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Get a Taste of Eugene

Published: August 30, 2021

 

Maybe you've heard about the kefir-sipping, smoothie-blending, tofu-eating folks out here in Eugene, Oregon. And judging by the number of vegan, vegetarian and farm-to-table restaurants and our farmers' markets loaded with sprouts, kale and homegrown tomatoes, it's true - we do love our veggies!

From established health food stores like The Kiva and Sundance and markets like The Saturday Market to food producers like Nancy's Yogurt and Yogi Tea, our community has been deeply invested in a radical new approach to food since the 1970s.

Today, family and cooperative run local companies are still coming up with innovative products and approaches to wholesome eating, from Cafe Yumm to Hummingbird Wholesale. 

So for a true taste of Eugene, here is a food trail showcasing our local dining legacy of foods that are sprouted, fermented, hand-harvested, organic and local. Get your fill of hemp, tofu, granola and kombucha!

Hummingbird Wholesale

Start the trail at Hummingbird Wholesale and the Stelleria Building. This eco-conscious warehouse was built with community in mind, along with accommodations for its wholesale distribution needs.

Giving off a very Eugene vibe, the Stelleria building employs solar energy, natural daylight and environmentally-friendly cleaning practices; making it a natural hub for local healthcare and healing practitioners and eco-conscious businesses to locate home offices. On-site there is a beautifully equipped start-up incubator kitchen and several community rooms. Hummingbird Wholesale even provides bicycle delivery service for smaller, local bulk orders or you can do curbside pick up for consumer bulk purchases (there are minimums); but mostly you will see their products — grains (including the local Camas Country Mill products), honey, dried fruits, nuts, trail mixes, etc. — in many of the local groceries. 

And this delightfully wholesome operation is home to the first food stop on our list: Nourish Noodle & Juice Bar. Then continue along the trail to witness Eugene's radical old school (organic, sustainable, farm-to-table) approach to food and, of course, to nibble!

Nourish Noodle & Juice Bar

Nourish Noodle & Juice Bar takes health seriously and offers an array of cold-pressed juices and superfood smoothies along with juice packs for cleansing or juice subscriptions. They also offer small plates, noodles and salads. Sample their "Fermented Flight" of ferments that includes Kimchi, pickled sprouts and house-made sauerkrauts or enjoy "The Vegan" noodle bowl with a mushroom seaweed broth, miso, coconut aminos, truffle oil, cherry tomatoes, wake, carrots, daikon and noodles. Wash it down with "Cashew Hemp Milk" made from cashews, hemp seed, dates, vanilla, cinnamon and sea salt.

Morning Glory Cafe

Two large breakfasts, two coffees and a bear claw pastry from Morning Glory Cafe.

Morning Glory Cafe vegan breakfast

Photo: Melanie Griffin

The lines out the door in the morning confirm that this is one of the best vegan/vegetarian breakfast and lunch spots in town. You can also specify organic, local or gluten-free meals too. Morning Glory Cafe has been around for decades, and still offers a cheery, comfortable atmosphere with friendly Eugene service. Favorites include "Mama's Tofu Scramble" with Mexi-cali tofu scrambled with broccoli, zucchini and fresh cilantro or the "Backpacker's Pancake" which is a plate-sized pancake smothered in blueberry-apple compote and pure organic maple syrup.

Cafe Yumm 

Cafe Yumm catapulted into the regional dining scene's limelight with its infamous and addictively delicious "Yumm Sauce" made with nutritional yeast. Now with multiple franchise locations in Oregon, these healthy-quick-foods restaurants are locals' go-to for simple, easy dining. The rice bowls are piled high with a variety of toppings, most organic, and are easily customized to accommodate dietary preferences from no dairy to gluten-free to no sugar. You can even buy Yumm Sauce in jars and make your own bowls at home. The simplicity, taste and adaptability of Cafe Yumm's dishes makes this a popular choice for catering office parties, family gatherings and special events. There are multiple Cafe Yumm locations around town, but highlighted on our trail is the cafe in 5th Street Market Alley because of the exciting urban atmosphere and sights to see in the Market District.

Park Street Cafe

This breakfast and lunch spot is a hidden gem, tucked on a small side street in downtown Eugene. Park Street Cafe has a delicious, versatile menu that easily accommodates gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo and keto requirements, comprised of mostly organic, free-range and locally sourced ingredients. You will love their "Be Here Now Breakfast Burrito" or their "Peaceful Challah Bread French Toast". For lighter fare, try their "Satisfying Yogurt and Granola" or "I'm So Healthy Hummus".

