Best of Eugene 2013-14: Midnight’s Madness (Nightlife)

Dawn Murray. Photo by Todd Cooper.



Dawn Murray. Photo by Todd Cooper.
Dawn Murray. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Best bartender

1. Dawn Murray Jameson’s Bar. 115 W. Broadway. 485-9913.

2. Don Mike Granary Pizza Co. 259 E. 5th Ave. 343-8488.

3. Ty Connor Horsehead Bar. 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

How do you pile up this many votes in broad daylight for a nightlife category? Quality over quantity, the after-work crowd asserts. Dawn Murray is the day manager at Jameson’s and her slower traffic means greater intimacy. The gregarious Murray, her regulars say, has got “some kind of ’50s movie actress charm” to her. Of course it doesn’t hurt that she also can’t be stumped in a pop quiz on top-shelf bourbon. Her old-fashioned more or less drinks itself. This is Murray’s first Best Bartender win over her eight-year tenure, and she says of usurping the title only that “Ty Connor is my hero.” Scratch your itch about the Murray mystique any day from 4 to 9 pm.



Best beers on tap

1. The Bier Stein 1591 Willamette St. 485-2437.

2. Ninkasi Brewing Tasting Room 272 Van Buren St. 344-2739.

3. 16 Tons 265 E. 13th Ave. 345-2003.

It’s doubtful anyone was upset about The Bier Stein’s move from East 11th to its new location on Willamette. Not only did the floor space increase, but the presentation of The Bier Stein’s beer wall shines as a beacon to brew lovers. The addition of display screens showing 24 beers on tap (including two nitro taps) and tweets and check-ins from customers keeps the crowd informed. In addition to a mainly regional selection of brews, the Stein is stocked with international beers and specialties, such as gluten-free beers. There is something for everyone, from the pedestrian drinker to the connoisseur, and that’s likely what keeps at least a few dozen people in the building.



Cornucopia. Photo by Athena Delene
Cornucopia. Photo by Athena Delene

Best burger & brew special

1. Cornucopia 295 W. 17th Ave. 485-2300; 207 E. 5th Ave. 485-2676;

2. The Vintage 837 Lincoln St. 349-9181.

3. Izakaya Meiji 345 Van Buren St. 505-8804.

Cornucopia, with two homey locations, continues to hold the top spot, and for good reason. Its burgers are scrumptious, made daily with fresh beef supplied by Oregon Natural Meats.  Dive into everything from the Lil Jack’s Hellion Burger with a green chili vibe and Jeros’ Bacon Cheese Burger (bacon, need I say more?) to the Big Baby Bleu Burger, among other delicious options capable of satisfying your meat-craving palate. Four vegetarian vurger options, handmade from local tempeh and black beans, mean that everyone has a seat at the table.



Best cocktails

1. Izakaya Meiji 345 Van Buren St. 505-8804.

2. Rye 444 E. 3rd Ave. 653-8509.

3. The Vintage 837 Lincoln St. 349-9181.

Meiji’s cocktails are the perfect way to ease into winter. The bartenders mix pre-Prohibition drinks, manager Chad Kushuba says, and the blend of flavors in each drink has been perfectly planned. The bottles create an impressive display behind the bar, and the menu boasts more than 100 whiskeys in this low-lit, intimate cabin-esque restaurant. It’s hipster meets country, East meets West and simple, smart ingredients meet complex, full flavors.



Best happy hour/drink specials

1. Starlight Lounge 830 Olive St. 343-3204.

2. Jameson’s Bar 115 W. Broadway. 485-9913.

3. Izumi Sushi and Grill 2773 Shadow View Dr. 683-1201.



Hillstomp plays to a packed Sam Bond’s. Photo by Todd Cooper.
Hillstomp plays to a packed Sam Bond’s. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Best bar

1. Sam Bond’s Garage 407 Blair Blvd. 343-2635.

2. Cowfish 62 W. Broadway.

3. Horsehead Bar 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.




Photo by Miles Bowers
Sweet Cheeks Winery. Photo by Miles Bowers

Best wine tastings

1. Sweet Cheeks Winery 27007 Briggs Hill Rd. 349-9463.

2. King Estate Winery 80854 Territorial Highway. 942-9874.

3. Sundance Natural Foods 748 E. 24th Ave. 343-9142.

This friendly winery is beautiful from start to finish, with a lovely drive in and out, a cute tasting room and scenic patio area. Sweet Cheeks even welcomes outside food, in case you’d like to bring a picnic for wine pairings, and the prices make it accessible even for budding oenophiles with student loans.




Photo by Todd Cooper.
Photo by Todd Cooper.

Best brewery

1. Ninkasi Brewing 272 Van Buren St. 344-2739.

2. Oakshire Brewing 1055 Madera St. 688-4555.

3. Hop Valley Brewing 980 Kruse Way, Spfd. 744-3330; 990 W. 1st Ave. 585-2337.

There’s a certain gravity to being beer-loving Eugene’s biggest brewery. Ninkasi soaks up the love and then feeds it back to us in a fermented mix, hosting Monday night “Pints for a Cause” events and giving back through the “Beer is Love” program. Whether you love the hoppy goodness of Total Domination IPA or the dessert-like Oatis Oatmeal Stout is more of your jam, you know your beer money is going to a community-conscious brewery.



