Food & Drink

The Most Essential Bars & Restaurants in Eugene

Published On 10/13/2016 Published On 10/13/2016

Best pizza by the slice

Sy's New York Pizza

Address and Info

Sy’s, named for the New Yorker who opened it 30 years ago, is just what you want from a New York-style pizzeria. It’s right on campus, making it a great spot for a quick lunch for students; it’s open late; and the affordable, deliciously greasy slices are the best way to soak up all those drinks you pounded during the game; and, recently, it got a liquor license for beer and wine, making it even more of a destination. It’s no wonder it made it onto our list of the best college-town pizzas in the US.

Best fancy Thai

Ta Ra Rin

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Locals call it Thai-Hop, as the building was previously home to an IHOP. It’s easy to tell what it used to be from from the layout and structure, but the food is a far cry from its former self. It’s pricier than spots like Sweet Basil Express on campus, but more appropriate for a proper dinner out. The menu is expansive, with plenty of noodle dishes and curries, but the best is the seasonal pumpkin curry, which will have you waiting all summer for its release.

Rennies Landing

Best hangover breakfast

Rennie's Landing

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Most know it only as a college bar -- a place to watch Duck games, celebrate the end of finals, or grab a quick beer before your 10am class (a practice we cannot officially condone). But the best reason to go to Rennie’s Landing is for the ridiculously affordable and high-quality breakfast. A Greek omelette or corned beef hash is the best thing to work off the hangover you got here last night from four Rennie’s Lemonades.

Best burger

Marché

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Stephanie Pearl Kimmel brought fine dining to sleepy Eugene with a number of restaurants. Most notably and longest lasting is Marché, the flagship restaurant in the Fifth Street Public Market. It might be ironic to include it as the best spot for a burger; it just happens to be. Found at the Marché bar (creatively named Le Bar), it’s a perfectly grilled burger with blue cheese, heirloom tomato, and a black pepper aioli. We suggest adding the bacon.

Best non-college bar

Jackalope Lounge

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If you want to escape the college crowd and just grab a solid drink at a decent price, then Jackalope is your place. It’s a comfortable, casual sports bar; downstairs has drinks and pool tables, upstairs has more pool tables, dartboards, and TVs that show MMA fights and Ducks games. No frills or gimmicks here, just good service and product.

Papa's Soul Food Kitchen and BBQ

Best comfort food

Papa's Soul Food Kitchen

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Papa has passed on, but his legacy remains at this iconic Whiteaker spot. The menu is still delightfully designed with illustrated items, the catfish is as delicious as ever (as is the fried chicken), and the sides are some of the best Southern sides in the state; you will never regret ordering the homestyle mac & cheese. Unlike most soul-food restaurants, Papa’s has a section on the menu denoting which items are vegetarian and which are vegan; it’s still Eugene, after all.

Sweet Life Patisserie

Best dessert

Sweet Life

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Every U of O student knows about Sweet Life, and in the evenings, there’s going to be a line out the door, guaranteed, full of students and townies alike. Cakes, pastries, pies, cupcakes, savory treats, and even a gluten- and dairy-free monthly special cake are all made from scratch with local and organic ingredients, but our favorite item is the humble chocolate chip butter cookie. Recently, Sweet Life Petite opened, a smaller boutique bakery conveniently located near campus.  

Noisette Pastry Kitchen

Best bakery

Noisette

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A few years ago, Downtown Eugene was all but dead. Now, it’s revitalized with restaurants and bars, and Noisette was one of the first to land. It’s named for the French word for hazelnut, Oregon’s state nut and a common ingredient in the excellent baked goods found here. In the evenings, Noisette turns into the Salt and Sweet Wine Bar, with small plates, desserts, and wine by the glass; it’s a great spot for a date night.

Best dumplings

Twin Dragon

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Most people don’t immediately think Chinese food when they think of Eugene, but the town hides a few spots. Twin Dragon offers traditional Cantonese-American cuisine (you can get both chow mein and a steak dinner here), but it does so extremely well. What you’re really here for are the potstickers, either chicken & chives or chicken & cabbage. They’re Chinese dumplings as good as you can find stateside.

