Although I was flying solo last week and didn’t have the other two lunch gals with me, I joined up with a group of 30 people at the new First National Taphouse, and we all had one thing in common: a love for food. Our group of foodies was brought together by the new Dishcrawl Eugene.
Founded on the premise that ‘communities can be brought together through good food and good company,’ Dishcrawl is all about food, fun and exploration. With each Dishcrawl event, like-minded food enthusiasts have the opportunity to socialize while meeting the chefs, talking with the owners and exploring signature cuisine offered from four of Eugene’s restaurants.
Ticket holders don’t know which restaurants they’ll be visiting until 48 hours prior to the event, when the selected venues are revealed; however, hints are offered along the way via Dishcrawl’s social media outlets and news sources, like Eugene Daily News. About a week before Eugene’s inaugural Dishcrawl event, I visited one of the four restaurants on the agenda, Bon Mi, and I revealed a preview in my weekly column on Wine Down Eugene.
The event organizer and Eugene Ambassador for Dishcrawl, Rosalie Ruff, was set-up at a table near the entrance to the First National Taphouse. With name tags in hand, she greeted each of the Dishcrawl participants as they arrived and helped them find seating in the bustling Taphouse.
This was my first time to the new First National Taphouse, which boasts a very interesting history. It was the first brick building in Eugene, built in 1866, for the mercantile firm, Bristow and Company. In 1883, it opened as Hendricks and Eakin Bank, and three years later was renamed the First National Bank of Eugene. Fast forward to 2013, and the owners of the First National Taphouse recycled some of the buildings history – hanging the original safe doors on the exposed brick walls. The bar and kitchen are actually located in the original bank vault, and to keep up with the banking theme, they have a very distinctive tap-list called the Beer Exchange.
With 28 taps of rotating northwest craft brews and ciders, the First National Taphouse website describes the Beer Exchange best:
“As a commodity market in it’s own right, The First National Taphouse Draft Exchange System watches each ounce of precious beer poured and determines the value of each keg based on the actual living supply and demand of the patrons that moment. As kegs become low or if a rush hits, it’s price can increase dramatically, but that will immediately be balanced by the market demand. Opportunities will always present themselves to enjoy an amazing beer at an excellent price.”
The beer and cider selections are listed on unique flip-boards above the bar. Similar to what would be seen at the Stock Exchange, it is constantly reflecting the changes in prices as each selection becomes more or less popular. I ordered the 2 Towns Made Marion Cider – a delicious, juicy, Marionberry based cider with excellent berry and honey flavors and a gorgeous ruby color. When I ordered it, it was $4.25. By the time our group was ready to depart for the next restaurant, it was $5 dollars.
Although the main attraction to the First National Taphouse is the vast selection of beers on tap, their food is good enough to dub it as a gastropub. We had an Edamame Sloppy Joe Slider with a side of Triple Threat Mac N Cheese and a Caprese Salad. The Sloppy Joe Slider was far from any Sloppy Joe I’d ever had. Made with Edamame and black beans seasoned with house spices and a secret sauce, then topped with Wasabi coleslaw, this was one savory, flavor-packed Sloppy Joe. The Triple Threat Mac N Cheese was packed full of flavors too – Gruyere, Parmesan and Sharp Cheddar were melted down to a sauce and poured over cavatappi noodles. Topped with breadcrumbs and a cheese crust, this was no ordinary macaroni and cheese. The delicious house Mozzarella on the Caprese Salad is made fresh daily and was served on a Roma tomato with a fresh basil leaf and drizzled with balsamic reduction.
When Rosalie announced it was time to head over to the second restaurant on the agenda, our group of Dishcrawlers gathered outside the First National Taphouse and walked the block and a half to Bon Mi, a Vietnamese and French Restaurant with crisp, fresh fare. With a brief introduction to the made-from-scratch foods we’d soon be delving into, the Dishcrawlers lined up to fill their plates, buffet-style. A myriad of delectable choices awaited us: Banh Mi sandwiches filled with marinated pork, chicken or tofu, Salad Rolls with homemade peanut sauce and a Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad made with mouthwatering Pho Noodles. The house-made dressing on the Cold Noodle Salad was described as being as close as you can get to what would be served in Vietnam.
From Bon Mi, we walked several blocks to Poppi’s Anatolia, a quaint restaurant with unique batik wall hangings and high wood-beamed ceilings. With a menu based on both Greek and Indian food, the owner had prepared some of their popular appetizers from the Greek menu; including, a Dolma, Anise bread, pita slices, fresh vegetables, olives, hummus and Melitzanosalata (eggplant dip). Fluffy and light, yet rich with ambrosial flavors, their hummus is one of the best hummus dips I’ve had.
Our last stop of the evening was at the newly renovated Davis Restaurant and Bar, where three of the most outstanding desserts were the absolute perfect way to end an evening: Apple Dumpling wrapped in puff pastry with a sauce made from brown sugar, citrus and Mountain Dew, Apple Savory Puff Pastry with baked brie, honey, salt and balsamic reduction and a Bing Cherry Zabayon served in a martini glass – an egg based custard with fresh Bing cherries, Tawny Port and an almond cookie. Davis had an area set-up specifically for our group where these amazing desserts were quickly served up as our mingling group fell silent – not only were the desserts beautiful, but they were down-right scrumptious.
Although I’ve lived here for almost seven years, each of the restaurants on the Dishcrawl were new to me. I had never seen the unique decor inside the 25 year old Poppi’s Anatolia, nor did I know that Davis had some of the best desserts in town. In addition to discovering new places and exploring new foods, meeting and socializing with those who enjoy food as much as I do was simply fun.