Eugene was a serious part of my life. Food is a serious part of my life. Having spent the last 3 years in the great state of Oregon and in the great food metropolis that is Eugene, Oregon I figured I would share my top five favorite restaurants from the Emerald City. While I am sure there are many restaurants that I haven’t tried in Eugene, I can attest to the fact that I did eat my way through the city, trying my hardest to go to as many places as possible, that both my belly and my budget would allow. The following list is not in any certain order and each place has its own unique merits.
Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen and BBQ
400 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402
Papa’s Soul Food may be the best known restaurant to those of us that were not born in Oregon. It was the first place that I ever ate in Eugene and was actually the exact place I was sitting where I made the cognizant decision to take my talents from the dusty streets of Albuquerque to the forested landscape of Eugene.
Papa’s does so many things right, if you can get a seat. Get there early because people start lining up for Eugene’s most righteous barbecue joint starting at about 5 pm. If you manage to get a table in their festively decorated interior or lovely outdoor covered patio, don’t expect to leave hungry. Truly, I have tried to eat there about five or six times but only succeeded a total of three times because of the massive waits. In all honesty, the food is definitely worth the wait, but maybe bring something to munch on while you are standing outside.
Papa’s serves up delicious house smoked barbecue, home made sides and a great country style atmosphere. Their brisket is absolutely wonderful and the mac and cheese is dangerous to say the least. Their plates are outright enormous and worth the 15$ that you are probably going it spend there. Try a sweet tea and forget about that diet you are working on because each plate is definitely a belt buster.
Its the kind of place you want to sit for hours, comfortable, homey and warm. They serve their drinks in mason jars, the smells keep you wanting more and they even have a live band outside when its not rainy. I’ve had some wonderful times at Papa’s and I hope you will too!
La Taqueria Mi Tierra
628 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402
I was first introduced to La Taqueria only this last year by my friend Josh. It was truly the taste from home that I had been missing my entire time in Eugene. Upon walking into the brightly yellow and red interior-ed restaurant I knew everything was going to be OK. Pinatas on the shelves, a buffet table of house made salsas, a very obvious lack of English present on the menu, it just felt right. Ever since I moved to Mexico City, I have had this connection to Mexican food. For many Americans out there comfort food may be mashed potatoes, roasted chicken or meatloaf, but for me, its posole, tacos al pastor and chilequiles. I was extremely excited to see a menu not catered to the so-called “gringos” but one featuring menudo, Milanese and other Mexican favorites.
The food is authentic and delightful, the taste of Mexico that brings a smile to my face and satisfaction to my soul. The smells of chorizo, chiles and roasted meats dancing through the restaurant, mimicking the vivacity of the Nortena style music playing in the background. Its truly a no fuss, low comfort, gritty Mexican place, just like it should be. I have never had a good Mexican food experience with table clothes, tuxedo-ed waiters and might I say up-scaled nuanced Mexican cuisine. It simply doesn’t compute. Give me a table covered in tattered plastic, paint peeled walls and paper plates!
The best thing about La Taqueria may actually be the fact that it has a store adjacent to the restaurant, selling Mexican baked goods, meats, salsas and produce all for extremely fair prices. Every time I headed to the restaurant for some comida, I would also pop on over to the store to buy some homemade chorizo, blue corn tortillas and salsa verde. Their staff is made up of a family and friends that all made their way to Eugene by way of the Michoacan province of Mexico, the place notably where Mexican helado hails from. They are always helpful and I even get to break out the old Spanish, which makes me feel even better.
Ta Ra Rin Thai Cuisine
1200 Oak St, Eugene, OR 97401
I was first introduced to Ta Ra Rin by Andy Gitleson, the absolute man and craft beer genius, when he took the executive board of my fraternity to the Thai mainstay almost two years ago. We discussed a successful year and plans for the future over curry, silver noodle salad and Thai iced tea, an appropriate spread for such important matters. On first glance the outside is nothing special, simply a large sign beckoning you in and a white brick exterior. The interior on the contrary is beautiful, tastefully decorated with a modern wood finish and a beautiful mirror adorned bar. After the first time I went there, I returned about four times, going both with my mother during parents weekend and with my friends for a very hungover dinner after my 21st birthday. Nothing brings you back to good health like a spicy green curry.