The Bier Stein

Best beer bar

The Bier Stein

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The Bier Stein isn’t just the best beer bar in Eugene, it’s one of the best beer bars on the West Coast, which is saying something. In recent years, the spot moved from its cozy, cramped little spot on East 11th and into the much larger space vacated by Midtown Market. What it lost in charm it made up for in capacity, an improved food menu, and an even greater selection of beers, with 30 on tap and over 1,000 (not a typo) in bottles. Luckily, no one messed with the amazing beer cheese soup.

Best coffee shop

Wandering Goat

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Coffee roaster, shop, and music venue, Wandering Goat is an archetypal West Coast coffee shop, but that doesn't make it not great. The roast is the best in town, and distributes to other shops, and the cafe’s distance from campus means you can hide out without worrying about too many cheap college students ordering a coffee and working for three hours. Plus it’s open late (11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends), and serves local beers and wine.

Belly Taqueria

Best taqueria

Belly Taqueria

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Belly Taqueria has followed an unconventional path to get where it is now. It started as an off-night menu at the fledgling Belly when it was in the tiny space that Tailored Coffee now occupies. When Belly moved into a larger building, Belly Taqueria remained before eventually moving into its current habitat. Today, it serves up some excellent quality tacos and other Mexican dishes, along with Latin-themed cocktails and an impressive tequila list.

Best ice cream

Prince Pückler's

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There’s still a poster on the wall at Prince Pückler’s of Obama and his choice of mint chocolate chip ice cream. If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for us (and really, the ice cream here is that good). Being right across the street from the track and field doesn’t hurt, either, though occasionally it leads to some lines.

Izakaya Meiji Company

Best cocktail bar

Izakaya Meiji

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Izakaya Meiji was one of the first dedicated cocktail bars in Eugene, opening around the same time the craft cocktail scene was erupting up north in Portland. It remains a fun destination, with a superb whiskey list, great cocktails, sake, and tasty Japanese small plates, all served in a stylish izakaya bar. At 11 each night, the bar serves a special ramen menu until close; it’s a great way to wrap up a night out.  

Agrarian Ales

Best brewery

Agrarian Ales

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Surprise, it’s not Ninkasi! Or Oakshire, or any of the other breweries that make Eugene the most beer-oriented college town in the country. Agrarian is both a brewery and a hop farm, which makes it the best brewery to visit, as you can sit out wathcing the farm, sip ales, and see the farmhands bring in the hops used in the beer you’re drinking. Unsurprisingly, the style is Belgian farmhouse, with hefeweizens, wits, and dunkels.

Best cookie-delivery program

Dough Co.

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Most students know Dough Co. as a last-minute savior during an all-nighter, with calzones delivered straight to their home, still mouth-scorchingly hot. And while that certainly is the case, the best thing about Dough Co. is the cookies, buttery and delicious and baked to order, the paper under them transparent with grease by the time they make it to your home. The minimum $7.50 delivery means you have to order something like eight of them, but that just gives you an even greater sugar rush to power through your essay that’s due in five hours.

Oregon Wine LAB

Best wine bar

Oregon Wine LAB

Address and Info

The Oregon Wine LAB (Local Artisan Brands) is an urban winery home to William Rose Wines. The space is a chic renovated warehouse and serves William Rose by the glass, with a wide range of whites, reds, and rosé, including lesser-known varietals such as Muller Thurgau and Semillon. The bar also offers rotating glass pours from other local wineries, all appreciably priced at or below the $10 range, and even has a few beers on tap. While you can grab bites from the kitchen, there’s usually the excellent Da Nang food cart parked outside, cooking up delicious Vietnamese food.

Party Downtown

The best damn restaurant in Eugene

Party Downtown

Address and Info

Party Downtown is appropriately named -- you'll always have a good time here. Ethically sourced ingredients, creative but comfortable dishes, kick-ass cocktails made by the inimitable, both in name and skill, Thor Slaughter, and a casual ambience make for a spot that wouldn’t feel out of place in Portland, save for the prices. If you’re looking to splurge, the chef’s choice is only $55, and that’s drinks included. Party Downtown alone is worth the drive from Portland.

