Driving into the town of Coburg is like setting the clock back over a century. Its quaint, historic buildings and reputation for antiquing play on the nostalgic feeling of a time that moved just a little slower.
“People feel like at home when they come to places in Coburg, and I think Coburg businesses are very welcoming. Not that Eugene isn’t, they are, but it’s just a little bit different vibe,” Rachelle Hogan, co-owner of Chiefs Brew House in Coburg, says.
Hogan started Chiefs Brew House in December 2010 with her husband, Matt Hogan. Chiefs later made the move across the street in Coburg to the much larger 144-year-old William Van Duyn house, combining with another local favorite, the Bronco Saloon. Even in a non-pandemic economy, a move to a larger space can be a scary one, and doing so a month into a pandemic has a way of heightening that, but Hogan says they haven’t shut their doors once.
“The community knows us. Matt and I know a lot of our customers and we’re friends with a lot of our customers and good acquaintances, too. So we’ve been here long enough maybe to weather the storm,” Hogan says.
Chiefs’ merger with Bronco Saloon, an American-style restaurant with libations true to its name, in the historic Van Duyn building was in the works back in January of last year, and a plan was set to officially merge the two local staples on March 20, 2020.
The idea behind the merger was to join the forces of Hogan’s fabled smoked meats and sides with the atmosphere and larger location of Bronco Saloon. Hogan says the move has allowed Chiefs to grow and develop a better atmosphere where they now can serve wine, house-made cocktails and 20 beers on tap. The location also came with a covered porch and outdoor space now outfitted with gas fire pits and heaters.
Customer Kellie King says these new additions to Chiefs make it a go-to spot after restaurants in Lane County were mandated to shut down indoor service thanks to COVID-19. She says not a lot of places in Coburg offer heated outdoor seating so Chiefs is an easy option during the winter. It also doesn’t hurt that it added a bar.
“One of the bartenders came up with their salted caramel appletini,” King says. “She doesn’t do it that often, but she knows when she sees me. I’ll ask her if she can make that after I tried her special,” King says.
King adds that the main draw, though, is the people. She always runs into a friend or someone she knows when she goes to Chiefs.
A Passion for Cooking
The Hogans joined the restaurant industry later in their lives after more than 20 years in construction. While Matt had briefly worked in a restaurant earlier in his life, this would be Rachelle’s first outing into that world.
“If you would have told me 30 years ago when we got married, like, you’d be running a restaurant in the same town you bought your first house, I would be, like, ‘No way.’ I had never even worked in a restaurant,” Rachelle Hogan says.
But it might be misleading to say Hogan had no experience with food. She grew up in a Menonite family and community where her grandpa built a butcher shop in the yard complete with a walk-in freezer. There were family hog butcherings and cows strung up in the shop.
She started driving equipment out on their land before she was 11 and helping to cook for the family. One night she remembers her dad walking in after she had brought in scout potatoes, fried chicken and “all that jazz” to her dad’s surprise. He asked her, “How’d you learn to make this?” She responded, “Just watching mom, I guess.” Hogan says cooking has just been a natural gift since she was little.
After staying home with the kids while her husband ran the construction business, she says this venture into running the restaurant and being the one making the food with no formal training has been a sort of passion project for her. She says every day for five years she would eat a burger she made in the kitchen and never got sick of it. But her favorite thing Chiefs serves is the brisket burnt ends on mac and cheese.
The pieces of burnt end brisket coated in tangy barbecue sauce perched on top of the cheese smothered cavatappi is a worthy choice. The mac and cheese is surprisingly light and a perfect pairing with those rich pieces of smoked meat.
Although Rachelle Hogan has her hand in most of the cooking, her husband built the smoker they use right outside the back door. The custom-built smoker is gas powered and doesn’t use wood or pellets for the smoky taste, but the fat from the meat itself.
Now that Rachelle has brought her passion project of cooking to life, she says it’s time for Matt to see his through. The couple will be opening up a brewery four miles north of the Coburg restaurant on Coleman Road and Matt will be the brewer. They say they hope to have a seasonal tasting room open on-site in 2022.
Chiefs Brew House is at 91108 Willamette Street, Coburg. Hours are 4 to 9 pm Monday, 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 7 pm Sunday. For more information, visit ChiefsBrewHouse.com.