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An Insider’s Guide to Dining at the University of Oregon

A recent grad’s guide to the dining halls, eating your way down 13th Avenue, and where to get brunch after a long night out

Lillis School of Business at the University of Oregon.
| Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock

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The University of Oregon — situated in the heart of Eugene, Oregon — is well-positioned to be a dream campus for those who love food. The campus is surrounded by restaurants serving everything from pho dac biet to fresh-baked pastries, in a city surrounded by farms growing organic produce. And with 14 dining halls scattered around campus, the U of O holds its own in a city that punches above its culinary weight. Just a few steps off campus, 13th Avenue has a whole line of restaurants to choose from, ranging from a New York-style pizza shop that’s been around for more than 40 years to a Mediterranean restaurant that utilizes Pacific Northwestern produce. And on Saturdays, mushroom foragers, chefs, farmers, and bakers descend upon Farmers Market Pavilion and the surrounding park blocks, a few minutes from campus, to sell gorgeous pastries, Afghani bolani, Jamaican ackee and callaloo, and seasonal produce. New Ducks, feel free to use this guide as your compass as you get to know the campus and its surroundings — or, better yet, eat your way through them. For more Eugene recommendations, feel free to check out our Eugene map.

Students walk through the halls of the University of Oregon’s student union.
The Erb Memorial Union (EMU).
Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock

The fundamentals

Dining halls

The U of O is home to an impressive 14 dining halls, including nine brand-new locales that opened in 2021. At the U of O, the dining venues are more like restaurants than a cafeteria-style dining hall, with the exceptions being Carson and Barnhart Hall, both buffets. All dining venues take Duck Bucks, meal points, or cash as payment, with each meal at a flat rate, which avoids confusion when paying. This restaurant-style way of dining allows students more options and variance when it comes to not just offerings, but size and scope of meals. When summing up the whole picture, the best dining venue is likely Unthank Hall, located on the east side of campus, which contains nine food-hall-style restaurants. To satisfy a non-instant ramen craving, visit Unthank’s Steam, which serves noodle soups ranging from tonkotsu to garlic truffle; otherwise, order the butter chicken and naan from Tamarind, which is always made fresh with produce sourced from the Pacific Northwest.

Erb Memorial Union (EMU)

The student union, located in the heart of campus, has a whole second level dedicated to its food court. The food court here generally sticks to chains — think Panda Express, Starbucks, Chipotle — though the most Oregon-specific option is likely the Little Big Burger, founded in Portland in 2010. Thanks to its central location on campus, the EMU is a solid place to hang out with friends or grab a quick lunch and study.

Grocery stores

If you’re on campus, the Agate Street Market located in Unthank Hall sells bulk food, organic produce, and snacks like trail mix, kettle chips, and fresh-ground almond butter. If you live off campus near Patterson and Oak, the closest store is the Safeway on 18th, which is where many college students do their shopping for the week. If you live more towards East Campus and need some groceries, Market of Choice is available on Franklin Boulevard.

A hand holds a coffee in front of the Espresso Roma sign.
Espresso Roma on 13th.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Caffeine refueling stations

Espresso Roma: Located on East 13th Avenue, Espresso Roma has been a staple coffee spot throughout the years for U of O students who pop in for a quick iced coffee or a chicken-pesto panini. The cafe’s hazelnut mocha and chocolate croissant are both particularly nice, balancing the velvety chocolate with nutty undertones and flaky pastry, respectively. If it’s nice outside, sit in Roma’s outside courtyard, where you can enjoy a nice breeze while studying.

PNW Café: If you’re on the east side of campus and you need a midday caffeine refuel, the PNW Café — located in Unthank Hall — pours Starbucks coffee and refreshers, as well as Teavana teas. Although there’s seating available at the cafe, most students take their drinks to go in the middle of the day, between classes. If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, the cafe makes doughnuts with a U of O logo design — a cheeky nod to the school’s logo.

