Best of Eugene 2008-2009: Staff Picks
Best Appearance at the Best of Eugene Show
Sure, the roller girls were awesome zombies, and everyone who did a run of triumph up to the stage to pick up an award (we’re looking at you, Sam Bond’s guy!) was pretty awesome, but nothing was quite as charming as the Chester family, all dressed up to receive the Best Boutique award for Deluxe. From up in the balcony, we almost thought that was Pee-Wee Herman. (OK, not quite. But you get the point.)
Best Attempt to Put a Member of Bush Administration Behind Bars
Though they didn’t in the end manage to put George W.’s Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey in the slammer, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics got pretty darn close when their case caused a U.S. District Court judge to order Rey and the Forest Service to stop dragging their feet on doing an environmental analysis on the effects of fire retardant on fish — or he was going to put Rey in the pokey. We’re always pleased when a local group gets close to putting W’s cronies behind bars.
Best Bailout Basher
While searching Etsy.com for cute local clothes, we came across Laura Lee LaRoux’s frilly, girly, adorable bloomers — yes, real bloomers; we’re not just using the word to be cute! LaRoux only has a few things in her Etsy shop (revivallclothing.etsy.com) but you can also pick up a pair at Deluxe or Infinity Mercantile. We’re thinking a cute layer of ruffles peeking out from under a denim skirt might be just the thing to keep us a little warmer when we’re biking around town this fall.
Best Consolation For Fans of MST3k
The cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 has long since gone off the air, but the spirit lives on in the cozy confines of the Wandering Goat’s Heckler’s Movie Nights, where bad action flicks ranging from Ultimate Warrior to Tango & Cash are screened and rowdy, colorful commentary is thoroughly encouraged.
Best Dive Bar
At the Tiny Tavern, the brews are cheap, the booths cozy and clientele just crusty enough to ensure a complete lack of pretense.
Best Dog Park
In the shadow of Autzen Stadium, Alton Baker Dog Park is four acres of pure unadulterated, off-leash doggie freedom. A slew of dog-loving volunteers have worked hard to make this the Garden of Eden for our four-legged friends. Amenities include ample parking, intersecting walking trails, a wash down station, rest stops, benches and a plentiful supply of poop bags. Plus, the park has a pasture rotation system, which allows the grass to regenerate faster for maximum back roll-ability.
Best Editorial Schizophrenia
The R-G s unexplained mayoral endorsement switch.
Best Eugene Landmark (at Night)
We’re returning from another Portland excursion, driving south on I-5, and it’s late. Our eyes are bugging out of our heads and we just want to be home. Somewhere between Harrisburg and Coburg we perk up at the strange towers in the distance, glowing ambient red as if a clan of day-glo giants are ushering us to the final stretch of interstate and on into Eugene. We sigh deeply. Aside from I-5, the radio towers in the southwest hills can best be appreciated for their dreamy cadence of light from the little hill in Amazon Park.
Best Feel-Good Fill Up
There’s just something so warm and fuzzy about stopping by Sequential BioFuels. The perky gas station attendants, the way our diesel truck fumes smell like the potato chips the biodiesel is made from, the Sweet Life pastries we can’t seem to resist after the French-fried diesel smell makes us hungry …
Best First Friday Jazzish Sounds
If you’re new to town or to First Friday Artwalks, you may not expect a jazz serenade from a surprisingly modest diva. But gracious La Follette owner, artist and chanteuse Cyndy Duerfeldt won’t block the gallery/frame shop’s trademark bowl of Hershey’s Kisses or First Friday treats and wine as she croons standards and not-so-standards that make a perfect counterpoint to the mingling, ogling and sipping going on all around her.
It’s not every occasional dance club that’s got huge windows — or any windows at all. Think about it: You can’t see into SNAFU, or John Henry’s, or Taboo … but when the customers at Davis’ are getting down, the restaurant’s sizable windows turn the dance floor into an impromptu fishbowl of fun for those passing by. Those of you with the confidence to dance with double the usual audience aren’t just having fun — you’re making fun for nighttime pedestrians.
Best Gin and Tonic
Times are tough. Luckily, we have our man at Bel Ami, Eugene’s newly crowned Best Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, on the pour. Unlike other Schweppes in town, he makes his own tonic water for our favorite drink, a tart, sepia-toned elixir with lemongrass, citrus and allspice on the tongue.
Best Golf Clubs
Gordon Smith’s $1.2 million set.
Best Inconvenient Truth About Local Sustainability Efforts
The $100 million spent on the I-5 Beltline three-level freeway interchange.
