town's best berry PIE is also here, a la mode $3.25.

Anyone for dinner? The BURGER at Turtles (Willamette & 27th) thwarts my attempts to be vegetarian — a perfect Monday $6.50 burger and beer special. Slightly closer to home is Sakura (13th and Alder), home of the luscious Oregon Coast SUSHI $5.50. Vegetarians will love the TEMPEH SANDWICH, a gourmet toasted treat $6.50 at Cornucopia (17th and Lincoln) open late!

If you'd rather be the Iron Chef and DIY, TEMPEH/TOFU is the meat 'n' potatoes of many a Eugene diet. Buy direct from Surata (3rd and Lincoln), Tuesday and Thursday, 11-5 pm when they sell the 'overs. You can't end the day without the luscious vegan blueberry CHEESECAKE at Sweetlife (Monroe and 7th), $3.50, or the giant TIRAMISU $6 at Napoli (E13th and Hilyard), or Rusty's Handbuilt ICE CREAM SANDWICH $1.80 — a giant slab of real ice cream between a giant pair of cookies half-dipped in bulletproof dark chocolate, from wholemealy stores.

It's now Saturday, 9 pm — I'm heading out for some of that intelligent, inventive, gotta-dance ELECTRONICA at Freaks in the House, John Henry's (West Broadway and Olive). It's free, cheaper and funner than going to the gym.


Lynette Chiang's blog is at www.galfromdownunder.com

 

 

Campus Petting

Sounds like fun, but what happens when school's out?

By Sara Brickner

For shelter animals, the cats at Greenhill Humane Society live in the lap of luxury. Greenhill's cattery, a bright, sunny room with picture windows, isn't just a safe haven with regular meals. It's a kitty playground, complete with toys, scratching posts and benches for potential adopters to sit and meet the cats. To anyone used to the grim, cramped cages found in most animal shelters, these kitties are living in the Park Avenue of catteries.

Unfortunately, they are a small percentage of the strays that populate the streets of Eugene. And what Greenhill visitors don't get to see is the office that's been converted into an extra kitten room. In this impromptu branch of the cattery, kittens sleep on a desk next to a computer and play hide-and-seek underneath an office chair. For the past two years, there has been an explosion of kittens in Eugene, due to unusually mild weather and a large abandoned, stray and feral cat population.

It is an affliction that the Humane Society of the United States says is common in college towns — and Eugene is no exception. All it takes is a visit to Lane County Animal Regulation Authority, the Lane County animal shelter, where Senior Animal Control Officer Bernard Perkins said that once school gets out, "the increase in concerns and calls [about abandoned pets] is about 300 percent." Usually, he says, the animals left behind are cats. According to LCARA Senior Animal Welfare Officer William Waugh, the increase is "significant enough that any of us doing this for a while would catch on to it."

It's not just a hunch, either. Between the month of May 2005 and the month of June (when school gets out for the summer) the number of animals brought to LCARA by the public increased from 83 in May to 188 in June — 188 is also the highest number of citizen-impounded animals since July 2004, in contrast to the measly 45 animals impounded by officers during the same month.

Frankly, Waugh says, "This is the animal garbage dump." And often, it's the LCARA officers who end up as the garbage collectors. Perkins says it's not uncommon for a vast range of species to come in from campus-area landlords and, occasionally, from the UO dormitories.

"You end up finding a whole array of animals," says Perkins who has himself picked up abandoned pets at dorms. But because there are no Lane County ordinances governing cats, LCARA usually will only take in cats if they are injured, sick, or if the person who brought the cat pays a fee to cover the cat's expenses. In fact, LCARA's cattery is no longer funded by the city of Eugene, perhaps in part because of the lack of legislation regarding cats. Which means that if a healthy cat is abandoned, it is free to roam— and reproduce — at will.

In one mating season, Greenhill Operations Director Theresa Iverson said that one cat could produce up to three litters of kittens, which will likely become the next generation of feral, unadoptable cats that will be euthanized if brought to a shelter.

Waugh says that Eugene is about on par for its demographic makeup, but both he and Perkins believe that Eugene's large student population does contribute to the abandoned animal problem. At this point, Waugh says, "I just about will not adopt a kitten to a college student."