A yellow-hued building with picnic tables set up outside with a sign that reads “Sweet Life Petite Pastries Espresso.”
Sweet Life Petitie in Eugene.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Quick pre-class breakfasts

Sweet Life Petite: Although acai bowls and oatmeal are great options for most of the week, nothing starts a day off better than chowing down on a chocolate muffin or a cinnamon roll at the campus locale of this beloved Eugene bakery, located at the intersection between Agate and 19th Avenue. Some menu highlights include a pecan sticky bun, topped with sweet-and-nutty caramel sauce and plenty of nuts. All of the pastries are made fresh and decorated with care, making each item both beautiful and delicious.

Tailored Coffee Roasters: When walking through the east side of campus, Tailored Coffee Roasters is a great place to grab a quick breakfast sandwich, namely a fluffy biscuit sandwiching thick-cut bacon and soft-scrambled eggs. Although the coffee is good here, it can be a little pricey for a broke college kid’s budget — but hey, if you’re looking to splurge, that’s an option.

Two people wait at the counter of Drake’s Deli.
Drake’s Deli at the University of Oregon.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Lunch on the go

Sy’s New York Pizza: If you’re hungry, broke, and want to stay close to campus, a slice from Sy’s New York Pizza is the best bet. Sy’s has been around since 1978, so if your parents are alumni of the U of O, there’s a big chance they’ve eaten at this community staple. The best part: Each pizza slice is less than $5 dollars and well-executed.

Drake’s Deli: Located on the east side of campus, Drake’s Deli serves dishes like premade salads, sandwiches, and bagels, as well as a knockout Calabrian orzo salad — pros know to add smoked salmon for a briny accompaniment. The salad is nutty and refreshing, complemented by the buttery quality of the salmon.

A glowing yellow sign reads “Duck’s House.”
Duck’s House at the University of Oregon.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Dorm dinners and meetup spots

Bartolotti’s Pizza and Bistro: Bartolotti’s, located on the ground level of the EMU, attracts crowds of freshmen, school clubs, and other students, who pile into booths for bubbly, cheesy pizzas and baked pastas. The DaVinci Brush pizza layers ricotta cheese, pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, and lots of garlic and basil, for a satisfyingly nutty and salty pie. Bartolotti’s baked rigatoni is a strong choice for those who aren’t in the mood for pizza, especially if you add a crispy chicken cutlet on top.

Duck’s House: In the corner of Unthank Hall, the Duck’s House is a restaurant filled to the brim with college students, especially during game day. The restaurant has a sports-bar feel, with TVs scattered around the perimeter of the restaurant so students can watch the Duck’s latest game. Duck’s House leans into the theme pretty heavily with a number of U of O-themed dishes — a standout is the Oregon Waffle Racer, a light, fluffy waffle topped with Oregon berry compote and whipped cream.

A hand holds two cookies in front of Dough Co’s facade.
Cookies from Dough Co.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Late-night takeout

The Dough Co.: If you’re from Oregon, you’re probably painfully aware of the lack of late-night dining options in the state. Luckily, the Dough Co., located on Hilyard Street, is the one saving grace in Eugene, open later than all other restaurants near campus. Open for takeout until 3 a.m., seven days a week, Dough Co. serves calzones and cookies almost exclusively, save a handful of ice creams and cold drinks. There are over 30 different calzone fillings, the crowd favorite being the original three-cheese calzone. While you’re there, you might as well order a batch of warm cookies for dessert. Take it to go or you will be eating next to dozens of drunk college students — unless that’s the vibe you’re going for.

Mandy’s: When the craving for pancakes strikes at a time most people are asleep, Mandy’s Family Restaurant — open until 11 p.m. five days a week and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays — fulfills any breakfast-for-dinner fantasy you may have, with things like croissant breakfast sandwiches, eggs Benedict, and French toast. Mandy’s stellar chicken and waffles arrive with peppery tenders over a sweet, airy waffle, a strong option at any time of day.