Best Night Out in Costume
Though the Actors Cabaret of Eugene headed to the Serious Realm earlier this fall with Tell Me, it’s been an almost certain joy in the last few years to watch grandparents, kids and other Eugene folk dressing to match the show. At Rocky Horror, that’s expected, but who know so many area folks had Seuss hats, Elviswear, Santa sweats trimmed in sequenced glow lights or the variety of other specific-musical-appropriate gear on display at the dinner theater? Cheesy, yes, but definitely sweet.
Best Local Baby Clothes We Wish Were Also Made For Adults
Hello, Polar Chammies people! Could we please get some of those cuddly duds (with feet and without) for the larger humans of the Willamette Valley? We’ve bought a number of your items of fleecy goodness for our small relatives and friends, but we’re stricken with jealousy as the little ones open the brightly colored, soft and snuggly gifts. We think Saturday and Holiday Market sales would go through the roof, especially as the rains sweep down upon us.
Best Local Hike No One Seems to Know About
Hike Mount Pisgah, and you’ll run into at least five people you know. Same with Spencer Butte. If you’re not in the mood for socializing but don’t have the gas money to go far, then drive 10 miles off I-5 onto Hwy. 58 and you’ll come to Elijah Bristow State Park, where you can hike for an hour or two and hardly see another person. On the more than 10 miles of trails along the Willamette, you do have to watch out for mountain bikers and horseback riders (and the resulting horse poop). Check out the old-growth cottonwood, bigleaf maple, oak trees and Douglas fir as well as bald eagles and beaver, and learn about the project to restore 27 acres of the park to a floodplain forest.
Best Motivation to Keep Running
Only in Track Town USA do our cemeteries offer some of the best trail running. The Pioneer Cemetery is a campus escape while the nearby Masonic Cemetery offers a good hill workout. And what better motivation to get fit and stay healthy than surrounding ourselves with markers of death?
Best Butte That Thinks It’s A Mount
Best Name for a New Hemp Café
Best New Event
Sure, Saturday could’ve been better attended — and could’ve started later — but the Broadway Bloc Party was still this year’s greatest new event. It just makes sense: Set up a stage at the crossroads of Broadway and Olive, pack in revelers and food booths and a beer garden, promote it as an end-of-school event for students, and book really good bands, some of which play as the sun sets behind the stage. Why didn’t anyone think of that before?
Best Nostalgia-Destroying Facelift
We were downstairs at the WOW Hall waiting for Stars to go on when we noticed something: Hey, they painted down here! It looks nice! But … something else is different. And that’s when it hit us: All the 8” x 10” glossy photos of the bands that have played the WOW over the last lord-knows-how-many decades were gone. No more Better Than Ezra or Superdrag or ancient shots of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies! No more hair metal bands or long-lost one-hit wonders staring down at us as we drink! We’ll get over it. We really do like the paint job. We just needed to take a moment to appreciate the photos of days gone by.
It’s been a good night at Sam Bond’s, so we grab a table as the place starts to empty out — the bands are done, it’s getting quiet — and opt for one last beer. And suddenly, our eyes are drawn to one piece of art that’s not, shall we say, like the others. A pencil drawing of Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse hangs over one table. It looks like a mug shot. It says “Candy Snatcher.” It’s staring at us. It’s got those creepy painting eyes that follow you wherever you go. We’re entranced. We make bets on how much it costs, but when the table over which it hangs finally clears out, we find there’s no price listed. But it’s kind of awesome. We vote for a whole series of indie rock portraits. And we want that picture.
Best Not-in-Eugene Place to Get Eugene’s Best Coffee
In a nice bit of serendipity, we heard from the coffee geniuses at Wandering Goat that their Chupacabra espresso is now being served in a Brooklyn restaurant just days before leaving on a trip to New York — during which we’d be staying in the same neighborhood as said restaurant, no less. Nice timing, folks! And nice work, too; it’s saying something about the Goat that a little place all the way across the country picked the Whiteaker roaster as its sole coffee provider. We can happily vouch for the espresso at Five Leaves, the Greenpoint bar and café that Heath Ledger planned to open (the task was taken up by his estate after the actor’s death). And honestly? We’d like to see someplace like this — an airy, casually elegant but comfortable space, creatively but simply appointed (the bathroom’s hefty door has a porthole! The lighting fixtures look like something out of The Prestige!) and with delicious but simple dishes on the brief menu (ricotta pancakes, yum) open in our neighborhood. Which isn’t to slight the great places Eugene has to offer. We just always want more of ‘em.
Best Olympic Bust
Hype the trials’ economic impact so local businesses add staff and supplies and then make the event self-contained to make locals the biggest losers.
