Eugene Weekly : Best of Eugene : 2010-2011


Best of Eugene 2010-2011: Nightlife


Best bar

1. Sam Bond’s Garage 407 Blair Blvd. 343-2635.

2. The Horsehead 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

3. Jameson’s 115 W. Broadway. 485-9913.

Best regular event/ game night

1. Bingo Night at Sam Bond’s Garage (Mondays) 407 Blair Blvd. 343-2635.

2. e. geek’s Knowledge Knights at

Max’s Tavern (Tuesdays) 550 E. 13th Ave. 349-8986. 

3. Mr. Bill’s Trivia at Eugene City Brewery (Fridays) 844 Olive St. 345-4155.

We’re running out of ways to praise Sam Bond’s, which is likewise probably running out of wall space for its many Best of Eugene plaques. We go to Sam Bond’s for bingo night, which wins Best Regular Event/Game Night for the second year in a row; we go to see local bands celebrate their new CDs and national bands squeeze onto the small stage; we go just to sit in the back and play Scrabble on summer afternoons. Go there long enough, and eventually, the bartenders nod knowingly at you, and your favorite beer comes back around on the ever-changing taps. Low-key and lively at once, Sam Bond’s is where the best of Eugene’s diverging nightlife scenes cross paths.

Best bartender

1. Ty Connor, The Horsehead 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

2. (tie) Dawn Murray, Jameson’s 115 W. Broadway. 485-9913., Don Mike, The Granary 259 E. 5th Ave. 343-8488.

3. Somerfield Habener, Luckey’s Club Cigar Store 933 Olive St. 687-4643.

At the Horsehead, a previous year’s Best of Eugene award for Best Bartender currently sports a piece of masking tape that says “FUCK YOU!” over Ty Connor’s name. It’s a sign — like we needed one — that Eugene’s favorite bartender doesn’t take himself too seriously. Which, it seems, is just the way we like our bartenders. You might catch Connor telling stories to the folks on the bar stools, sipping a pint when he’s not working or — as recently happened to some of us — carrying around a strip of paper with a photo of Miles Davis’ eyes, asking people to hold it up in front of their own eyes so he can take a picture. Why? It’s art! We hear you’ll see those pix on the Horsehead’s walls at some point, but why wait? Go get a drink from this guy right now.

Best beer selection

1. The Bier Stein 345 E. 11th Ave. 485-2437.

2. Ninkasi Brewing Co. Tasting Room 272 Van Buren St. 344-2739.

3. Sixteen Tons 265 E. 13th Ave. 345-2003.

The Bier Stein offers a little piece of hop heaven. Wander through and take your pick of more than 1,000 different bottled beers, or sample one of the 10 brews on tap (interested in a pumpkin ale? A spiced winter lager? Maybe the Panty Peeler Tripel?). When we find ourselves stuck in front of the infinite rows of bottled brews, more often than not a friendly connoisseur will pop up to point us in the right — or a new — direction. There are also plenty of food items to soak up the beer. Beer Stein closes at 11 pm, but if you’re not done sampling, you can take a couple of bottles to go. 

Best cheap date

1. David Minor Theater 180 E. 5th Ave. 762-1700.

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

3. 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; Sacred Heart, 3333 RiverBend Dr. 736-YUMM

Though we’re big supporters of taking a date out to eat, and though we love both Laughing Planet and Café Yumm!, the David Minor Theater definitely deserves its win in this category. Movie theaters: Dark (except when the workers open the doors to deliver beer and wine to your seat); focused (except when people start getting their dinner orders from Cornucopia, Lucky Noodle and other close-by restaurants); romantic … seriously, the David Minor Theater’s a wonderful and now well-established addition to the complex of shops, eats and views along Fifth. We predict that the still-coming Fifth Street Public Market hotel will make the popular place even more hoppin’ every night it’s open. David Minor Theater, we say, way to defeat the cold loneliness of streaming Netflix with a communal, alcohol-and-food-fueled, deeply enjoyable experience!

Best cocktails

1. The Vintage 837 Lincoln St. 349-9181.

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

3. Davis’ Restaurant & Bar 94 W. Broadway. 485-1124.

Yeah, you can go for the drink with the Pop Rocks rim, and we’d totally understand if you did. (They explode in your mouth!) But there’s more than just quirk on the Vintage’s extensive cocktail menu, which leans toward the sweet and sassy — appropriate for a cozy place that bills itself as a restaurant and dessert bar. Sometimes we suspect they’re just having fun with the names (a Cuban Sex Panther, anyone?), but we also suspect you voted for them not for the giggles but for things like the White Chocolate Excess and the rosemary pear martini: forthright drinks with strong flavors.