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1. Sy's New York Pizza 1211 Alder St, Eugene, OR 97401

OK, so "New York-style" might be pushing it, but considering how cheap and cheesy Sy's slices are, who cares about living up to New York's standards? Located in the heart of the University of Oregon on Alder St., this classic pizza joint, which sports black-and-white checkered floors and red tabletops, loads its pizzas with toppings, ensuring every bite is brimming with pepperoni, mushroom, or whatever topping your heart desires. You might want to skip the bread-y Sicilian style and stick with the thin crust, and -- above all -- don’t forget to order a pile of Sy's famously scrumptious garlic knots.

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2. Ta Ra Rin 1200 Oak St, Eugene, OR 97401

Eugene’s Thai restaurant scene is surprisingly robust, but Ta Ra Rin Thai Cuisine is the go-to noodle and curry spot for the eccentric college town’s foodies. The menu is a succession of plate after flavorful plate of small bites, soups, stir-fries, noodles, and curries. Owner Arna promises top-notch heat, appearance, aroma, and flavor on a menu that’s as enticing to meat lovers as it is to vegans, with dishes as varied as vegan green curry with jasmine rice and Tom Nuah, stewed beef simmered with celery, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and cilantro. And don’t worry, your favorite dishes will be available for all four years of school; Ta Ra Rin holds fast to its menu and avoids rotating items in and out, ensuring that you’ll return time and time again.

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3. Rennie's Landing 1214 Kincaid St, Eugene, OR 97401

Perhaps the greatest thing about Rennie’s Landing in Eugene is that it is a bar in a house, and a “historic” house at that. The two-story drinkery, located in the home of owner and namesake John Rennie, has been a University of Oregon watering hole since 1981 and is known for its killer libations, particularly the spiked lemonade with orange- and raspberry-flavored vodkas. Rennie’s Landing is comfortable and casual; 14 beers on tap and a variety of burgers made with locally raised, grass fed beef ensure high spirits and full stomachs at all times, particularly during its extensive happy hours. Pro tip: check out the upstairs deck, where you’ll find not only fresh air but also a flat-screen TV. Priorities, right?

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4. Marché 296 E 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401

Eugene’s Marché celebrates the farmer’s market philosophy by centering its menu on seasonal, regional, and, above all, fresh produce. Ripe ingredients unite in French dishes that are prepared simply, yet packed with flavor, like ratatouille, greens salad, and braised lamb. Thankfully, the menu is divided into sharing plates, starters, and main plates, so you’ll be able to sample a little of everything as you sink into your cushy leather booth. Mirroring Marche’s elegant menu selections is its décor, which is more or less Parisian; your heels will clack on the floral-patterned mosaic tile floors in reds and yellows, adding some spring to your saunter. The rich yellow walls are adorned with modest illustrations of fruits and vegetables, not unlike those that you envision hanging in your future country kitchen. You’ll be left wishing it were just as easy to capture and frame the food on your plate before it’s all gone.

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5. Jackalope Lounge 453 Willamette St, Eugene, OR 97401

Jackalope Lounge is a dressed-down sports bar in Eugene, whose main decoration (and inspiration) is the circumspect “jackalope” taxidermy mounted near the bar. With an extensive list of specials in addition to a variety of games like pinball, darts, pool, bowling, and golden tee there’s hardly a thing that Jackalope doesn’t have. The menu is an impressive array of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other bar fare, but won’t have to venture too far in to discover the gems. An order of French fries will get you a pound of golden beer battered or curly fries, which you can load up with bleu cheese, cheddar cheese, or bacon. When decisions stop becoming easy (perhaps after a few too many of the 16 local and regional beers on tap), spare yourself the trouble and try the sampler platter, which offers hot wings, mini corndogs, jalapeno-mozzarella cheese sticks, and potato skins. Though all this food and drink might leave you dazed and confused, don’t stare too long at the mythical jack-rabbit-meets-antelope head; he’ll get offended.

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6. Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & BBQ 400 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402

Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen and Bar is Eugene’s worst-kept Southern secret, and it claims to be “so good it’ll make you wanna slap yo’ mama.” While we can’t get behind slapping our mama, we can certainly get down with this Deep South-style dive joint’s off-menu Soul Burger, a smoked pork patty with grilled crispy onions, coleslaw and barbecue sauce. Papa’s also slings smoked beef, crawfish beignets, and fried oysters, recipes for which have been passed down for generations. Expect things to be a little tight; citizens of Eugene tend to overpopulate the small, bare-bones room. But what Papa’s lacks in comfort it makes up for in large portions and a surplus of cornbread, so you’ll be satisfied.