Best Place to Eat Things You Didn’t Know You Ate
This one is for meat-eaters only: Pull up a stool at the Marché bar and order the charcuterie plate. Just try it. Just once. Because it won’t just be once. You’ll may just find yourself with a liking for things you never thought about trying, let alone wanting more of. Ungodly rich liver patés. Rabbit rillettes and pork trotters. All kinds of terrines. Just remember that though it looks like a small amount of food, it’s dense decadence means you really ought to share.
Best Place to Meet Your New Best Friend
We admit, you may find it kind of depressing to see all those pups and kitties in kennels and cages, but who can resist those puppy dog eyes when you stop by Lane County Animal Services? (We can’t: The EW office is littered with rescued pets). Thanks to the Internets and petfinder.com we sometimes find ourselves spending an hour or two on the computer oohing and ahhing over all the cute and furry adoptable animals LCAS, Greenhill and Save the Pets have to offer. It’s like online dating for pet lovers.
Best Thing DeFazio Can Do for Locals
Give us pork for a trolley system, not more polluting freeways.
Best Toilet Seat
Full disclosure: We haven’t actually pushed any of the buttons while sitting on the toilet seat at Sushi Ya because of a bad, cold-water bidet experience on another Japanese toilet last year. But boy, is the plastic seat warm … and all those funny icons on the little electronic buttons! The one with the musical note recreates the sound of a toilet flushing, apparently so you don’t have to waste water when trying to cover up an indelicate sound. The Japanese are truly brilliant. Just be prepared for some sympathetic looks when you return to your table.
Best Unsung Local Band
Yes, it’s a terrible pun. But though we always spend a song’s length or two discussing whether Heavenly Oceans would benefit from having a singer, we spend more time talking about how fantastic — and totally under-appreciated — this instrumental trio is. They’re just three unassuming guys, including insanely talented guitarist Jake Pavlak (you’ll swear there must be two or three of him), making surfy, garagey, retro, slightly epic, catchy as hell rock ’n’ roll that everyone ought to hear.
Best Way for a Police Chief to Get Out of Answering Tough and Embarrassing Questions
Flee Eugene for a job out of state.
Best Way for a Republican to Get Elected in Eugene
Pretend you’re not one and use Obama’s “Yes we can” slogan.
Best Way for the County to Raise Funds
Sell the city the butterfly parking lot for a farmers’ market and expansion of the park blocks.
Best Way to Become Dictator of Eugene
Secretly write a contract with the police union that voids the will of the people and their elected representatives.
Best Way to Blow Taxpayer Millions
Give tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to a big multinational chip plant that will move to China after a few years and lay everyone off.
Best Way to Discourage Peaceful Protesters in Eugene
Intimidate them with felony charges.
Best Way to Increase Public Distrust in the Police
Continue trying to thwart the independent police auditor.
Best Way to Spend Time While Waiting for Another Late Train
There are many reasons to love the 5th Street Beanery, including its proximity to the train station, its honey-chipotle cream cheese, its large (compostable!) coffee cups and its free wi-fi. (We thought about the Jackalope — another, even closer, delightful way to dally while waiting for the damn train, but we weren’t quite ready for a beer yet. Maybe next time. It’ll doubtless happen again.)
Best Way to Win “Exceptional” Top School Rankings on Standardized Tests.
Become an alternative, “choice” school and get rid of all those pesky poor kids.
Best Writing Group We’re Not a Part Of But Not Totally Consumed By Jealousy About Either Because the Writers Are Such Nice People
Wordos. Yes, its members are successful short story and novel writers with prizes trailing after their names like Paul McCartney’s British honors, but the critique group that meets at Tsunami Books and includes Leslie What, Ray Vukcevich, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Bruce Holland Rogers and other luminaries stays friendly, accessible and downright Eugene in its niceness.
Most Exciting Salad
Who knew raw beets could be so fabulous? Belly’s magnificent fuchsia and green salad, in which slender bits of beets cavort with cabbage and onion shreds, mint, parsley and capers, does not even need the pillowy side of crème fraîche to show us what a salad could be. But we won’t say no.
Most Missed Bar
Though we never got around to eating in the restaurant’s dining room, we do miss the Chanterelle bar. We miss the tiny space, the trains rattling past and shutting down conversation for a minute or two, the regulars twice our age, the camaraderie shared when the right sporting event was on the TVs (even though it always seemed like the TVs shouldn’t have been there in the first place), the likelihood of seeing a familiar face and, of course, the bartenders.
Best Snarky, Negative, Nattering Nabob of Doom