On the corner of Willamette and Broadway, the nexus of downtown Eugene, Manifest Beer Company softly opened its bar and restaurant, called Broadway Street Public House, on Friday December 27, 2019. The location offers a wraparound view of the intersection, comfy benches, booths, and couches, and an unusual menu.
On opening day, passers by did double takes, since the windows had been covered in paper for months while Manifest founder Brandon Woodruff toiled away building tables and installing the kitchen and bar equipment; his business partner, Gary Miller, had broken his leg and was out of commission. ~As I was typing this paragraph, sitting at a table in the pub within the first few hours of opening, a fairly typical example of a Eugene street person, probably high on heroin, walked in and, muttering incoherently, began drinking from a partially empty glass of beer that had not yet been cleared from the counter. The person on duty, surprised and angry, saw to it that the person exited the building quickly. Welcome to the neighborhood, and this is now a different article.~
Woodruff recently went on record with a local TV station saying he hoped the pub’s presence would attract more people downtown and dilute the incessant homeless population. The pub offers a great view both in and out, so one can gaze across to Kesey Square, where the bronze bench of Ken reading to children is a magnet for all sorts of people. Or they can gaze back at you; I was able to exchange nods with a friend who had come to a stop on the corner in his car. It’s not my wish to condemn the location or discourage visitors; quite the contrary. The occurrence is merely indicative of what happens on a regular basis downtown, made stark by the emptiness of the restaurant on its first day open.
The presence of these unfortunate souls is a deterrent to many who want to go downtown, and although there are a handful of organizations dedicated to providing housing solutions (Community Supported Shelters, Square One Villages, and Homes for Good, to name a few), city officials have been befuddled for decades, unable to provide funding or other effective resources to reduce the causes and side effects of homelessness: the drug use and mental illness, property damage and other crimes. Cleaning up needles and excrement is now a regular part of the opening routine for many businesses in and around downtown.
Woodruff’s sentiment is hopeful, if nothing else. Downtown Eugene bustles mostly at night and on weekends. The ample space around the intersection and in Kesey Square is infrequently utilized for public events. When the streets are full of families milling about, visiting vendors and dancing to live music, downtown is a truly wonderful place to be. Woodruff has expressed interest in organizing more events, again with the goal of bringing people downtown. So I concur: go downtown, please. Support local businesses. Be present. Have fun.
So, Manifest’s pub. The interior is spacious, with high ceilings and light colored wood tables and bar. There is a pinball machine, Big Buck Hunter, and one of those new analog Pong machines. There is a “living room” section. Though there is ample bar space, there is no bar seating.
~Oh, and Brandon just messaged me to say that this space is occupied by an independently owned business for the first time in almost 40 years. Cool.~
The menu consists primarily of “Biscuits and Slather.” It boldly proclaims them “World Famous.” I’m going to wait a week and give it a second shot to see if that’s remotely attainable, and will withhold comment on my first experience. What I can say is that, below the classic B&G are tasty-sounding, regionally differentiated “slathers” that go on top of the biscuit. For example, the Northeastern features “Buffalo Flats And Drummies, Hunks of Chicken, Blue Cheese Crumbles, Carrots, and Celery” for $12.50 One may also go a la carte from the ample protein choices and side items (including spent barley) on the back of the menu. I chose a standard pint (options are 16 or 20oz pours) of Manifest Best, an American-style lager. It certainly helped wash down my food, and is essentially a PBR replacement in all of its banal, refreshing glory. There is also wine and a full bar.
Along with the arcade games, there is a rack of board games to play among the varied social areas. Having a choice between barrels, high top tables, lounging couches, and padded bench seating on which to set beer and food is a bonus for the space, and makes it feel fun and inviting.
A brewery’s presence in the heart of downtown is something I expected to happen years ago. It’s finally here, and I hope it can thrive. Be the change (don’t spare it).
Manifest Beer Company’s Broadway Street Public House
740 Willamette St.