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7. Sweet Life Petite 1609 19th Street, Eugene, OR 97403

Two sisters have sweetened life for University of Oregon students, providing them with a reliable sugar-rush crutch just blocks from campus at the new boutique location of their successful bakery. People line up out the door for brownies, cookies, seasonal desserts (chai spice cheesecake with candied ginger-graham crust), vegan- and gluten-free pastries, quiches and espresso served up in a friendly bakery/cafe environment. The sweets are seriously sculptural: killer custom orders execute go-to designs like rainbows and baseballs with ease, and even satisfy silly and gross fantasies with cat butt-shaped cupcakes and zombie face cakes, complete with dangling and dislocated eyeballs. When you can’t tell the difference between a pineapple cake and an actual pineapple, you know there’s magic afoot.

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8. Noisette Pastry Kitchen 200 W Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401

Downtown Eugene residents can satisfy their upscale deli and bakery needs at Noisette, French for hazelnut (the official state nut, it should be noted). The place is a hybrid destination for savory and sweet cravings, bridging the gap between breakfast and lunch: with brioche flavored with orange blossom water and almonds or sugar-powdered madeleines on one hand and caprese baguettes, pot pies and goat cheese biscuits with herbs and sea salt on the other. A weekly baking schedule makes sure you know what’s coming out of the oven piping hot and when (but expect baguettes everyday because who doesn’t need a daily baguette). Specials are based on local yields, so if the forager comes in with some wild mushrooms, you better expect chanterelles baked into the upcoming quiches.

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9. Twin Dragon 919 River Rd, Eugene, OR 97404

Ornate lanterns tied with red tassels and green potted plants add some character to this otherwise simple Cantonese-focused Chinese restaurant. The potstickers are the biggest lure, with chicken renditions paired with either cabbage or chives. You want to go family-style if you’re eating in, a gorge-fest of bbq pork, egg rolls and almond-chicken chow mien. An Americanized section of the menu (you have go a little American to make real headway in Eugene) sports sirloin steaks and bacon cheeseburgers that all come with fries, but don’t be that guy.

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10. The Bier Stein 1591 Willamette St, Eugene, OR 97401

College kids love beer and college town Eugene meets the needs of such a market with The Bier Stein, serving 30 beers on tap and some 1,000 bottled brews in a retail/bar space. With this many specialty suds, it’s not just the frat drinkers who swing through, but true beer aficionados for a selection that stands out on the West Coast. German and American hot foods served onsite give you another reason to visit, from special grilled cheeses (dill havarti with spinach and garlic aioli) and beer-brined chicken strips with smokey doughnut holes to Bavarian soft pretzels and pork schnitzel with mushroom gravy, everything’s better with a beer-cheese soup (and a beer, duh).

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11. The Wandering Goat 268 Madison St, Eugene, OR 97402

Local artists and musicians wander in and out of The Wandering Goat, a coffee roaster that doubles as a performance space in Whiteaker. Garden chairs sit out front, while inside a shaggy-haired stuffed goat head, his horns rising dramatically out of his hard, black head, eerily eyes customers coming in for espressos, organic chai teas and kombucha. Producing pastries in its own bakery, the cafe has worked its way into local hearts with a popular biscuits and gravy plate, not to mention the peanut butter bars. Wine, mead, local beers on tap and 20 organic bottled beers keep people loose during regular evening music shows.

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12. Belly Taqueria 454 Willamette St, Eugene, OR 97401

Located just down the street from Belly, the taqueria’s older American cuisine-inspired sister, Belly Taqueria brings the big flavor of Mexican food to this small, cozy joint. They are known for their variety of tacos, long list of tequilas, and, less predictably, an award-winning key lime pie. The house margarita is served on draft, but if you’re feeling more adventurous they offer a list of other latin-inspired cocktails from their bartender’s special margarita of the day to the El Chupacabra (blanco tequila, pomegranate juice, and lime). Even though their tacos are a fan favorite, like the OctoBelly (octopus and pork belly topped with pico de gallo and crema), Belly Taqueria serves a number of Not Taco items like quesadillas and enchiladas.

