When people think of the Pacific Northwest you generally hear about Portland and Seattle but I recommend you take an extra two-hour drive down to check out Eugene’s food scene.
1. Southern comfort food at Elk Horn Brewery.
Once a Carl’s Jr, the owners Stephen and Colleen Sheehan, from Mississippi and the Pacific Northwest respectively, gutted the former fastfood joint to create a Southern-Northwest fusion Gastropub. Try their jalapeno hush puppies which are as big and round as a pair of elk and some deepfried pickles that will literally clog your arteries once you douse them in ranch. Down those suckers with their awardwinning Blood Orange Cider. Once you’ve finished that they’ve got another 23 beers and ciders on tap.
2. Sweet and savory at Off the Waffle.
If you’re anything like me, you hate brunch because you can never decide between sweet or savory. Do I want the shiny, greasy bacon and eggs or the towering stack of pancakes loaded with syrup? For decisionphobes like me the genius of Off the Waffle was created. There are three sections to this menu. Sweet, Savory and In Between! Yes, my friends. You can order waffles topped with brie and pears or Havarti and apple. Oh and just in case you’re still jonesing for that greasy piece of bacon we discussed earlier, you can add it to anything. They also have gluten-free pancakes for all you celiacs. As for me, I’ll take my usual order: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy with a heap of bacon on top.
3. Thai food at Sabai
Generally, when one thinks of Thai food we think of your typical Pad Thai and Panang Curry that literally can be ordered, made and at your doorstep in ten minutes. Not this place. For dinner, go family style and mix and match with your friends because the portions are generous. We always start off with the Pockets of Love because we all need a little rice paper with cream cheese and crab in our lives. Main course musts are the Sabai Noodle, Crispy Thai Basil, and Avocado Curry. For drinks get one of their awesome cocktails like the Rangoon Gimlet made with Tanqueray gin, basil, lime, and lemongrass or The Confession made with Jameson Whiskey, cucumber, St.Germain, and lemon.
4. Coffee at The Barn Light
The Barn Light offers possibly the best cup of joe in the country because it’s being brewed by a dude named Ryan who is one of the top five baristas to compete in the National Barista Championship, as seen in the documentary, Barista.
5. Real cider at Wildcraft Cider Works.
Cider gets a bad rap. Guys call it a chick drink because it’s sweet, fruity and tart. The truth is you’re drinking shitty cider. Go to Wildcraft Cider Works, try their Snake River Rye, then tell me it’s a chick’s drink. With 7.5% alcohol and aged in American Oak Stein whiskey barrels this little beverage will have you tattooing “cider lover” to your bum in no time.
6. PEANUT-BUTTER-PICKLE-BACON burger at Killer Burger.
Let’s face it, peanut butter just about goes with everything. But does it go with burgers? The answer is yes. The next time you need something greasy and substantial to absorb all of those $1 shots from Jameson’s next door, stumble into Killer Burger and demand a Peanut Butter Pickle and Bacon Burger.
7. Supersize your sushi roll at Unami.
Why did it took so long to supersize sushi? It took two dudes from Montana to figure it out. Imagine your favorite roll: dynamite roll, spicy tuna,… do you see it? Now quadruple the size of that roll. There you have it. The sushi burrito. Oh and don’t be shy about asking for that extra side of spicy mayo.
8. Board food.
It’s always exciting when a small little town like Eugene gets a new restaurant. It’s even better when that restaurant serves tasty dishes on artisanal, wooden cutting boards. Hence the name Board. Start off with one of their handcrafted cocktails, my favorite is Kate’s Kiss; Tennessee whiskey, lemon, pecan, sherry and smoked ice. Then order a Cubano sandwich.
9. Desserts at Sweet Life Patisserie.
Wherever you decide to eat just promise me you’ll skip the dessert and head straight to Sweet Life Patisserie. The bakery located in the Whitaker neighborhood has some of the richest desserts you’ll ever try. They also offer gluten-free and vegan options that keep the locals lining up out the door. So yeah, you may have to wait a few extra minutes for your oatmeal stout cake but you’re still digesting dinner, remember?
10. Mediterranean at Cafe Soriah
Cafe Soriah is run by Chef Ib Hamide and has been open for 20 years, offering Mediterranean cuisine from Cairo to Athens. The Lamb Gosht which is a leg of lamb marinated in yogurt and spices stewed in a tomato spinach curry will leave you full for three days. Don’t be surprised when Ib Hamide swings by your table to ask how you enjoyed your food. There is no question that this man takes great pride in his creation and hospitality.
The trail is a self-guided tour (they provide a map/passport) with 14 breweries. 8 stamps from 8 breweries will get you a free 32 oz. growler. You will be tasting epic homegrown beers created by local brewery wizards such as Ninkasi, Hop Valley, Sam Bonds and Falling Sky just to name a few.