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Eugene, Oregon, (and more) Restaurants

Bruno's Chef's Kitchen

Tom "Bruno" Bollag is the chef at this small spot in south Eugene. At the moment, there is no indoor dining. You just call in, order what you want, and drive up to the window at the appointed time. The menu changes weekly and primarily uses local product. Once an order is placed, Bruno starts cooking, not a minute before. Each sauce he makes is for a specific order, there's no vats of pre-made items sitting around.

It's a good idea to call and find out their hours. Their website and internet searches say 11:30 a.m. When we were there and called in, they weren't opening until noon.

Bruno's hit our culinary tour goal - it was really good. We ordered the St. Louis ribs which almost had a Kalbi/teriyaki-like sauce with seeds and onions, with a grilled slice of pineapple. So tender. We also got a shrimp Louie which was excellent with black olives, hard-cooked egg slices, avocado, shrimp, cherry tomatoes, green grapes, strawberry slices, cornichons, butter lettuce, Belgian endive, and a wonderful Louie dressing. Refreshing and delicious.

Like all take-out spots, napkins and utensils were provided, but they take the quality up a level or two and it really did make a difference in terms of how we felt when using it. It wasn't just cheap plastic.

For us, the other memorable thing about Bruno's was Bruno. It's why we love restaurants and chefs. When we drove up to the pick-up window, he handed us a bag (kind of funny - it was an Albertson's grocery bag) and confirmed what we'd ordered. When he got to the shrimp Louie, his eyes lit up and he said, "This is the first salad I've made this year using our local Oregon bay shrimp. They are so sweet! I can really tell the difference! I hope you can, too. Enjoy!" How can you not appreciate food when the chef is so passionate about what he's created? Made our day.

3443 Hilyard St
Eugene, OR 97401
541-687-2433
www.brunoschefskitchen.com


Marché

We were excited about dining at Marché as it's all about eating fresh seasonal, and local, and using ingredients when they're at their best. They were named a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurant 2019, and a finalist for Best Chef Northwest in 2006 by the James Beard Foundation Award. Even one of our family members in San Francisco who used to own a restaurant had eaten there and said we had to go. We were ready!

The restaurant is located at the 5th Street Public Market which is a fun spot to wander through and check out all the stores. We ate outside under a tent next to the dining room which was set up nicely. The service was excellent, attentive without being overbearing. Again with a late lunch (Bruno's!), we weren't starving, so we decided to skip large plates and try a salad and a sausage pizzetta.

The burrata and beet salad seemed like a good choice - it would show off their attention to seasonal produce. The plate included Castelvetrano olives, arugula, olio nuovo, lemon, and sea salt. It's an easy dish to make and the presentation was nice. It was a solid, tasty dish, but there was no magic. You could make this at home.

Their sausage pizzetta included rabe greens which we asked to be left off as one of us is not a fan. The sausage was made with garlic and leek, there was tomato, grana Padano and mozzarella cheeses. Again, no magic. Perhaps we kicked out what made it magic by removing the rabe, but it was a bit of a disappointment. Don't get us wrong, it tasted fine, but it wasn't special. Thin crust was crispy on the edges, but the dough was watery, and the middle portion was downright wet. We could have had this anywhere; it wasn't what we were expecting at this particular restaurant.

We tried a wine from the Loire which was fine, but nothing special, and a rose that was quite nice. Strawberry-lemon sorbet from their sister business Provisions Market Hall was crisp and refreshing. Again, you could find this elsewhere, it didn't speak to what we thought Provisions could do.

Entrée prices when we were there ranged from $26-$32, pretty standard for a nice place. Pizzettas, salads, starters, the bar menu, all seemed very reasonable, ranging from $8-$14.

Other sister businesses include Blackboard, LeBar, Marché Catering, and Provisions Catering. Clearly they're doing fine without our complete approval.

We're split on this restaurant. One of us would go back for another go, and one is done.

296 East Fifth Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401
541-342-3612
marcherestaurant.com


SweetWaters on the River

Inside the Valley River Inn, the restaurant runs the length of the building right along the Willamette River. Every table has a view over the patio and to the river and beyond. They offer breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner with Pacific Northwest fare and locally-sourced ingredients. In addition, there is an on-site wine tasting room which we didn't explore as we were there for breakfast, and a lounge with fireplace.

Between three of us we tried a smoked salmon, tarragon cream cheese, and green onion omelet; eggs Benedict; and an order put together with sides, including fruit. The tarragon cream cheese sounded like there might be some magic, but the dish was fairly bland. The Benedict was disappointing with the Hollandaise too thick and pasty, and also not quite yellow in color. The sides were average, and the fruit not particularly fresh or flavorful.

The location is great, they offer lounge and patio seating, it's right on the river, and they'll make you a riverside picnic. But we won't be back because the food quality is just not there.

1000 Valley River Way
Eugene, OR 97401
541-743-1000
www.valleyriverinn.com/sweetwaters


Chapala

Opened in 1994 by Martin and Salvador Pelayo and their spouses, they originally employed 15 people; eight were family members. They had worked for a large Mexican restaurant in Seattle and wanted to open their own place. They remodeled the Willamette location in 1996, then later added the Oakway Center restaurant with a courtyard patio. They pride themselves on using fresh ingredients and seafood, partnering with local providers, and offering a diverse menu spice-wise with some gluten-free dishes. Full bar service is available at both locations.

