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Eugene Weekly : Best of Eugene : 2009-2010

 

Best of Eugene 2009-2010: Eat Your Heart Out

 

best coffee

1. Wandering Goat Organic Coffee Roasters 268 Madison St. 344-5401. www.wanderinggoat.com

2. Full City Coffee Roasters 295 E. 13th Ave., 465-9270; 842 Pearl St., 344-0475. full-city.com

3. Dutch Bros. www.dutchbros.com

When it comes to coffee, the roasters and baristas at the Whiteaker neighborhood’s Wandering Goat follow that time-worn adage: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” In this instance, that means not only a cup of qualitatively superior java, which upon first sip is obviously the case. It also means hand selecting green beans grown in a sustainable manner, roasting small batches with exclusively wind-powered equipment and painstakingly combining individual beans to find delicious combinations like Chupacabra, the Goat’s signature espresso blend. All of the above — along with a classic bohemian atmosphere of Northwesty-cum-European café and a lonely hearts club clientele that runs the gamut from old-timers and artsy types to students and bookworms, with a little scruffy elitist attitude thrown in — make Wandering Goat Coffee Company Eugene’s premiere stop for a bracing yet relaxing pick-me-up, be that stop quick or not-so-quick or frankly malingering.

 

best american cuisine

1. Cornucopia 17th & Lincoln, 485-2300; 5th & Peal, 485-2676. www.eugenecatering.com

2. Turtles Bar & Grill 2690 Willamette St. 465-9038.

3. McMenamins East 19th Street Café: 1485 E. 19th Ave., 342-4025. High Street Brewery & Café: 1243 High St., 345-4905. North Bank: 22 Club Rd., 342-5622.

www.mcmenamins.com

What does it mean to serve American food? Burgers? Fries? Or is it food served in the spirit of neighborhood camaraderie, after-work beer sharing and watching the kids grow up between club sandwich lunch dates? Either way, Cornucopia is a natural winner in this category. Even its voicemail greets you with a friendly, “Hello, friends and neighbors!” Whether there for date night, friends in town or some free entertainment with dinner, Cornie devotees have watched their favorite watering hole grow and change (and multiply!) over the years but never lose its rootsy spirit. How much more American can you get?

 

best burger

1. Cornucopia 17th & Lincoln, 485-2300; 5th & Peal, 485-2676. www.eugenecatering.com

2. McMenamins East 19th Street Café: 1485 E. 19th Ave., 342-4025. High Street Brewery & Café: 1243 High St., 345-4905. North Bank: 22 Club Rd., 342-5622. www.mcmenamins.com

3. Dickie Jo’s 201 E. 13th Ave. 636-4488.

A newbie to town recently asked me where she could get a good salad. I recommended Cornucopia, to which this resident of only three months answered, “Oh, I can’t order salad there. I’ll just end up getting a burger.” Such is the draw surrounding the luscious, drippy but somehow not-too-bad-for-you-seeming half-pound towers of meat served at the Corn. Even the non-initiated can’t resist. Throw in the fact that the burgers are made from antibiotic- and hormone-free beef raised in Oregon, and you might have to put down this paper and go get one right now.

 

best bakery/sweets

1. Sweet Life Pâtisserie 755 Monroe St. 683-5676. www.sweetlifedesserts.com

2. Hideaway Bakery 3377 E. Amazon Dr. 868-1982. www.mazzis.com/bakery.php

3. Metropol Bakery 2538 Willamette St. 465-4730.

Sometimes you just want to have a reason to giggle like a dirty-minded 9-year-old. Beyond providing a comfortable atmosphere for anything from a date to a birthday party for your best friend’s father-in-law, Sweet Life gives you that reason to chortle mindlessly with its “Nipple of Venus.” Chocolate and body parts: All is well with the world. The wait staff are fast, friendly and ready to stuff you full of cake, cookies, coffee or whatever else your heart might desire. It’s a busy place, so be prepared for some good-natured jostling as people move between tables or dance by the windows in a frenzy of cake-eating joy.