Ta Ra Rin offers all the normal dishes you expect to see on a Thai menu but with an entire list of chefs specials that are unique to that location. While being a bit pricey with the average item being around 12$, the portions are ample and the food is delicious. I would recommend it as the best place for Thai food in Eugene although I did end up going to both Sweet Basil and Tasty Thai much more often because of convenience purposes.
Barry’s Espresso Bakery & Deli
Southtowne Shoppes, 2805 Oak St, Eugene, OR 97405
Barry’s may have been the best restaurant in Eugene. It was a local establishment that you could sit down for hours, share food with friends, people watch, read a book, do homework. A place that students around the University of Oregon campus became infatuated with. It was exemplified by their adherence to high quality products for low prices, bringing homemade Jewish comfort food to hungry students, many of which were so far away from home. The place embodied comfort and always brought me back to my past, curing my ails with a warm toasted bagel with lox or fresh baked blackberry crumble.
As many Eugenians know, Barry’s had to relocate because they could no longer afford their rent by the campus. I never was able to make it out to the new location but I can only hope it is as good as the original was. It’s a shame that they couldn’t hold their lease, and a testament to the changing atmosphere that Eugene, especially the change the campus community is experiencing. Out with the old and in with the profitable is the new motto in Eugene, one that the University of Nike is pushing for.
Barry’s was and probably still is exemplified by their gigantic sandwiches on house baked challah, their breakfast special, my friend Wyatt’s favorite, an egg sandwich on challah with Canadian bacon and pesto as well as their strong coffee that pairs with any of their awesome baked goods. Nothing on the menu was over eight or nine dollars and it was honestly the best place to start your day near campus. Thank you Barry’s for your long term service to the Eugene student community and your unwavering adherence to quality products for fair prices. You will be missed.
Sweet Life Patisserie
755 Monroe St, Eugene, OR 97402
Sweet Life is crazy. Upon walking into Sweet Life you ponder some of life’s most serious questions. How can one place make so much good food? How have I never been here before? Is it unethical to order two pieces of cake and ice cream? The fact is that stepping into Sweet Life brings up pure existential problems for baked good lovers. They have Red Wagon ice cream, tons of it. They have a fully functional espresso bar that can basically fill what ever your heart desires. They have pies, cakes, cookies, fruit bars. They have French pastries, macaroons and cream puffs. So much to tantalize your taste buds in so little time, what a crisis!
Although I was a late comer to the Sweet Life crowd, the place is popping with locals indulging their sweet tooth and enjoying casual cups of late afternoon or evening coffee. Its a cozy little cafe with maybe twenty five seats outside and a small patio out front yet its packed to the brim by date-nighters, foodies, transplants and hippies alike. Struggling to just get one thing when I went there I opted for a lemon bar, a bar of the highest quality I have found outside a Jewish grandmothers kitchen and a Josephine, a puff pastry filled with custard and served with a raspberry coulis. This was also the place that got me hooked on the London Fog, an awesome tea concoction featuring hot cream, Earl Grey Tea and lemon.
Sweet Life is awesome, puts out great food and is definitely a place to visit if you are ever in the Eugene area.
50 W Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401
Awesome burger joint serving the illustrious peanut-butter bacon burger and bottomless fries. Also has a deal for a burger a beer and a shot that simply can’t be beat.
Tasty Thai Campus
1308 Hilyard St, Eugene, OR 97401
Great cheap Thai place with a huge menu boasting food from a variety of southeastern Asian countries. May have the best brown rice in town and the Tom Kha is not to be missed.
Fifth Street Public Market, 296 E 5th Ave #226, Eugene, OR 97401
Upscale yet casual French restaurant. Perfect for date nights, a bit pricey, yet classic bistro food that is simply delicious
The Pint Pot
195 E 17th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401
Nearly made the top 5 list. Delightful little Irish pub with a huge wooden bar serving cold pints of Guinness and Emerald Isle favorites such a bangers and mash and scotch eggs.