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Elevation Bouldering Gym, established in 2017, is a climbing facility located in the Whiteaker neighborhood in Eugene. The facility, which recently reopened, is taking a number of precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including handwashing stations, directional arrows on the floor, and limited patron capacity. This destination is featured as a recommendation by a faculty or staff member at the University of Oregon. (Summer Surgent-Gough/Emerald)

With a stressful week over and an open weekend on the way, it’s fun to explore Eugene and Springfield. The question many students may have is where to go or eat during a pandemic, so who better to ask than those who live in the community, like the UO’s faculty? 

Good Eats

An exciting food scene may not be the first thing you associate Eugene and Springfield with, but inexpensive, locally owned, authentic food is readily available.

There is a plethora of Mexican food in the area, but Taqueria El Pato Verde and El Taco Express are standouts.

“Pato Verde is famous for their burritos,” Diane Del Guercio, a dean in the Lundquist College of Business, said. “Their Mexican food is made fresh to order, uses quality ingredients and is never greasy.” The downtown Eugene restaurant is currently offering dine-in, takeout and no-contact delivery. 

El Taco Express, located in Springfield, is recommended by Sarah Craig, an enrolled-student support specialist in UO’s graduate school. Craig said the Mexican restaurant is always busy, but the staff is friendly. Popular favorites include tacos and burritos, both praised for being well-valued, large portions of food. 

Craig also loves cafes, and she recommends Springfield’s Pump Cafe and Busy Bee Cafe, which both have friendly staff, great food and homey atmospheres. Busy Bee Cafe has a “mom and pop style” with their homestyle American cooking, Craig said, and staff call the cafe’s regulars by name. 

The Pump Cafe is currently offering dine-in, takeout and delivery, while Busy Bee Cafe is still exclusively doing takeout service. 

If you want to try Ethiopian food, Springfield’s Addis Ethiopian is also highly recommended by Del Guercio.

“If you have never had Ethiopian food, you are in for a treat,” Del Guercio said. “Lots of flavor and is good for people on gluten-free diets. No gluten on their menu because Ethiopian ‘bread’ is made of teff flour and does not have gluten.”

Law professor Elizabeth Tippett recommends Spice ‘N Steam for its delicious takeout. The Chinese restaurant is currently offering dine-in, takeout and delivery. It’s most known for its selection of dim sum, but also has unique offerings such as Canton style barbeque and traditional wraps.

Staying Active: Recreation and Outdoor

Would a guide to Eugene and Springfield be complete without some recreational recommendations? 

At the top of the “underappreciated” outdoor destinations is the Mount Pisgah trail. Stephen McKeon, a UO finance professor, said it’s less than 15 minutes from campus by car and feels like “you have the place to yourself.” 

Mount Pisgah is a 209-acre nature preserve with eight miles of hiking trails, accessible year round, according to Travel Lane County

“This place has so much to offer,” Maria Chaderina, assistant professor of finance, said. “First of all, great hiking/trail running opportunities. Second, there are a few swimming holes for hot summer days. And last but not least, there is a flower farm just a few minutes from it.” 

This flower farm is Charles Little and Co., which also has a flower stand and is the site for the farm’s floral arranging workshops, which both are currently in operation. Chaderina said the flowers are sold at affordable prices, and recommends that those looking for a lazy Saturday afternoon activity “roam around and pick your own flowers from their farm.” 

For the more active, Chaderina also recommends the Crux Rock Gym and Elevation Bouldering Gym. 

“They’re situated literally across the street from each other, both offer great climbing opportunities, even in times of COVID,” she said. “Love them both, but Crux a little bit more — it is a top rope facility with very friendly staff members and great community climbers.” 

Community members can climb at Crux during open hours by purchasing a pass or getting a membership. Non-members can rent gear, including shoes, harnesses and chalk bags. 

Elevation is only open to members and pass holders due to reduced capacity. For newcomers, the gym requires a signed waiver and an orientation session.

These restaurants and destinations are only from a handful of staff and faculty. When classes begin again, I suggest asking professors and other community members what they would recommend to find more hidden gems of the community. As Eugene and Springfield businesses navigate operating throughout the pandemic, it’s even more important to support them so we can continue recommending local favorites to others.