 

best locally baked bread

1. Hideaway Bakery 3377 E. Amazon Dr. 868-1982. www.mazzis.com/bakery.php

2. Metropol Bakery 2538 Willamette St. 465-4730.

3. Eugene City Bakery 1607 E. 19th Ave. 334-6906. www.eugenecitybakery.com

With a wood-fired oven that takes its fuel from wood factory leftovers, a sandbox that draws in any kid within a 10-mile radius, an owner as passionate about local food as anyone else in the country and a winter farmers’ market that keeps Eugene locally fed, Hideaway Bakery has some great advantages. That’s in addition to its bread, of course, which comes out hot with a beautiful crust and tasty, just-chewy-enough interior. We also enjoy the potato doughnuts (especially the “doughnut holes,” which are large enough for two people to split for breakfast) and appreciate the community (some would say “crowded”) atmosphere.

 

best breakfast

1. The Glenwood 1340 Alder St., 687-0355; 2588 Willamette St., 687-8201. glenwoodrestaurants.com

2. Studio One 1473 E. 19th Ave. 342-8596. studioonecafe.com

3. Keystone Café 395 W. 5th Ave. 342-2075. keystonecafe.net

With two locations, one in south Eugene and the other near UO campus, the Glenwood is a convenient place for college students to grab breakfast as well as for those trying to avoid the breakfast lines caused by college students. Serving hearty portions of traditional tasty food at affordable prices, the Glenwood is the perfect place to join friends for Sunday brunch or to eat a quick bite any morning of the week. 

 

best pizza

1. Pizza Research Institute 530 Blair Blvd. 343-1307. www.pizzaresearchinstitute.com

2. Mezza Luna Pizzeria 933 Pearl St., 684-8900; 2776 Shadow View Dr., 743-2999. www.mezzalunapizzeria.com

3. Sy’s New York Pizza 1211 Alder St. 686-9598; 55 Silver Lane, 654-0603. www.sysnewyorkpizza.com 

Pear and garlic! On a pizza! PRI has always been good, but its new location makes it even better. Patrons will actually experience daylight at the pizzeria’s new spot on Blair Boulevard in the bohemian sprawl known as the Whiteaker. PRI is not a place for pizza cowards, so be bold. Say yes to that weird, unpronounceable vegetable the chef wants to mix in with a cheese you’ve never heard of and ... an apricot? Why not? You will never go back to regular pizza.

 

best veggie options

1. Café Yumm! 1801 Willamette St., 686-YUMM; 130 Oakway Center, 465-YUMM; 730 East Broadway, 344-YUMM; 1005 Green Acres Rd., 684-YUMM; The Crossroads, 3340 Gateway St., 747-YUMM; Sacred Heart, 3333 RiverBend Dr., 736-YUMM. www.cafeyumm.com

2. Laughing Planet 760 Blair Blvd. 868-0668. www.laughingplanetcafe.com

3. Lotus Garden Vegetarian Restaurant 810 Charnelton St. 344-1928.

You know what keeps a partnership sane? One person who feels that Yumm! Sauce is not the end-all, be-all of human taste bud existence, but who gives a liter of said sauce to the Yumm!-loving half on special occasions. You know what keeps some of the EW editorial staff sane? That’s right: Carefully spaced Yumm! attacks. Whether we order a medium Hot ’n’ Jazzy, an Edamame bowl with extra Yumm! Sauce, a Southwest Wrap, a Hearty Salad or some of those strangely addictive tofu sticks, the various Café Yumm! franchises deliver consistent tastiness. Café Yumm! owners donate food all over town (and Beaverton too), not to mention bonding with social media — blog! Twitter! Facebook! —and  they even hosted a recent Eugene Tweetup. When we can tear ourselves away from the sauce’s tantalizing combo of salt, umami and (good!) fat, Eugene stays loyal to Laughing Planet’s fresh, often organic bowls and burritos of tastiness.

 

best BBQ

1. Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & Blues Joint 400 Blair Blvd. 342-7500. www.myspace.com/papassoulkitchen

2. Hole in the Wall Barbecue 3200 W. 11th Ave., 683-7378; 1807 Olympic St., Springfield, 726-1200. www.holeinthewallbbq.com

3. BBQ King 18th & Pearl. 915-3252.

An understanding of the culinary idiosyncrasies of barbecue can elevate the simplicity of this comfort food to ambrosia. The slow-cooked care taken to make each slab of meat delectable is apparent with every bite, and nowhere more so than at Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen. The brisket, the pulled pork and the chicken sandwiches are incredible in both taste and price. The big back patio is great for cooling off outdoors and the staff is attentive, even when the place is slammed with customers. Also, check out the sides menu for great additions to the entrees. The fried okra is incredible, and you need vegetables in your diet, right?

 

best steak

1. Bates Steak House & Saloon  433 E. Broadway, 683-3108 www.batessteakhouse.com

2. Adam’s Sustainable Table 30 E. Broadway, 344-6948 www.adamsplacerestaurant.com

3. Oregon Electric Station 27 E. 5th Ave., 485-4444. www.oesrestaurant.com

Even in militantly herbivorous Eugene, a bloody piece of red, red meat has currency. Just ask Allan Bates, owner of Bates Steakhouse. “You still get the good old boys who appreciate a good piece of meat,” Bates says of his Emerald City customers. To ensure every hunk of beef is of top-notch quality, Bates has prime-grade cuts shipped in on Friday; the cuts are aged 21 days or longer in cold storage (so the micro-organisms do their work, breaking down the tendons and making it more tender) and then trimmed of excess fat and inferior meat. If that pivotal process proves a bit pricey, Bates says it’s well worth it. And how best to order the beast fired on the grill? “Medium rare,” Bates insists with categorical finality. “If you get it cooked too much, you can’t uncook it.”

 

best mexican/latin american/caribbean

1. Chapala Mexican Restaurant  68 W. 29th Ave., 683-5458;  136 Oakway Center, 434-6113.  www.chapalasmexicanrestaurant.com

2. Red Agave 454 Willamette St. 683-2206. www.redagave.net

3. Burrito Boy 943 River Rd., 689-7970; 30 W. 10th Ave., 344-5856; 510 E. Broadway, 344-8070; 2511 W. 11th Ave., 338-4219. www.burritoboy.com

 

best thai

1. Ta Ra Rin Thai Cuisine 1200 Oak St. 343-1230. www.tararinthai.com

2. Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine 941 Pearl St., 284-2944; 1219 Alder St. www.sweetbasileug.com

3. Chao Pra Ya Thai Cuisine 580 Adams St. 344-1706. 

 

best sushi

1. Sushi Domo 1020 Green Acres Rd. 343-0935. www.sushidomo.com

2. Sushi Station 199 E. 5th Ave. 484-1334. www.eugenesushi.com

3. Izumi Sushi & Grill 2773 Shadow View Dr. 683-1201. www.izumisushieugene.com

We don’t know why it took us so long to go to Sushi Domo. For years, it was the place friends told us to go, especially after Shiki disappeared. When we finally made our way to the small, unassuming space out on Green Acres Road, we were glad we did. A wall of smiling faces greets visitors to Sushi Domo: Next to the door, Polaroids from birthday celebrations are tacked up in rows, the celebrant’s name and age scrawled across the bottom. Clearly, people have fun here. The staff is friendly, the space unfussy but comfortable, all glossy wood tabletops and cozy lighting; the sushi menu is extensive, covering everything you’d expect and a bit more as well. We watched the chefs preparing one of the giant boat combos, sipped miso soup, delighted in the presence of a roll with mackerel and generally decided that Sushi Domo — as most of Eugene already knew — is totally worth the trip.

 

best asian that’s not thai or sushi

1. Lotus Garden Vegetarian Restaurant 810 Charnelton St. 344-1928.

2. Yi Shen Vietnamese Restaurant 1915 W. 11th Ave. 683-9386.

3. Toshi’s Ramen 1520 Pearl St. 683-7833. www.myspace.com/toshisramen

Nom! Look, if you wanted meat, you’d go somewhere that offered cow, pig or bird flesh (like the number 2 and 3 in this list). That ain’t happening at Lotus Garden, which offers a peaceful oasis for all-vegetarian lunch or dinner. You can ID the brown protein as wheat gluten instead of “beef of questionable origin,” and even if you don’t know how wheat gluten gets made, you can be pretty sure it doesn’t involve taking a stun gun to the heads of wheat and sending them through a slaughtering process. 

