Eugene is a city humming with activity. Every year, thousands of new students flock to the University of Oregon, and if there’s one thing that college students are good at, it’s eating. Eugene’s foodie culture is well prepared to meet that demand. Delicious food carts and microbreweries dot the town. Energetic and cutting edge, its restaurant scene rivals even metropolitan Portland to the north in diversity and acclaim. As a four-year resident myself, I’m sharing my trusted list of can’t-miss stops on any trip to Eugene.
Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen and BBQ
400 Blair Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 342-7500 | papassoulfoodkitchen.com
The prize of Eugene’s up and coming Whiteaker neighborhood, Papa’s Soul Food deals in rich Southern comfort food, unmatched this side of the Mississippi. Fried chicken and catfish is the fare, and the grits, greens and mac and cheese make for delectable sides. If you’re truly feeling the Cajun spirit, ask for the ‘Nawlins style gumbo or crawfish jambalaya. Live blues concerts make the back patio a popular spot to order sweet tea and enjoy some tunes, especially on sunny summer afternoons. The off-menu Soul Burger, made with barbecue pork patty, slaw and fried onions, alone was enough to make Food Network’s TV personality Guy Fieri pay a visit.
Track Town Pizza
1809 Franklin Blvd, Eugene, OR 97403
(541) 284-8484 | tracktownoncampus.com
Known as Track Town USA, Eugene is famous for its deeply rooted running culture. International long distance star Steve Prefontaine is memorialized there, where his young and illustrious career was tragically cut short in a car accident. In the early ‘60s, University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman began experimenting with a waffle iron to craft the ultimate running shoe tread. Later, he and fellow business partner Phil Knight would go on to establish Nike. World champion and two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton spent his college days running the trails of Eugene. For hungry runners, there is no better way to refuel than with a slice or two at Track Town Pizza, surrounded by posters and memorabilia of UO legends. Ask for a large Olympian (my personal favorite) and enjoy the hometown pizza parlor vibe.
Elk Horn Brewery
686 E Broadway, Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 505-8356 | elkhornbrewery.com
Any food tour in Oregon would be gastronomically incomplete without incorporating a brewery, and Elk Horn Brewery is a unique one at that. Just minutes from campus, you can embrace the wild while imbibing a Big Horn IPA or blood orange cider. Taxidermy animals, bear, bison and of course deer, decorate the restaurant. Elk is not only on the wall, but also on the menu; the “Elkaholic” burger comes with tomato, arugula and a horseradish aioli, piled on a light ciabatta bun. Chicken and waffles, baked with rosemary and topped with pickled jalapeño and creamy syrup are a saliva inducing marriage of savory and sweet, with just a hint of heat. The pub grub appetizers are not to be overlooked – in fact they can justly stand on their own. Cajun battered white cheese curds are served with blackberry honey mustard, and the ¾ pound Giant Bavarian Pretzel is paired with a gooey beer cheese.
1340 Alder St, Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 687-0355 | glenwoodrestaurants.com
Just one block off the UO campus, Glenwood is a favorite local breakfast spot; so plan accordingly – especially on the weekends. Large crowds line up outside this converted town house for the casual atmosphere and sizable portions. My go to plate? The Montana omelet, stuffed with fresh mushroom, black olive, bacon, ham, green onions and oozing cheddar and jack cheese. For the sweet tooth in all of us, a stack of delectable waffles should do the trick, especially if you slather it with the raspberry jam.
Oregon Electric Station
27 E 5th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 485-4444 | oesrestaurant.com
For a classy fine dining experience head to Oregon Electric Station. There, you can sip a cocktail in a refurbished, turn-of-the-century train car. In fact, the entire restaurant is built on the site of a 1912 railway station and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its menu offers an array of seafood and pasta dishes, highlighted by a selection of wines from the surrounding Willamette Valley. The hazelnut-encrusted salmon is culinary brilliance, made with cherished native ingredients and plated with a green apple beurre blanc, roasted fingerling potatoes and braised greens.
Lani Moku Grill
777 W 6th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 505-9432 | beergardenme.com/food-carts/
It seems fitting that the tour would end close to where it began. On 6th Avenue, the Beergarden is a laidback place for a pint and some friendly conversation. But, it’s what is out back on the patio, that I consider one of Eugene’s greatest hidden gems. Several food carts share the space, working together with Beergarden to create a place of gathering and tasty options. But Lani Moku Grill rises above them all by bringing authentic Hawaiian cuisine straight from the 808. The spicy sweet pele chicken couples nicely with the peppery mac salad, and heaping piles of kalua pork and traditional spam musubi continually draw dedicated customers back for more.