The Saturday Market

If you are here on a Saturday, look no further for the quintessential Eugene counter-culture food experience. The Saturday Market features a colorful collection of food trucks offering up vegan, vegetarian and paleo options. Plus you get the enjoyment of Eugenians expressing themselves through music, dress and crafts. Like July's Oregon Country Fair, the array of food showcases what Eugene is all about from sprouts to coconut ice cream!

Veg Salad Craft

This downtown Eugene restaurant serves up heaping salads, wraps and bowls with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients. Veg Salad Craft offers build-your-own from a rainbow display of wholesome proteins, vegetables, grains and fruits. Or you can order their signature dishes for fast and healthy meals on the go. With a nod to Eugene's track culture, order the "Marathon" or check out their "Big Warm Vegan Bowl" for a true taste of Eugene. They've also embraced the environment with compostable bowls, energy conservation and local sourcing. 

Nearby Veg Salad Craft is Kesey Square, a must visit for hippie homage to Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and other classic counter culture books. Take a picture with the statue "The Storyteller" portraying him reading to his grandchildren. The Kesey clan still own and operate the nationally popular brand Nancy's Yogurt, and now they also manage the musical programing at the McDonald Theater and the Cuthbert Amphitheater. 

Viva! Vegetarian Grill

This favorite food cart has been operating for over fifteen years in Eugene. Line up for falafel, tempeh Reubens, vegetarian chili, tempeh tacos, vegetarian hot dogs, loaded fries and soft serve ice creams. Viva! Vegetarian Grill is predictably located at 12th Avenue & Willamette Street but as always with food carts, check their Facebook page first to confirm. 

Lotus Garden Vegetarian Restaurant

Ever had vegan roast duck? It is possible at Eugene's amazing vegan Chinese restaurant where they use wheat gluten, soy and veggies to re-create traditional meals alongside splendid noodle, rice and vegetable-based dishes. Top Lotus Garden recommendations include the seaweed tofu soup and the seasonal eggplant with a special sauce.

Cornbread Cafe

This turquoise-trimmed landmark restaurant encapsulates what Eugene is all about — transformation into the unexpected. In this case, classic Southern comfort food goes vegan. Cornbread Cafe's fun menu includes the "Eugenewich", "Phish & Chips", cashew ice cream and kombucha floats. They even caught the attention of the TV show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", impressing TV host Guy Fieri with their mouth-watering veganized favorites.

Laughing Planet

This health-geared Portland chain has an extensive menu of bowls, burritos, quesadillas, soups, salads, smoothies, and more designed around vegan, paleo-friendly, and gluten-free options. With their quirky humor and plastic dinosaurs, Laughing Planet is a great place to take the kids. Order their quick foods at two locations in Eugene: the Whiteaker neighborhood and South Eugene. We recommend the "Highway to Kale" salad and their "Paleo Bowl" with grilled veggies, sautéed kale and choice of grilled chicken breast or braised pasture-raised beef. Pair it with a Mango Lassi made with mango, yogurt, apple juice and a little bit of turmeric.

Govinda's Vegetarian Buffet

Govinda's Vegetarian Buffet offers traditional Indian dishes made from scratch. The buffet is closed in response to pandemic protocols, but all their delicious selections are now served to you. Enjoy split pea Dahl, spicy chickpeas, coconut curries, chutneys, mixed vegetables, rice and lentil cakes. Plenty of vegan-friendly and gluten-free options.

Outside of Eugene

Fish tacos and burger from Homegrown in Florence, Oregon.

Homegrown in Florence, Oregon

Photo: Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

If you've wandered out into the valley, you'll find plenty of vegetarian offerings across the county.

At Coast Fork Brewing in Cottage Grove, order a "Vegan Root Veg Pie" made with turnips, parsnips, onions and Yukon gold potatoes in a white wine glaze topped with creamy mashed potato and yam made with coconut milk. Delicious and so good paired with one of their craft beers.

In Junction City, Camas Country Mill sells all the grains, flours, seeds and mixes you could want to bake a range of traditional and gluten-free goodies, much of it organic. Along with the storefront, they have a charming bakery offering a daily selection of sweet and savory items.

And in Veneta, home to the Oregon Country Fair, Our Daily Bread may not feel like a hippie hangout, but between orders of the quiche and the carrot cake, you can certainly eat like one!

And further to the coast, if you stumble into Homegrown, it seems like any other pub menu until you order the "Hippie Elitist Burger" with its vegan chia-seed patty and house-made kimchi.

No matter where you roam, have fun following your tastebuds!

Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.