Valentine’s Day is nigh, and the COVID pandemic, dare we say it, is perhaps letting loose its grip a little, so it’s time to ponder an evening out — whether it be with old friends, new partners or longtime spouses. Eugene Weekly asked our writers, from Gen Z to Boomer, to share what makes date nights special. We couldn’t get every perfect date in the paper, so write us a letter and tell us about your best nights out. Bowling at Emerald Lanes? Shooting pool at Luckey’s Club? Where do you find or celebrate love? Letters@EugeneWeekly.com.
Level-Up Your Night Out
I’ve been in a committed relationship for three years now, and we’ve probably hit every single date spot offered in Eugene, from taking late-night walks through Hendricks Park to eating at fancy restaurants to cozy movie nights.
After 1,095 full days of Eugene-related fun together, I’ve decided that nothing’s better than acting like an adult child at Level-Up Arcade, the eclectic arcade bar on Oak Street. My partner and I have the most fun romping around, cosmos in hand, pockets full of quarters, competitively playing games together.
Level-Up offers a wide range of classics like pinball, Pong and PacMan. In the back of the arcade sits a light-up air hockey table and a couple of electric basketball hoops. For some virtual and interactive fun, the bar also offers Mario Kart and a Walking Dead shooter-style game. Although we’ve been many times, the experience never really gets old. We often find ourselves returning to beat our last scores and to feed that middle-school urge to scream: “No way! You cheated!”
If you’re looking to add a bit more to your date night, consider walking over to a nearby restaurant like Ta Ra Rin or Claim 52 Kitchen for dinner before your venture into the arcade bar. — Anna Mattson, Gen Z
Level-Up Arcade is open 2 pm to 9 pm and until 2 am for those over 21 Monday through Friday and noon to 2 am Saturday and Sunday; minors allowed until 9 pm. Masks are required for entry, except while actively eating or drinking, and staff sanitize games and surfaces often.
Dancing All Night
When it comes to date nights, there is nothing I love more than dancing the night away. Refusing to let go of our youth and rave days, my husband’s and my top choice is always an electronic dance music event. Until recently, that often meant a trip to Portland, but with the opening of the Big Dirty, the EDM scene in Eugene is growing — and that means more date nights for these two 30-something ravers.
Our night starts by mainlining Dutch Bros to get that caffeine buzz going, and getting those energy levels ready for moving and grooving to some booming bass. I have no shame in admitting I am a member of the Dutch Mafia. Nothing gets my night off to a better start than sipping on a large iced chai latte whilst applying my false eyelashes and putting fishnets on.
The Big Dirty is a small club that often brings in big names in the EDM scene. The interior aesthetic is warm with neo space industrial accents. Best of all is the sound system — you can feel the wubbadubba dubs of the heavy bass to your core. Shows generally run until 2:15 am, with the crowd really picking up after 10 pm. The stage is set intimately at the dance floor.
When the show ends and the lights come on, we are always sweaty and hungry after five hours of dancing. Late night eats options are short in Eugene. While there are several local coffee shops that I love, they are not open late, so we found our answer in packing snacks for the car, and going back to Dutch Bros for a fancy shmancy smoothie, as the 7th and Olive location is open 24 hours. Sure it’s not the healthiest option, but when your Fitbit tells you that you just covered 18 miles on the dance floor, you deserve it. — Elisha Young, Millennial
The Big Dirty at 844 Olive Street offers events through the week, with EDM shows usually falling on the weekend. Doors typically open at 8 pm and the venue closes at 2:15 am. An event schedule can be found online at TheBigDirty.live.
Dutch Bros can be found on every third corner in Eugene, but it is worth noting the 24 hour location is on the corner of 7th and Olive downtown.
Sharp Dressed Date
Living in a city that has an outdoorsy identity means you don’t get many opportunities to dress up for dates. The fashion scene of Eugene leans heavily on comfort over style, but the trade-off in this deal is the loss of ritual in getting dressed up.
One place where you don’t stand out too much for getting dressed up for date night is a night at Sushi Pure.
I’ve taken full advantage of Eugene’s lax dress code, often wearing a graphic T-shirt and jeans while on the job. But spending so much time dressed down, I’ve missed the confidence you can only get while wearing a well-fitted suit and sharp dress shoes. My wife, who enjoys the mindfulness that comes from applying makeup and doing her hair, feels the same way, so when we have date nights, we use it as an opportunity to dress up.
There aren’t many places in Eugene where you can dress up and eat somewhere where you won’t stick out like an awkward high school couple eating dinner before the formal dance. Sushi Pure is one of those rare Eugene restaurants where you can feel comfortable eating while dressed up — that also offers a separate gluten free menu.
But here’s the thing: You’re probably not going to get a table right away. So rather than waiting around, enviously staring at people who get seated before you, leave your phone number and head over to J. Scott Cellars on 5th. The tasting room has a wide variety of its wines, from sweet rosés to rich pinot noirs. My favorite has been the winery’s 2017 cabernet franc, a wine that brings together sweet fruit and peppery notes. And if you can’t drink on an empty stomach, J. Scott has a menu of small plates, including charcuterie boards.
And once you get the wonderful call from Sushi Pure, there’s no feeling like strutting down 5th Avenue, knowing that your table is ready. — Henry Houston, Millennial
Sushi Pure is at 259 E. 5th Avenue. Dinner hours are 5 to 9:30 pm Monday through Friday, noon to 9:30 pm Saturday and 5 to 9 pm Sunday. Visit SushiPureEugene.com for more information.
