Eugene Weekly : Best of Eugene : 2008


Best of Eugene 2008-2009: Eat Your Heart Out


Best Coffee

1. Wandering Goat Organic Coffee Roasters 268 Madison St. 344-5161.

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

3. Dutch Bros.

Best Bagels

Humble Bagel

1. Humble Bagel Company 2435 Hilyard St. 484-4497.

2. Bagel Sphere 810 Willamette St., 341-1335; 5678 Main St., Springfield, 868-1072.

3. Daily Bagel 4770 Village Plaza Loop, 431-5700; 995 Tyinn #1, 334-5131.

For humans (and canines?) throughout Eugene, no better hole-punched bread can be found than at Humble Bagel. With such a large variety to choose from, even picky eaters like us can’t complain. Those who like to stick to their bagel basics will find plenty of satisfaction in Humble’s not-so-modest selection, such as the plain, multigrain, cheese-herb, onion and garlic bagels. Those with more refined palates can find anything from salt bagels to jalapeño cheese or pumpernickel. (And if you’re craving more than one flavor, you can always opt for the everything bagel, which comes in plain and multi-grain!) Pay a little more to get your bagel toasted and cream-cheesed, and you’ll be on your way to Humble heaven in no time. Made fresh daily and priced recession-friendly ($2 for a toasted bagel with cream cheese), these bagels are healthy for you and your pocketbook, too.

Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet

1. Evergreen Indian Cuisine 1525 Franklin Blvd. 343-7944.

2. Empire Buffet 1933 Franklin Blvd. 343-9966.

3. Govinda’s Vegetarian Buffet 1030 River Rd. 461-0093.

In terms of quality, taste and most bang for your buck, dining at Evergreen Indian Cuisine’s lunch buffet can’t be beat. One glance at the busy restaurant during lunch hours clearly affirms this year’s win. Not only can you sample, mix and match a wide variety of tempting Indian dishes, but you’re also invited to complement them with rice, soup, naan, various sauces and dessert (the gulab jamun, best described as an Indian-style donut hole swimming in sweet syrup, is delicious) — all the while having your water glasses kept filled and plates cleared by their attentive staff. 

Best Burger

Best burger: McMenamins

1. McMenamins E. 19th St.: 1485 E. 19th Ave. 342-4025. High Street: 1243 High St. 345-4905. North Bank: 22 Club Rd. 686-1123.

2. Cornucopia 295 W. 17th Ave. 485-2300.

3. Marché Restaurant 296 E. 5th Ave. 342-3612.

Mmmmm, burgers. In these troubling times there’s nothing quite as consistently comforting as a patty of meat (or meat-substitute), tomato, cheese, lettuce and pickle, along with a slurry of sauces. The McMenamins stuffed burger, with a patty filled with savories, usually gets the props, but we’re all about the “specials” like the Hamilton (cheddar, Canadian bacon), Captain Neon (Blue cheese dressing, bacon) and Communication Breakdown (cheddar, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers) burgers. McMenamins’ menu also offers pizzas, pastas, burritos, curries and gyros, but we’ve never ordered these. Mmmmm, burgers …

Best Bakery/Sweets

1. Sweet Life Pâtisserie 755 Monroe St. 683-5676.

2. Hideaway Bakery 3377 E. Amazon. 868-1982.

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

Best Locally Baked Bread

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

2. Hideaway Bakery 3377 E. Amazon. 868-1982.

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

Best Pizza

1. Pizza Research Institute 1328 Lawrence St. 343-1307.

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

3. Sy’s New York Pizza 1211 Alder St. 686-9598.

Best Veggie Options

Best veggie options: Laughing Planet    

1. Laughing Planet Café 760 Blair Blvd. 868-0668.

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.

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

Best BBQ

1. Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen & Blues Joint 400 Blair Blvd. 342-7500.

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

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

Best Mexican/Latin American/Caribbean

1. Red Agave 454 Willamette St. 683-2206.

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

3. El Jarro Azul 764 Blair Blvd. 344-0650.

Best Thai

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

2. Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine 941 Pearl St. 284-2944.

3. Ring of Fire Restaurant 1099 Chambers St. 344-6475.

When we get that insane craving for curry and Tom Kha coconut soup, we make a beeline for Ta Ra Rin. The family-owned restaurant serves the best Thai food in Eugene, hands down. For the very best they’ve got on offer, go straight to the specials in the back of the menu. It takes a few page flips because there are more than 100 dishes to choose from, but there you’ll find some of our favorites, including the sizzling duck with a delicious chili paste sauce and the Swimming Lady, grilled chicken with steamed veggies and a yummy peanut sauce. If you like the spice, all of their kick-adjustable curries are tasty, especially the potato-y/peanuty Mussaman and the sweet green-beaned Panang, but nothing can top the pumpkin curry. Rich and ridiculously flavorful, this dish will say Sa-Wa-Dee Ka to your taste buds and keep you coming back time and time again,

Best Asian (Other Than Thai) 

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

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

3. Ocean Sky 1601 Chambers St. 342-4848.

Hello, vegetarian Chinese food! We thought we’d have to give Certain Things up as vegetarians, but boy, do soy product and wheat gluten prove us wrong. The unassuming Lotus Garden, parked on a somewhat neglected street, hops with energy both from the ubiquitous tea and from vegetarians thrilling to the mouth feel of broccoli beef … without the cow (or chicken or pig, in other cases). It’s such a relief to be able to order anything on the menu without the usual vegetarian stress — and to have it served quickly by a friendly staff. 