Alex Elkin. Photo by Trask Bedortha.
Alex Elkin. Photo by Trask Bedortha.

Best local comedian

1. Alex Elkin

2. Leigh Ann Jasheway

3. Josh Finch

What once began as something that got you kicked out of class for disrupting students can now function as an active profession. Comedy isn’t for everyone (just ask Carlos Mencia) and comedy scenes can’t be found in every community. But with the upcoming NW Women’s Comedy Festival and the UO student group The Stand-up Society’s formation last year, Eugene is lucky to have a growing comedic scene full of exciting comedians. Better known as “Beans,” Alex Elkin is one of the three voices that act as potent laughing gas on radio station All Comedy 1450. One of his partners, Chris Warren, notes that Elkin shines because of “his ability to adapt to an audience. He can read the audience and that’s something that most comedians don’t have the ability to do.”



Open mic at Cozmic. Photo by Athena Delane.
Open mic at Cozmic. Photo by Athena Delane.

Best open jam/open mic night

1. Cozmic 199 W. 8th Ave. 338-9333.

2. Sam Bond’s Garage 407 Blair Blvd. 343-2635.

3. Diablo’s Downtown Lounge 959 Pearl St. 343-2346.

For those vocalists who are ready to trade in their hairbrushes for real microphones, Cozmic’s open mic night is a friendly atmosphere that offers local performers 8 to 10 minutes of fame in front of a live audience. On Wednesdays from 7 to 10 pm, host Edgar Lopez welcomes up to 15 people of all ages to perform spoken word, stand-up comedy or any genre of music. “It’s a drop of different flavors for the community,” Lopez says. “Every night it’s different. Not only are the performers the ones going up and having fun but it’s also the crowd.” Lopez says the lively atmosphere where the performers are the main attraction on a real stage, rather than just background music, is really what sets Cozmic’s open mic night apart. So for those who are ready to make a live debut, leave your audience of shampoo bottles and stuffed animals at home and take your place in the limelight for a night.



Best place to sing karaoke

1. Oak St. Speakeasy 915 Oak St. 284-4000.

2. (tie) Black Forest 50 E. 11th Ave. 686-6619.; Cornucopia 207 E. 5th Ave. 485-2676.

While in a bar or social setting, you have few options to make yourself noticeable to that cutie sitting in the back booth sipping on a gin and tonic. Walking up unannounced and introducing yourself can be tricky, and this is why we have Oak St. Speakeasy, Cornucopia and Black Forest and their stellar karaoke nights. Backed by a single beam of light shining upon a stage with just a microphone and teleprompter at your command, karaoke can turn you from unnoticed zero into a Robert De Niro with just the simple play of Flight of the Concords’ “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room).”



Best place to drink in the sun

1. McMenamins North Bank 22 Club Rd. 342-5622.

2. Ninkasi Brewing 272 Van Buren St. 344-2739.

3. Falling Sky Brewing 1334 Oak Alley. 505-7096.



Belly. Photo by rob and tracy sydor •
Belly. Photo by Rob and Tracy Sydor •

Best place for a dinner date

1. Belly 30 E. Broadway. 683-5896.

2. Izakaya Meiji 345 Van Buren St. 505-8804.

3. Beppe & Gianni’s 1646 E. 19th Ave. 683-6661.

It’s the stuff of adolescent fantasy — little round tables with white cloth covers and a waxy beacon placed dead center. But if you ask the staff, they’ll tell you the real smooching happens in the groovy alcove by the window. Belly fools the best of us. It’s casual upon first glance but swanky when you think about it. The ambiguous aesthetic just works. There are enough obscure menu items to impress but enough familiar ones not to impose. From Slavic to Saharan, there is something for everybody and the menu changes often. As owner/chef Brendan Mahaney says, excited about the dropping temperatures outside, “It’s time for Jerusalem artichokes, persimmons, duck confit, pomegranates …” All this and more for the one you adore.



Best bar grub

1. The Horsehead Bar 99 W. Broadway. 683-3154.

2. Falling Sky Brewing 1334 Oak Alley. 505-7096; 790 Blair Blvd. 653-9167.

3. Jackalope Lounge 453 Willamette St. 485-1519.

Is it the collard greens? The big burgers? Maybe, but for us it’s the nachos that really put the Horsehead over the top when it comes to bar grub. There’s a lot of good late-night eats around Eugene, and a lot of amazing places to have good food and a cocktail, but the Horsehead is our default when we hit that “Oh shit, I need to eat something hot and fried to take the edge off all that whiskey I just drank” point in the night. The added bonus is that if you get the nachos (and yes, you can get them without meat for all you drunk vegetarians out there) the salsa is so damn garlicky that you will hold vampires and potentially unpleasant suitors at bay for the rest of the night.



Best dive bar

1. Tiny Tavern 394 Blair Blvd. 687-8383.

2. Luckey’s Club Cigar Store 933 Olive St. 687-4643.

3. Jackalope Lounge 453 Willamette St. 485-1519.

When we say “best dive bar,” we mean one you can dive right into and enjoy yourself. The Tiny Tavern has undergone an excellent makeover, transforming from “urinal cake” to “I would eat cake if served there,” all the while keeping its working-class flavor.

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