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13. Prince Pückler's Gourmet Ice Cream 1605 E 19th Ave, Eugene, OR 97403

Prince Pückler’s is every bit the old fashioned ice cream place from the black and white tiled floor to the plastic tables and chairs. After providing the good people of Eugene with handmade, gourmet ice cream for over 38 years, Prince Pückler’s has made reputation for itself and you will most likely encounter a line that goes out the door ... but it’s well-worth the wait. They use fresh ingredients like real berries in their summer flavors and always find the perfect niche flavor for every season. Try their famous pumpkin pie ice cream, or a good classic like mint chip—President Obama’s personal favorite.

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14. Izakaya Meiji Company 345 Van Buren St, Eugene, OR 97402

The name Izakaya Meiji Company references two things: a Japanese tavern or sake house (Izakaya) and the Meiji dynasty (1868-1912) known for its exchanges with the Western world. Izakaya Meiji is literally a Western-influenced Japanese tavern that serves American whiskey, beer, sake, and a variety of authentic Japanese dishes. They are well-known for being a craft cocktail bar and serve specialty drinks like the Meiji Mule (Vodka, shochu, black pepper and ginger syrup, and fresh lime juice) with a killer happy hour. Their menu offers a variety of Japanese delicacies with western twists like smoked sprat Onigiri (rice balls with nori) and pork, thyme, and apple Kushiayaki (served on skewers). Every night of the week after 11pm they feature their “Ramen Shop” menu.

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15. Agrarian Ales 31115 W Crossroads Ln, Eugene, OR 97408

Agrarian, meaning “from the earth,” takes its name and farm-grown hops very seriously. They brew Belgian style ales made only with their own farm-grown ingredients like chills, herbs, produce, and even water from a well. Their rustic barn tasting room and three acre beer garden are open every weekend, serving their rotating seasonal beers alongside a farmhouse kitchen menu that only features dishes made from fellow local farms like soups of the day and woodfired pizzas. Some beers you might find here are: Buncha Pluckin’ Hippies (Belgian pale ale) and the Blazing Wildfire (smoked chipotle porter aged in Oregon bourbon barrels).

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16. The Dough Co. 1337 Hilyard St, Eugene, OR 97401

Dough Co. is the ultimate go-to for midnight munchies, not just because they serve fresh, gooey cookies and upwards of 30 types of calzones, but mostly because they deliver until 3am. They make their calzone and cookie dough fresh everyday, so quality is never a question when you sink your teeth into that blissfully greasy dough pocket or those melted chocolate chip cookies. Their calzone flavors and dipping sauces vary magnificently from a classic cheese or pepperoni to cheeseburger, spicy taco, and breakfast. If you choose to dine-in, expect to see red; red walls, red tables, red sauce on your face. Take your time to doodle on your napkin, and just maybe they will feature it on their wall of napkin art.

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17. Oregon Wine LAB 488 Lincoln St, Eugene, OR 97401

With a sunny patio area complete with picnic tables and a food truck, Oregon Wine LAB has a casual, hip feeling that continues inside with the bar made of wine casks and repurposed wood. Every Thursday they host trivia night, every Friday evening they have live music, and every day of the week the Da Nang Vietnamese Eatery is parked outside serving up Pho-nomenal Vietnamese street food. There are other rotational food trucks, and always a long list of wines to sniff, swirl, and sip. The folks at the LAB produce the fruit-forward William Rose wines on site and also pour other Oregon-based wines for tasting and purchasing.

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18. Party Downtown 64 W 8th Alley, Eugene, OR 97401

The real party at Eugene’s Party Downtown is the one on your plate, and it’s a culinary dance-off in which locally grown vegetables and humanely raised animals move and groove to win your taste buds’ affection. The focus on sustainable eating means everything at Party Downtown is made in-house, including the bread plate’s crunchy-outside-moist-inside slices and their accompanying cultured butter. While the restaurant’s pale wooden tables and potted succulents are refreshing enough to make you almost want to ditch your debaucherous lifestyle for a sunny and plain one, they mostly encourage you to sit and stay awhile. Seasonal menus of creative comfort food mean you’ll often be surprised by changing food and drink options, but look out for the staple veggie burger, made with the earthiest of smoked mushrooms, and local Oregon and Washington wines.

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