Eugene Oregon's Whitaker Neighborhood
Funky Fun and Urban Wine
by Jean Yates
Eugene, Oregon has always been the hipper of the two campuses of Oregon's largest universities, University of Oregon (U of O) in Eugene, and Oregon State Universisty (OSU) in Corvallis. OSU, near whose campus Avalon is located, has a scene that's positively sedate compared to the iconoclastic, libertarian to anarchistic, artistic and political activities found around University of Oregon.
The Whitaker neighborhood, where Territorial Vineyard and Eugene Wine Cellars' wineries and tasting rooms are located, is just west of downtown Eugene. The "Whitaker" has long been a home to artists' studios, funky bars,
great music, the best coffee, natural food stores, and ethnic restaurants.
Here are some of my favorite places to go in "the Whitaker".
Above, one of the many colorful homes in the Whitaker neighborhood
The Groovy Tasting Room
and the Groovy Neighborhood
907 West Third Avenue
A good tasting room should capture, in ambiance, a sense of what's in the bottles - what people ultimately come there to try. In 2001, Territorial opened what is one of the most attractive and inviting tasting rooms in Oregon, which does indeed pair well with their compelling flight of wines. It's decorated with deep, rich earth tones, and has comfy couch seating for intimate gatherings as well as a bar where you can sit and chat it up with Territorial's friendly and knowledgeable tasting room manager, Jordan Bewley. Co-owner Alan Mitchell's brother Keith's lusciously-textured and richly-colored abstract paintings cover one whole wall; the rest of the art changes monthly.
At first, the crew at Territorial set the tasting room hours to mirror those of other tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley wine circuit - i.e. daytime hours. They soon realized that this tasting room was a different kind of destination. Since they are in the city, patrons seek out Territorial as a place to go and taste and also hang out.Hanging out is welcomed and encouraged.
Territorial has opened their doors for a wide variety of special community and literary events, and, on Thursday nights, they offer a live music show, complete with decadent snacks. Regular Territorial tasting room hours are Friday and Saturday 2:00 to 7:00 and Thursday nights from 5:00 to 11:00. They're located at 907 West Third Avenue in Eugene.
Wandering Goat Coffee Company
"Heart of Darkness" is my current absolute favorite coffee bean blend, from this one-of-a-kind roastery/coffee house in the warehouse blocks of the Whitaker. Last Sunday morning, walking in around 11AM for beans, almost every seat was filled with i-Pod listening, laptop surfing Wi-fiers. Every single person in the place was dressed totally in black. The 21st century hipster looks a lot like a '50's beatnik, if you remove the electronics. And add some tatts.
At right, mural outside Wandering Goat's back door
Imho, the beans here are better than Stumptown, which has overexpanded. Wandering Goat's Ethiopian Yirgacheffe has intensity and sweet smoothness - floral and lemon mingle with the chocolate nose. It drinks big, complex, and balanced.
I'm always trying new beans, but in the morning, no matter what I meant to do, my hand keeps grabbing the latest bag of Wandering Goat's house espresso blend, "Chupacabra Espresso". It's an espresso blend that makes the most of my little machine - lemon drop and berry in the nose, lots of mellow cream, cocoa, berry, nutmeg, and pure chocolate essence.
You can't go wrong with Wandering Goat. At least as long as they stick to their strengths and don't decide to turn into an upscale Starbucks. Like some formerly great espresso bars that shall remain (almost) unnamed.
One of the more controversial murals in the Whitaker
Another Absolutely Must go to the Whitaker Place:
Sweet Life Patisserie
755 Monroe Street 541-683-5676
Open Weekdays 7AM-11PM Sat/Sun 8AM-11PM
Just across from the Whitaker is an incredible dessert bakery. Sweet Life's pastries, cakes, breakfast goods, and gelato are all made from scratch. There's no doughy, commercial frozen stuff here. The key lime tarts, the Napoleons, the coconut cream pie, I could go on... and on. It's unusually good, even for a foodie town like Eugene.
Sam Bond's Garage
407 Blair Blvd 541-431-6603
In the heart of the Whitaker, a nondescript building with a steady stream of the NWest's best live music. Where else can you hear an all female Led Zeppelin tribute band one night, and Klezmer the next? Limited selection of well priced pub food and a non-pretentious vibe.
Chao Pra Ya
Best Thai in Eugene, best Thai in a diner, best Thai for the price, and a great place for roups of friends to get together and share. Authentic, fresh ingredients, this place is not about mass quantities of mediocre foods (the norm) but about exquisite tastes and satisfying fresh authentic cuisine. In a funky, casual-as-only-Oregon can be vibe.
Incredibly Good Thai, a few blocks from Territorial