Veggie and meat options abound at Pho Yi Shen in its adorable new location, and everybody loves Toshi’s — so much so that there’s a Twitter-based Ramen Rush once a month.

 

best italian/greek/mediterranean

1. Poppi’s Anatolia 992 Willamette St. 343-9661.  www.poppisanatolia.com

2. Beppe & Gianni’s Trattoria 1646 E. 19th Ave. 683-6661. www.beppeandgianis.net

3. Mazzi’s 3377 E. Amazon Dr. 687-2252. www.mazzis.com

Look, we know it’s not right that we mashed together all of these cuisines. For one thing, as any good Roman (or Athenian) could tell you, Italy and Greece are not the same place. On the other hand, just look at Odysseus: Traveling around the Mediterranean makes for a happy family! From the Opa! sizzle of hot saganaki to the gustatorial splendor of lamb-based special dinners, Poppi’s  brings on the yum in its unassuming downtown spot. For special occasions, we love Beppe and Gianni’s, and we recently heard that even parents from New Jersey find that establishment’s Italian food acceptable. High praise for a restaurant in Eugene!

 

best late-night dining (table service after 10 pm)

1. Café Lucky Noodle 207 E. 5th Ave. 484-4777. www.luckynoodle.com.

2. Turtles Bar & Grill 2690 Willamette St. 465-9038.

3. Red Agave 454 Willamette St. 683-2206. www.redagave.net

 

best food cart

1. Cart de Frisco Oakway Center; UO Bookstore.

2. Off the Waffle 525 E. 13th Ave. www.offthewaffle.com

3. Alexander’s Great Falafel 13th & Kincaid.

Sometimes simplicity is best. Cart de Frisco’s chicken sandwiches may be one of the few items on the menu, but that’s because they got their menu right the first time. Stuffed with grilled chicken, cabbage and peanut sauce, the whole thing can make a real mess with all the drool mixed in. You’ve got a little something on your face there ... you gonna eat that?

 

best recession special (under $5)

1. Burrito Boy 943 River Rd., 689-7970; 30 W. 10th Ave., 344-5856; 510 E. Broadway, 344-8070; 2511 W. 11th Ave., 338-4219. www.burritoboy.com

2. Café Yumm! 1801 Willamette St., 686-YUMM; 130 Oakway Center, 465-YUMM; 730 East Broadway, 344-YUMM; 1005 Green Acres Rd., 684-YUMM; The Crossroads, 3340 Gateway St., 747-YUMM; Sacred Heart, 3333 RiverBend Dr., 736-YUMM. www.cafeyumm.com

3. Off the Waffle 740 Van Buren St., 606-4348; 525 E. 13th Ave. www.offthewaffle.com

In the harsh, apocalyptic wasteland of the new economic world order, humans must forage for food like squirrels and store calories like camels. Winter is coming. Fortunately, Burrito Boy provides accessible and affordable food and hearty, hefty helpings that will stay with you for the next four or 10 hours of frantic survival. With just a handful of bills, it is possible to feed yourself and have a few beans and rice left over for the people who are living in your closet, or under your sink, trying to save money on rent. Also, the burritos are heavy enough to double as weapons in case of attack.

 

best special occasion dining

1. Café Soriah 384 W. 13th Ave. 342-4410 www.soriah.com

2. Marché 296 E. 5th Ave. 342-3612. www.marcheprovisions.com

3. Belly 291 E. 5th Ave. 683-5896. www.eatbelly.com

 

best out-of-town restaurant

1. King Estate Winery 80854 Territorial Hwy. 942-9874. www.kingestate.com

2. Waterfront Depot 1252 Bay St., Florence. 541-902-9100.

3. Mo’s Restaurants Florence, Newport, Otter Rock, Cannon Beach, Lincoln City. www.moschowder.com

It’s impossible not to feel like royalty when you sup at King Estate, a restaurant that sits squarely amid a 1,000-plus acre vineyard and atop a stately rise overlooking the softly sweeping greenscape of the Lorane Valley. The chateau — with its spectacular view, spacious courtyard appointed in Santa Fe-cum-Grecian cobbles and burbling fountain — is luxurious but completely welcoming; the pleated tennis set mingles easily with visitors in flip-flops and cut-offs. But it’s the menu, elegant and affordable, that really distinguishes this out-of-town designation: tender cakes of Dungeness crab, juicy Alaskan halibut and messy barbecued ribs are just a few of the must-tries. It’s hard to argue with any place that offers pizza and truffle oil on the same page.