We were looking for more of a snack than an entire meal, so we opted for the nachos with ground beef. Ingredient-wise, there's nothing new here, but the beef had a spice profile that is different than most of what we get in Seattle, and it was very good. Since we have limited experience here, it's hard to say what the other dishes are like, but based on the nachos, we'd return to Chapala and try more of the menu.

Willamette
68 W 29th Ave
Eugene, OR
541-683-5458

Oakway Center
136 Oakway Center
Eugene, OR
541-434-6113

chapalamex.com


Sabai

Sometimes a place just hits you right. We're not normally mall people or mall restaurant people but we withheld judgment as we walked up to Sabai (although a very nice mall). Once in, we were hooked. The interior is attractive, right down to the pandemic panels they put in between booths. They look like they were part of the original plan.

Then we took a look at the cocktail list which was quite interesting. Their top seller (and we know why now) is the Rangoon Gimlet: Tanqueray gin, basil, lemongrass, lime. Salad roll in a glass. I will say that one was enough, a little Rangoon goes a long way with its intense flavor. We also tried the Crimson made with Absolut Kurant Vodka, blackberry, lime, and rosemary. The rosemary was simply a piece of rosemary placed in the glass vs. something infused. Other drinks used things like tamarind and crème de violette. Inventive.

Pacific Rim cuisine is their tag line yet there are things that seem to fall outside of that as well. My big disappointment here was that after starting with two appetizers, we were too full to eat the entrée I wanted: Thai Steak Frite, a New York strip steak with Maitre d' Butter, yam frites, and spicy aioli. It didn't sound very Pacific Rim, but everything we had was so good, I really wanted to taste what they did with this. The appetizers we had can be found at any Thai restaurant: garden salad rolls with a sweet-sour sauce, and chicken satay with cucumber salad and peanut sauce. Sound typical, but both were so much better than we've had in some time. The salad rolls were extremely fresh, the chicken satay moist and tender. The sauces were even better. Not sure what made the sauces such stand-outs, but they really added to the overall dishes.

We'd go back in a heartbeat.

27 Oakway Center
Eugene, Oregon 97401
541.654.5424

www.sabaicafe.com


Glenwood

The Glenwood offers an all-day menu at both locations and has won numerous "Best of Eugene" awards. The South Eugene location has a larger menu, but both are big. Their website says "…filled with hungry customers ready for a healthy meal." We have to take exception to the healthy meal part. They do use a lot of veggies and they do have sweet potato pancakes, gluten free pancakes, an Impossible Burger, and a vegan black bean burger. We didn't see any mention of organic or use of alternative flours and we did see white flour pancakes and waffles going by. We're absolutely sure there's a line out the door every weekend.

They do offer some things you don't see everywhere. We tried a Pesto Shrimp Scramble with basil pesto, baby shrimp, and parmesan cheese (photo). It was good but nothing that made us gasp. We also tried the Breakfast Skillet with two scrambled eggs, bell pepper, black olives, jack and cheddar cheeses, with avocado and salsa. There was an overabundance of green pepper. Again, it was fine. There was no magic here. We got hooked on that "healthy breakfast" idea and it wasn't happening. If you're not concerned with that, you may love this place. It's kind of a throwback to hippie-ish days: lots of hanging plants and use of wood throughout the dining room. Nice atmosphere.

South Eugene
2588 Willamette St
Eugene, OR
541-687-8201

University of Oregon Campus
1340 Alder St
Eugene, OR
541-687-0355

www.glenwoodrestaurants.com


Depoe Bay, OR

Tidal Raves

Opened in 1990, Tidal Raves still gets rave reviews. Menu is really about seafood, but you will find things like pork belly lettuce wraps and Gaucho Steak. Count on shrimp cakes, oysters, clams, crab cakes, seafood salads, fish tacos, cioppino, and so much more. The dining room has huge windows and looks out right over the ocean. Beautiful view. The bar is a level up, so it has the same view.

We tried the clam chowder, which was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. We had the calamari "fritti" which was served with a cilantro lime sour cream. That didn't sound great to me, I thought I'd prefer tartar sauce. I was wrong. It was light and went well with the calamari which was not oily at all and cooked perfectly. To get a feel for the other side, we had the Gaucho Steak, a 5 ounce filet with chimichurri and a smoked tomato vinaigrette. The steak didn't seem to be of high quality; it was a bit stringy. The chimichurri was not very bold which was surprising. The smoked tomato vinaigrette was killer good. We asked for some extra on that.

Service was good. While restrictions are on, they are not taking reservations, but worked really hard to ensure everyone understood how long (or short) the wait might be. Our server was on top of things and friendly.

Despite it not being magical with a few drawbacks, we'd definitely go back again.

279 N Hwy 101
Depoe Bay, OR 97341
541-765-2995
www.tidalraves.com


Lincoln City, OR

Snug Harbor Bar & Grill

It's a dive bar, and also the oldest bar on the Oregon Coast, which goes to show you that dive bars are often the last places standing. Usually pretty fun, too. It's definitely a neighborhood spot - almost everyone knew each other the day we were there. The bartender was leaving the next day for Vegas and people were stopping by to tell her to have a great trip. Their photo gallery on the website is almost all of people celebrating and having fun. A few pictures of the bar. No food photos. Emphasis on people! Outdoor seating is on tables and benches made from large trees.

Live music and karaoke. They serve breakfast, burgers, pizza, sandwiches. We went for the pizza. Nothing special, but it hit the spot. Open every day from 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

5001 SW Highway 101
Corner of SW 50th Street
Lincoln City, OR
541-996-4976
snugharborbarandgrill.com

Seattle DINING!/May 2021


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