Iverson and Waugh agree that moving is one of the main reasons people surrender their pets to shelters. Greenhill Community Relations Manager Kimberly Johnson theorizes that since college students tend to be a transient bunch, there may be a correlation between the number of abandoned and stray animals and the number of students in Eugene. So when students come in to Greenhill at the beginning of the school year, Theresa Iverson often steers them away from adoption, suggesting instead that the student apply for Greenhill's foster program. Foster "parents" take in Greenhill animals that are recovering from surgery, or are too young to be adopted, for a specified period of time, at most a few months. That way, there's no long-term commitment.

"A lot of the problems that we're having with the reproduction of cats are the abandoned animals left at home," Iverson said. If everyone spayed and neutered, she says Greenhill wouldn't have major space issues. The cost of the procedure can be a deterrent, but the Eugene Animal Hospital and the City of Eugene Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic offer low-cost vaccines and spay and neuter services. Local organizations help, like the Feral Cat Coalition, the Stray Cat Alliance and Stop Pet Overpopulation Today, which encourage spaying and neutering and help low-income people with vet bills.

Eugene and Lane County codes both stipulate that unwanted or abandoned animals adopted through LCARA or any other shelter must be spayed or neutered. If not, the pet owner may be fined up to $500 dollars under Eugene city code or $816 under county code. And neither Greenhill nor LCARA will adopt out pets to people who live in residences with "no pets" policies, because an Oregon landlord can evict tenants with only 10 days' notice for harboring an unauthorized pet. At Greenhill, 30 percent of adoption applications are denied because of landlord refusals.

Greenhill estimates that 40,000 homeless animals are wandering the streets of Lane County, which makes finding a pet no more difficult than peeking into the bushes. And it's not unusual for students to sneak pets in despite supposedly strict "no pets" policies. Roommates Frank and Blair, UO students who took in an abandoned cat despite their apartment complex's "no pets" policy, are one example. They're not worried about getting caught, they say, because they're not the only ones breaking the rules.

"There's a lot of people at those apartments who have cats," Frank said. Olive, Frank's cat, was abandoned in a campus area neighborhood. She's been living with Frank and Blair for a year and a half. Recently, Blair also adopted a puppy named Rio.

The men say that paying for their pet expenses isn't a problem, but Blair does have one concern — damage.

"I worry about [Rio] ripping our house up," he said.

It's a valid concern. And for landlords like Bill Olson, Sr., co-owner of OBO Enterprises LLC, pet damages are the main reason why landlords evict students who take in unauthorized pets. Olson has been renting to students since the early 1970's and rarely allows tenants to have pets except for those he's known long enough to trust. Most exceptions are not college students.

"I've had several cases where I know [student] tenants have left cats," Olson said. "I love pets myself, but I just don't think college students and pets are a good mix. To me, it's an expense they don't need." If someone is adamant about having a pet, Olson will have the tenant fill out a form and charge additional rent per month to cover the potential costs of pet damage. After numerous carpet replacements and flea exterminations, Olson believes that allowing pets usually isn't worth the extra work. Olson says that most landlords don't allow pets for the same reasons.

But for Realtors like Charlotte Brady, who has been renting campus-area properties to students since 1997, allowing pets hasn't been a major problem.

"I think that pets are a part of life," Brady said. "The problem is when you get people who are irresponsible." In her ads, Brady uses the phrase "pets considered," then meets the potential tenants' pets and charges them a $150 flat fee per pet to cover any damages. So far, she's only had one negative pet damage experience with her tenants and hasn't seen any abandoned animals on her properties. Brady believes that most landlords won't allow pets because of damage, but private landlords are more likely to negotiate and allow pets than property management companies.

Bijaya K. Shrestha has been a property manager for the Southtowne Apartments since October 1996. Shrestha chose to allow all kinds of pets, including large dogs, but says he's had no trouble allowing pets. In fact, he says, it's been an economically wise decision because most landlords do not allow pets. While Shrestha's tenants are not predominantly students, he says his student tenants have overall been capable, responsible pet owners.

"I've had undergraduate students from California actually fit their entire schedule of their lives around dogs," Shrestha says. "

But students lead busy lives, which is why UO accounting pre-major Hui Xiong is still deciding whether or not to take in a friends' previously abandoned cat. Xiong's friends are partial to the cat, but their landlord does not allow pets.

"They asked me to take care of the cat, but I have not decided yet," Xiong said. "If you are a student you have lots to do, so you do not have much time to take care of cats."