Best Italian/Greek/Mediterranean

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

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

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

Where to start with Poppi’s? We recommend the saganaki, fried sheep’s cheese that can almost make a meal in itself with the restaurant’s trademark fennel-spiced bread, and perhaps a feta-and-caper-dominated Greek salad (aka salata horiatiki). But don’t stop there. Check out the sag bhaji (from the Indian side of the menu), the gharides saganaki         (Yes! More fried cheese! This time with shrimp!), the chickenriffic kotta psiti — or just a regular ol’ gyro, even. We like it for lunch (the smaller portions are much easier to handle); we like it for dinner before shows; we like picking up a meal to take home; we like the Sunday night Greek menu with calamari and much more. And when we’re sick of Poppi’s (hasn’t happened yet, but it could), we can head to runner-ups Beppe and Gianni’s for our fill of superb Italian treats.

Best Late-Night Dining (Table Service After 10 pm)

Best late-night dining (table service after 10pm): Café Lucky Noodle

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

2. Ring of Fire 1099 Chambers St. 344-6475.

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

It’s tough being a hungry night owl in Eugene. Luckily (ha!) this bar and bistro offers growling tummies an alternative to reheated fries and foods smothered in canned nacho cheese sauce. Lucky Noodle is known for Asian and Italian pasta, but their late-night ambiance is also Eugene’s choice for delicacies like Javanese halibut, pineapple seafood red curry and almond breast of chicken. Open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and 1  am Friday and Saturday, the restaurant, with its stylish interior and gracious staff, makes eating and drinking a pleasure long into the night. 

Best Food Cart

1. Cart de Frisco Oakway Center; UO Bookstore.

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

3. N.Y. Dogs Olive & Broadway. 654-2718.

Best Recession Special (Meal 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.

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.

3. Burrito Amigos 1295 Hwy. 99 N., 461-8880; 1239 Alder St., 868-0483; 2445 Hilyard St., 868-1528; 1333 W. 6th Ave., 338-9190; 1600 Coburg Rd., 868-0908; 201 42nd St., Springfield, 746-7279.

Hmm, so many choices, but what to get? Burritos? Quesadillas? Enchiladas? Tacos? Taquitos? Or maybe just the classic bean and cheese? And each one for less than five bucks! When you’re strapped for cash, there’s really nothing more gratifying than finding a decent meal that doesn’t set you back $7 or more. You spoil us, Burrito Boy; you keep our stomachs and wallets full with hefty portions and oh-so-cheap prices — day and night!

Best Special Occasion Dining

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

2. Marché Restaurant 296 E. 5th Ave. 342-3612.

3. Adam’s Place 30 E. Broadway. 344-6948.

Best Restaurant

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

2. Marché Restaurant 296 E. 5th Ave. 342-3612.

3. Café Lucky Noodle 207 E. 5th Ave. 484-4777.

This year’s best restaurant, Café Soriah, is long loved by Eugeneans, who have showered the restaurant with awards for years. Owner Ibrahim “Ib” Hamide should continue to be proud of his solid menu that balances classic tastes with new specialties. Where else can you get flambé, charming outdoor dining and sambosik? 

Dinners at Soriah are an intimate affair. The acoustics enable romantic murmurs and job interviews to take place with no one the wiser. Although the restaurant is located on a quiet stretch of 13th Avenue, the interior feels like a cozy dining room at a chic friend’s place, especially if your chic friend has a long wooden bar and a gracious waitstaff.

We find ourselves longing for the baby mazzah for two, a mixed appetizer plate of creamy hummus, gently drizzled in olive oil, accompanied by a smoky baba ganooj eggplant dip plus olives, pickled vegetables and a couple of lemony dolmas stuffed with seasoned rice and pine nuts. One surely cannot go wrong ordering chicken confit and caramelized pecan salad, either. Entrées include Middle Eastern inflections, such as the sweet pepper and lamb ragu over fettuccini and the creamy chicken Jerusalem with artichokes, mushrooms and spinach, as well as other creative fare inspired by India, China and Italy. 

The full bar features a well-chosen wine list and a full range of cocktails. Check out the “savory martinis” flavored with saffron, basil or tarragon. Desserts and bread are housemade, and not to be missed.

The late-night menu is a rare bird in Eugene, and we’re grateful Soriah offers such lovely food for those of us that are peckish after concerts. The menu, which is served after 10 pm on weekdays and 11 on weekends, features Lebanese hummus, the most exciting thing since chick peas: sumac- and mint-seasoned lamb, thinly sliced, atop a bed of the creamy legumes. If you can tear yourself away, don’t forget to try the above-mentioned sambosik pastry, spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo and served with spicy salsa and tahini sauce. Yum.