A pile of banchan, short rib, and pork belly at Kkoki Korean BBQ in Eugene.
Kkoki Korean BBQ.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Parents-in-town restaurants

Kkoki Korean BBQ: This Oregon chain of Korean barbecue spots is a strong choice for a fun evening, especially when bringing roommates or friends along. Families snack on complimentary banchan — kimchi, pickled onions — while searing slabs of spicy, thick-cut samgyeopsal (pork belly) and LA galbi (marinated short ribs) via the table’s communal grill plate. Although diners can order proteins a la carte to grill, the all-you-can-eat option is the move here. Pro tip: Order the thin-cut brisket first because it cooks the fastest. Also, if you’re over 21 and your parents are feeling fun, order a bottle of soju, a distilled Korean alcohol that goes great with the meal. Kkoki does take reservations, so make sure to call ahead to claim a table.

Ta Ra Rin: If your parents are more into casual dining, Ta Ra Rin is one of the better Thai food options in Eugene, just a five-minute drive from campus. Ta Ra Rin is a low-frills spot for intricately spiced curries and flavorful noodle dishes, as well as dishes specific to the restaurant like its spicy catfish. The restaurant’s pineapple fried rice goes well with pretty much anything on the menu.

Cafe Soriah: Located on 13th Avenue, this eclectic European restaurant focuses on Northwestern seasonal produce for dishes like stuffed, baked eggplant or old-school classics like a gorgeous steak Diane, a hearty beef tenderloin topped with a one-two punch of rich Burgundy and acidic Dijon mustard sauces. The cocktails are also wonderful, the house margarita being the crowd favorite. Cafe Soriah does take reservations, so make sure to call before to ensure a table.

A white and red building from Studio One Cafe.
Studio One Cafe.
Meaghan FitzPatrick/Eater Portland

Hangover brunch

Morning Glory Café: After a late night out, few things sound better than an absurdly large brunch. Morning Glory Café, located about five minutes from campus, will satiate vegans and omnivores alike, serving dishes like a vegan omelet, loaded to the brim with vegetables in a shredded potato shell, or the vegan biscuits and gravy with an umami-rich mushroom gravy. As the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Eugene, Morning Glory Café has perfected its use of vegan proteins to make delicious brunch dishes like French toast with thick Challah bread or a breakfast quesadilla great for midday eating. One of the most popular dishes is the Three Sisters, a mountain of potatoes and vegetables topped with a choice of sauce. All of Morning Glory’s juices — carrot, orange, and grapefruit — are freshly squeezed from organic produce, ideal for rehydrating after a night out.

Studio One Cafe: Located less than half a mile from the east side of campus, this lively, unpretentious diner is always filled to the brim with hungover college students. Converted from a house to a restaurant, Studio One Cafe is decorated with eclectic old movie posters, giving the space a vintage feel. If you’re in the mood for something salty and spicy, the huevos rancheros are wonderful, crispy-fried corn tortillas topped with poached eggs and beans, smothered in a gently spiced tomato-chile sauce. The morningstar breakfast pairs tempeh or tofu with sauteed vegetables and country potatoes — a nice choice when looking for something lighter.

A hand holds a plate of pad thai from a vendor at the Eugene Saturday Market.
Bangkok Grill pad thai from the Eugene Saturday Market.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/Eater Portland

Final Tips

UO Street Faire: This week-long fair comes to the U of O biannually to support local food trucks and vendors around Eugene. Bring some cash to campus on the second week of fall and winter terms so you can support local artists and eat some really good food.

Saturday Market: Located on 8th Street, every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., more than 200 local artisans, farmers, and cooks come together to bring some colorful local food and talent to Eugene. For lunch, order at the Irie Jamaican Kitchen, which has a knockout jerk chicken dish that is aromatic and spicy, with a side of sweet, fried plantains that balances it out. Afterwards, grab some fresh produce and art to start your Saturday off well.