 

best new restaurant

1. Off the Waffle 740 Van Buren St., 606-4348; 525 E. 13th Ave. www.offthewaffle.com

2. The Rabbit Bistro and Bar 2864 Willamette St. 343-8226.

3. Adam’s Sustainable Table 30 E. Broadway, 344-6948. www.adamsplacerestaurant.com

It’s hard to think of a time we couldn’t go out and get a piping hot waffle as a late-night snack. But it is really less than a year since the opening of Off the Waffle, Eugene’s “confection sensation,” as their website states. Since then, proprietors Dave and Omer Orian have blanketed the town with free waffle samples and established a barter system ­— books for waffles — that appeals to thrifty individuals. 

The original waffle house is actually a real house on Van Buren, complete with a billboard with Off the Waffle’s iconic image (the red-headed waffle chef who resembles the brothers) and Belgian gypsy jazz piped outside. A second location, a cart in front of High Priestess tattoo parlor, doesn’t quite manage to create the same atmosphere (or, at times, freshly made waffles), but its convenience to the university and late-night hours ensures a steady stream of customers. 

So what’s all the fuss? These small, hand-held waffles are fantastic. Based on the famous sugar waffles from the Belgian city of Liège, they are sweetened with imported pearl sugar that creates a crackly, caramelized exterior and a moist interior. After some experimentation with ingredients and waffle irons, the shop now offers several fillings, including goat cheese with berries, or chocolate chips and banana. Cardamom and pistachios often join the party. Savory combinations, such as the havarti, apple and cinnamon, don’t always fare quite as well, especially when the waffle isn’t warm enough to melt the cheese. 

Off the Waffle sources as many ingredients locally as it can, including flour, farm-fresh eggs, Noris Dairy milk and Wandering Goat Coffee. The popularity of the waffles ensures the shop and the cart are continuously busy, and sometimes the lines get long. Enjoy the music, the books and the conversations around you while you wait. 

 

best restaurant

1. Belly 291 E. 5th Ave. 683-5896. www.eatbelly.com.

2. Marché 296 E. 5th Ave. 342-3612. www.marcheprovisions.com

3. Café Soriah 384 W. 13th Ave. 342-4410. www.soriah.com

We’ve had our eye on Belly since before it opened, and we’re still mesmerized. Self-described as “Rustic European Farmhouse Soul Food,” Belly has simple, sound, delicious food at great prices. Owner and Chef Brendan Mahaney learned the ropes on the Eugene fine dining circuit, including Marché and Red Agave, and then hosted a supper club before choosing Eugene over Portland for his restaurant. And we’re so thankful he made that choice. 

The menu changes monthly, following the seasons. Belly avoids the trendy misuse of the word “tapas,” thank goodness, but offers plates that range in size: appetizers, small plates and main course entrées. Like Marché, Belly offers French-influenced cuts of meat, such as pork belly, often served over lentils. Other dishes, such as the meltingly tender house specialty, pork shoulder confit, adapt French techniques. Salt cod fritters and gougères, the light cheesy buns popular in Burgundy, are also specialties. 

You won’t find long descriptions on the menu of particular local sources, but Willamette Valley specialties, such as Seavey Loop apples and hazelnuts in a salad, are plentiful. The confit accoutrements change with the seasons: now served with fall apples and pomegranate juice, spring might bring soused cherries over polenta. November’s menu will include duck confit, a chantrelle tart and a petit filet with potato, sweet potato and blue cheese gratin.

Belly stresses its lack of pretension, most recently with an advertisement that stated the restaurant was snouty, not snooty. With entrées under $20 and most small plates hovering around $10, the prices are comparable to meals at many dining establishments with more standard — even outdated — offerings. 

The wine list is inventive, featuring more European selections than one might expect. For dessert, we wouldn’t say no to a pumpkin pot-de-crème. But we’d probably choose another round of the bacon-wrapped, blue-cheese-stuffed Italian plums, because they are just that good.



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