Best happy hour or drink specials

1. The Starlight Lounge 830 Olive St. 343-3204.

2. McMenamins E. 19th St.: 1485 E. 19th Ave. 342-4025. High Street: 1243 High St. 345-4905. North Bank: 22 Club Rd. 342-5622.

3. The Vintage 837 Lincoln St. 349-9181.

The swanky but warm and intimate atmosphere of the Starlight Lounge belies the easy-on-the-wallet zing of the bar’s happy hour specials, which — like many other joints around town — place a premium on supporting the local economy and local booze makers. Where else, for instance, can discerning drinkers find daytime (4-7 pm) drink specials that include a martini made with Crater Lake Vodka (try it dirty) or a $2 glass of Rogue Valley red wine? The Starlight offers a wide range of such happy hour happiness that focuses not just on the local but the seasonal as well, ranging from shots, mixed drinks, sangria and draughts from such Eugene or Oregon based brewers as Ninkasi, Oakshire, Hop Valley and, right next door, Eugene City Brewery. And, while not exactly local, the late-night happy hour offering (9:30-10:30 pm) of $2 shots of Patron tequila is, of course, a big hit. Viva los barrachos!

Best late-night eats

1. The Horsehead 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

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. Voodoo Doughnut 20 E. Broadway.

Yes, they’ve got bacon cheese fries and those damn good fried pickles, and all the other fried things you think you need when the hour is inching up on last call. But the Horsehead takes this category because they’ve got so much more than that: Savory, satisfying rice and beans; collard greens; a surprisingly spicy BLT; burgers and more (we hear great things about the mac and cheese). Also? These folks have nearly mastered the art of getting cheese onto almost every chip in a plate of nachos. That is a skill to be reckoned with.



Best karaoke night

photo by todd cooper

1. Cornucopia Bar & Burgers 207 E. 5th Ave. 485-2676.

2. Oak Street Speakeasy 915 Oak St. 284-4000.

3. Diablo’s Downtown Lounge 959 Pearl St. 343-2346.

Karaoke night at 5th Street Cornucopia Bar & Burgers is something of a family affair — if by family you mean the extended and unconditionally accepting type that knows how to have a good time. The Wednesday evening crowd tends to be youngish but eclectic, and the intimate setting works to everyone’s advantage. It’s not unusual to see folks singing in duet, triplets, quadruplets or more, bellowing out songs ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The talent level is above average, but fun and good will are at a premium, and everyone’s efforts are given a fair shake and warm reception. And the DJs are expert at immediately mixing the sound levels to bring out the best in your voice. Whether you’re a karaoke virgin or a seasoned vet, the Corn’s stage is one of the hottest spots in town to unleash your inner rock star.

Best pick-up joint

1. John Henry’s 77 W. Broadway. 342-3358.

2. Taylor’s Bar & Grille 894 E. 13th Ave. 344-6174.

3. (tie) The Horsehead 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

Cowfish 62 W. Broadway. 

Best place to go dancing

1. John Henry’s 77 W. Broadway. 342-3358.

2. Cowfish 62 W. Broadway.

3. Davis’ Restaurant 94 W. Broadway. 485-1124.

Of course these two awards would get picked up by the same business. Right? Because what better excuse to get close to that exquisite creature across the bar than by dancing up to him or her at ’80s night? Where better to find potential mates — temporary or otherwise — than scoping out the dance floor? You already know they can dance (er, or not), so that’s one point in the plus column. John Henry’s has shown up on both these lists for as long as we can remember, but a few newcomers are on both: Taylor’s rising to second for Best Pick-Up Joint suggests to us that maybe more students are voting (yay!), and whoa, hello, Cowfish! Your sleek chairs and chill atmosphere have people thinking about more than just cocktails, apparently. 