J. Scott Cellars on 5th is at 207 E. 5th Avenue. Hours are noon to 7 pm Sunday through Thursday, closed Monday, and noon to 8 pm Friday and Saturday.
Sure, road trips are fun every once in a while, but for Valentine’s Day, why burden yourself and your partner with an out-of-town trip when you can enjoy all that downtown Eugene has to offer, with a quiet room of your own to sleep it off after?
First book a spot at the Graduate Hotel, and start the night with a drink at the bar. Then you and your love can play the part of the townies referring tourists to all the fun stuff there is to do — have you seen the campus Schnitzer Museum? Yes, you must see the river. Don’t forget to do a little shopping in downtown Eugene, you say, before heading to the Black Wolf Supper Club on 5th and Willamette (order the crab beignets and gumbo).
After dinner, and with time on your hands, catch a foreign film at Broadway Metro and then some live music at Sessions, or maybe, instead, see who’s playing The Shedd.
What’s best of all, what’s been described is within walking distance to your bed for the night, where a nightcap can be had at the same bar where it started, before sleeping late the next morning and driving home across town, or better still, biking — little packing, no fuel-ups and next no traffic required! — Will Kennedy, Gen X
The Graduate Eugene is at 66 E. 6th Avenue, Graduatehotels.com/Eugene; Black Wolf Supper Club is open Tuesday through Saturday 5 pm to 9 pm at 454 Willamette Street, BlackWolfSupperClub.com; Broadway Metro is at 888 Willamette Street, BroadwayMetro.com; Sessions Music Hall is at 44 E. 7th Avenue, SessionsMusicHall.com; The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts is at 868 High Street, TheShedd.org.
Pleadin’ the Fifth
I couldn’t decide if it was a little Harry Potter-esque or more Main Street Disney World. Wandering down Fifth Street Market Alley under the lights blended childish fun with adult company. I am not going to say romance, because I seem to avoid romance the same way I avoid COVID — with dedication.
My friend Lindsay and I had a friends-evening this winter that reminded me of why it’s good to put your party clothes on and take yourself out. We started with dinner and a drink at Marché — in my case the black cod and a bourbon hot toddy. Marché’s delicious French-based cuisine can seem spendy when you are on a budget, but for me it was a worthwhile indulgence. Keep in mind, you can keep costs down by going for a delicious bowl of soup and having a happy hour drink later. The ambience is the same no matter what you spend.
Marché keeps things cozy and COVID-safe indoors, with booths tastefully separated with plexiglass, or outdoors, with seating near a heater. Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within 48 hours is required.
After dinner, we wandered down Fifth Street Market Alley, window-shopping at the Karin Clarke at the Gordon art gallery and at Marley’s Monsters for adorable zero-waste products. If you want to actually shop, do the alley first as the stores close around 6 pm. For me, I was focused on good conversation and the chance to chat mask-free outside. The outdoor seating under a roof is a plus.
We finished the night with a drink and more conversation with some of Lindsay’s friends at the Gordon Tavern, in the lobby of the Gordon Hotel. The happy hour menu offers options for drinks and food at $6, $8 and $10. One bourbon old fashioned and several great stories later, our evening was done. It almost made me want to go there on a date night. Almost. — Camilla Mortensen, Gen X
Marché is open 4-9 pm daily, MarcheRestaurant.com. Fifth Street Market Alley’s hours are Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 7 pm and 11 am to 6 pm Sunday, but individual stores and eateries vary. The Gordon Tavern’s happy hour is 4 to 6 pm and 9:30 to 11 pm Tuesday through Saturday, GordonTavern.com. All of these places are in the Market District near downtown Eugene at Fifth Avenue and High Street.
Maybe it’s the pandemic, or maybe it’s just old age. But somewhere in my life the idea of an energetic night on the town morphed comfortably into holing up with a good book and good company in a pleasant room with an interesting view, free wifi, a decent cable package and takeout food from a trusted restaurant.
All that following an afternoon spent hiking on the Oregon Coast.
For years now my wife and I have enjoyed mini-vacations on the coast, driving over one morning and coming home the next day after breakfast. Our favorite these days centers on Florence, where a night at the River House Inn in Old Town runs around $150 and gives you a balcony with a view of the Siuslaw River and the stately Conde McCullough-designed bridge that spans it. (The bathtubs used to feature yellow rubber duckies; I’ll blame their disappearance on the pandemic.)
Before checking into the Inn, though, we head to Heceta Head Light Station, a classic New England-style lighthouse 13 miles north of Florence that’s great for pictures and has its own elegant McCullough bridge that takes Highway 101 across Cape Creek. But the real treat here is the trail that takes off behind the lighthouse and meanders through a haunted rainforest about 2 miles north to Hobbit Beach, a fine stretch of sand you’ll sometimes have entirely to yourself. Be advised: The trail is moderately steep in some places and slippery in more.
Then it’s back to Florence for hot showers — especially if you’ve been hiking in the late January rains — and maybe a cup of herbal tea with a good book until dinner. We like Mo’s, just down the street from the Inn; despite its tourist ambiance the seafood (halibut fish & chips, $18.95) is as good as you might find at a more expensive white-tablecloth venue. During the pandemic the restaurant has an excellent online ordering system for takeout.
After dinner? Cuddle up with that book, a movie or each other.
A night at the coast isn’t exactly first-date territory, but it works pretty well for your 500th. — Bob Keefer, Boomer