Best New Restaurant

Best new restaurant: La Perla

1. La Perla Pizzeria 1313 Pearl St. 686-1313.

2. Belly 291 E. 5th Ave. 683-5896.

3. Agate Alley Bistro & Bar 1461 E. 19th Ave. 485-8887.

We had our doubts that an aging ice cream parlour could be transformed into a pizza place, especially one that could turn out a Neopolitan-style pizza in 90 seconds. But La Perla pulled it off. The olive green, low-slung building manages to be warm and friendly, welcoming both to families and those who’d prefer you leave your bambinos at home. (Note to the latter: Sit at the bar tables on the north side of the restaurant, where it’s a bit quieter.) Modern, Chihuly-esque glass light fixtures and warm, saturated colors create a pleasant dining experience.

The pizzeria is owned by the same team that fronts Eugene favorite Beppe and Gianni’s, and they’ve hit pay dirt by offering something new and unique to the Eugene restaurant scene. The pizzas are made in the style of Napoli (and certified thusly), with thin crust, fresh vegetables and Italian meats. Once assembled, they take a quick dip in the state-of-the-art wood-burning oven to achieve a bubbly top and a slight char to the bottom. 

The menu features several classics, such as the Margherita pizza with San Marzano tomato, housemade mozzarella, Parmesan and basil. Those of us who can’t just pick one have the satisfying quattro stagioni: a pizza divided by toppings into four quarters: artichokes, herbed mushrooms, prosciutto cotto and tomato/basil. Absolutely imperative (not to mention hard to find elsewhere in America) is the bianca al prosciutto, a sauceless cheese pizza topped with prosciutto and a mound of fresh arugula. 

Elsewhere on the menu, you can also choose from several salads, including a well-dressed, cheesy Caesar, and a decent wine list. Desserts are Italian specialties, the most popular of which recently seemed to be the limoncello flute, lemon ice cream served in a champagne flute.

The restaurant faced some stiff competition from this year’s other fantastic new restaurant, Belly. It was a good year for foodies in Eugene, that’s for sure.

Best Restaurant in Corvallis/Albany

1. Nearly Normal’s Gonzo Cuisine 109 NW 15th St., Corvallis. 541-753-0791.

2. American Dream Pizza 2525 NW Monroe Ave., Corvallis, 541-757-1713; 214 SW 2nd St., Corvallis, 541-753-7373.

3. Big River Restaurant & Bar 101 NW Jackson St., Corvallis. 541-757-0694.

Nearly Normal’s, a Corvallis institution for almost 30 years now, couldn’t be a better veggie college-town restaurant. Burgers? Got ‘em, in special vegetarian style. Spicy tofu and potato breakfast? Yep. Tex-Mex flavors? ¡Si! Tempeh Reuben sandwiches (the best possible use of tempeh)? Indeed. Pad Thai? Duh. Organic and local when possible, homey and hearty all the time and a very short trip from the OSU campus, Nearly Normal’s makes Eugeneans crazy jealous and crazy hungry. Next time we’re there to open a can of whoop-ass on the Beavs, we’ll know where to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Best Restaurant in Cottage Grove

Best restaurant in cottage grove: Axe and Fiddle

1. Axe and Fiddle 657 E. Main St., Cottage Grove. 541-942-5942.

2. Stacy’s Covered Bridge Restaurant 401. E. Main St., Cottage Grove. 541-767-0320.

3. The Cottage Restaurant 2915 Row River Rd., Cottage Grove. 541-942-3091.

Cottage Grove’s Main Street got a boost last year when Sam Bonds’ Bart Caridio and co-owner Brad von Appel teamed up to buy the beat-up old historic Burkholder Woods Building and restore it to its 1908 façade. Wander inside and check out the warm wood interior and sample some pizza and other pub treats. It’s a good place to hang out and listen to some music, put back some pints and check out the funky, offbeat Cottage Grove crowd. It’s also worth the drive to the Grove to check out the Axe and Fiddle’s competition too. Have a steak or salmon in the elegance of the Covered Bridge Restaurant or have a yummy potato at the Cottage (we love the ahi potato; who knew fish and sun-dried tomatoes belonged on a spud?) while you ponder the funky solar and water barrel-based system that heats the building.

Best Restaurant on the Coast

1. Mo’s Restaurants 1436 Bay St., Florence. 541-997-2185.

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

3. The Drift Inn 124 Highway 101 N., Yachats. 541-547-4477.

When we go to the coast and im-mediately crave clam chowder, there’s a reason. And that reason is Mo’s Restaurant, founded in 1944 in Newport by Mo Niemi. Over the years, Mo’s clam chowder has taken on a near-mythical quality. Franchises up and down the coast — in Cannon Beach, Lincoln City, Florence and Otter Rock — mean you get many chances to dip your toes into the chowder with fresh, local clams. After a long hike on the wind-whipped coast, a stop at Mo’s, with its homey décor, friendly service and long-standing tradition, is just what the doctor ordered. 

Civic Pride

Retail Therapy

Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll

Creative Endeavors

The Kitchen Sink

Eat Your Heart Out

Staff Picks

Best of the Ballots






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