Best place to drink when it’s still light out

1. McMenamins North Bank 22 Club Rd. 342-5622.

2. Ninkasi Brewing Co. Tasting Room 272 Van Buren St. 344-2739.

3. The Horsehead 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

Grab your bike, helmet and some bucks, pop onto the Ruth Bascom Bike Path, and soon you’ll be riding right up to the patio of McMenamin’s North Bank (you can drive or walk there too, but biking makes the Cajun tater tots seem like a more reasonable dinner choice). True, in the rainy season, pregame and post-game and after-work and lunch breaks at North Bank might take place inside, but you’ll enjoy your Ruby, Hammerhead, Black Rabbit Porter or Terminator Stout (or maybe some of the hard stuff from the well-stocked full bar) with the many, many other people warming up the place. On the other side of the river, and a mile or two westward, the Ninkasi Tasting Room in the Whit’s a lovely and sure-to-be-packed (but with good service) spot, and the Horsehead can’t be beat for downtown drinkin’ and checkin’ out the passersby (and stoppers-in).


Best live music venue

1. WOW Hall

2. Cuthbert Amphitheatre

3. McDonald Theatre

Rebirth Brass Band
tobacco. photos by todd cooper

Some of us may harbor extra fondness for the WOW Hall on account of having been going to shows there for more years than we’re willing to admit, but there’s more to Eugene’s love of the longstanding all-ages venue than former-teen nostalgia. The WOW’s schedule is diverse — hip hop one night, a metal show the next, an up-and-coming indie band the third and a local showcase to cap off the weekend, say — the space is comfy and the beer is affordable (and often local). The downstairs bar just keeps getting cozier and the shows keep getting better. What’s not to love?



Best band

1. Medium Troy

2. Volifonix

3. Mood Area 52

Nobody describes Medium Troy’s sound better than the band itself: “A nasally white dude with catchy hooks and sick beats,” says the band’s MySpace. This pretty much sums it up. Those beats are liquid, golden and epic, and the instrumental segments of the group’s show will either have you standing in awe or kickin’ back and nodding your head. The guys throw down some sweet rhymes, get silly, jam out and overall just blow minds. Their shows have a tendency to sell out around here, probably because the mixture of hip-hop, dub, reggae and all those other genres is about as strong as the grass in their songs: “I think I’ll smoke a bowl / that’s just the way I roll / I rock pajamas ’cause they’re oh so much more comfortable.” Well, guys, you’ve been voted best band two years in a row now, and we’re pretty comfortable with that.


Best club DJ

photo by todd cooper

1. DJ food stamp

2. The Audio Schizophrenic

3. DJ Tekneek

When he’s not playing the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays at Cowfish, John Henry’s or other dance clubs in town, DJ food stamp, aka Andre Sirois, is writing about the “visibly invisible dialectic between culture and industry through the binding agreement of intellectual property law.” In other words, he’s getting a Ph.D. at the UO’s Communication and Society program in the School of Journalism.

DJ food stamp says on his Wednesday “Hump Nights” at Cowfish, “The night is about good music that you may not hear anywhere else but you know it, and the idea is to feature skilled DJs and sort of reintroduce skilled DJs back into popular consciousness.” He adds,  “By nature, I am an underground hip hop DJ,” but he’ll play ”’80s/’90s hip hop and party anthems, disco, new jack swing, rock breaks, soul, dancehall and even old school house. Sometimes I’ll throw the new shit by Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Kid Cudi.” And if you’re not the type to go out on the town, but need a DJ, food stamp tells EW,  “I also do a ton of private parties and have even started rocking weddings for homies.”



Best locally brewed beer (brewery and style)

1. Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

2. Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout

3. Ninkasi Believer Double Red

Do we have to retire this category already? Once again, Ninkasi’s ever-so-aptly named Total Domination IPA pulled ahead of the pack like a … well, like a thing that just can’t be caught. Eugene’s favorite brew is a standout flagship for brewing in the area and recently ranked as the number-one selling 22-ounce bottle of beer in Oregon, which suggests it’s not just local tastebuds being, um, dominated. We heard that if you combine Total Domination with Ninkasi’s equally tasty double red, the third-place Believer, you get a Total Believer, but we haven’t tried it just yet (have you?). As it slips into fall, we tend to reach more frequently for Oakshire’s number-two brew, the coffeelicious Overcast Espresso Stout. Though it’s a year-round product, there’s something about the richness that makes it a particularly delish winter warmer.



Best solo musical performer

photo by todd cooper

1. Jesse Meade

2. Laura Kemp

3. Halie Loren

Oh, how that voice strums our heartstrings! Jesse Meade has long impressed crowds in our town (and a lot of other places) with his wondrous noodling and beautiful singing. Meade is both unforgettably mellow and a powerful performer who keeps the audience glued to the stage. He could be compared to Jack Johnson, or Joe Purdy, or whomever; but who cares whom he sounds like? He is Jesse Meade, and Eugene thinks he rocks.













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