What's to eat in Eugene?
Coming up to Eugene to visit family, haven't been in several years - what's new/good? TIA
New *and* good? In Eugene? That's a tall order...and a short list. So short, in fact, that I can't come up with anything fitting those criteria (though that would depend on your definition of new). Iraila (www.iraila.com) is quite good, and does family-style dinners on Sundays that are fun, tasty and hilariously underpriced at $25 or so.
Still plenty of good places that aren't necessarily that new, though. What are you looking for? Price range, part of town, type of cuisine?
Iraila's perfect for you, then. I'd definitely call for a reservation, as it's popular and pretty small. Haven't had anything there I'd call less than very good, and it's convivial. Watch the vintages on the wine, though; they're pushing some over the hill stuff.
Beppe & Gianni's is close by. Nominally "Italian" -- whatever that means -- but not regionally specific and just as informed by Pacific Northwest cooking and ingredients. The trick there is to order whatever dish seems to need the least cooking and fussing. Last time I was there that was a dish of "bishop's hats" which were sheets of pasta loosely folded around a filling of (good, not gloppy) ricotta, prosciutto and chard, napped in a sage brown butter. Other dishes were mostly pretty good, but more complicated and kind of muddy in comparison. Another illustration of their less-is-more principal was an appetizer of melted Cambozola and roasted garlic which was a greasy mess lacking much in the way of flavor. A simple plate of bresaola with arugula tossed in just a little good olive oil was a lot better. Good, well-priced Italian wine list; the less said about their Oregon wine selection the better.
Chef's Kitchen was always good in the past, but I haven't been for a while. Still hear good things. Again, Northwest-y stuff (lots of salads and local mushrooms), but really varied. Informal and fun, plus there's no liquor license so you can bring your own wine or beer; Jiffy Market, with an acceptable selection, is conveniently located across the tiny parking lot from Chef's Kitchen.
More informal and out just a bit is Doug's on McVay Highway. Burger joint -- and make no mistake, it's a *joint* -- but it's made to order and good. Certainly better than anything similar you'll find in town, and it attracts an entertaining clientele if people watching is your thing.
People may tell you Studio One Café is good for breakfast. It was at one time. It is no longer. Avoid at all costs.
That ought to get you started.
Agreed on the Beppe & Gianni's. Service has always been good and food has always remained decent.
Is Vaquero still there? We had a wonderful meal there last fall. It's where Mekala's was in the 5th St. Market. Always have great meals at Marche, and the upstairs Marche Cafe is nice for brunch. Also, there's a restaurant in a strange location - a strip mall in West Eugene that was very good. I think it's called Koho. Cafe Soriah is usually good, as is Poppi's downtown.
The latest (Summer 2006) buzz is coming from outside Eugene 20 miles South at the King Estate Winery. Defined by quality organic ingredients, a gorgeous view and a prevailing afternoon breeze, the patio is just the ticket for a lazy afternoon / evening meal.
I'm not a big fan of KE's wines, but I am trying. For my taste, I prefer Sweet Cheeks Winery (a grower for 25 years, relatively new to the winemaking business) ~10 minutes up the road from KE on Briggs Hill. Iris Hill, next door to KE (just a mile or two up the road) is up and coming as well.
Foodwise, I also enjoy "Our Daily Bread" in Veneta ~15 minutes West of Eugene (and ~20 minutes N. of KE on Territorial). They have a wine list featuring local wines and a varied menu for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner.