1. Izakaya Meiji 345 Van Buren Street. 541-505-8804. IzakayaMeiji.com.
2. Marché 296 E. 5th Avenue. 541-342-3612. MarcheRestaurant.com.
3. Black Wolf Supper Club 454 Willamette Street. 541-687-8226. Facebook.com/BlackWolfSupperClub.
Izakaya Meiji Company swept Best Restaurant, Best Meal Over $25, Best Happy Hour and Best Cocktails. The restaurant is a cowboy Western take on izakayas — Japanese establishments that serve small plates meant to be washed down with copious amounts of alcohol. Izakaya Meiji offers soul-satisfying cocktails and Northwest takes on classic izakaya cuisine. Its heart-warming liquor and food make it the perfect place to escape the dreary, seasonal-affective-disorder-inducing Eugene winter weather ahead.
The happy hour menu highlights some of the restaurant’s best cocktails: bourbon gingers, Meiji mules and lion’s tails. The bourbon gingers are a fiery combination of smoky bourbon and house-pressed gingerade, the perfect cure for a cold winter evening. Meiji mules are made with vodka, shochu, black pepper syrup and ginger. They’re wonderfully spicy and refreshing. The lion’s tails are a concoction of bourbon, allspice and Angostura Bitters — the flavors of Christmas in a cup — and enough lime and lemon juice to keep the flavors sharp.
Izakaya Meiji has an extensive food menu, but fried food is the best food to eat with alcohol. Its red snapper kara-age is the perfect fried fish, pieces of delicate, flaky snapper coated with a crisp batter and served with a wedge of lime and tangy ponzu and shoyu sauce. The tatsuta age is damned-good fried chicken thigh, served with fried summer squash and a slice of lemon.
For something more substantial, try the curry udon, thick noodles and tender sliced beef drowned in a rich, smoky, gingery broth. Paired with a cocktail, you’ll feel so warm and satiated after your meal that you’ll forget all about the long months of cold winter drizzle.