by Anna Glavash / photos by Sierra Pedro
*Content Sponsored by Hungry Ducks*
One of the best-kept secrets in the campus neighborhood is the Elk Horn Brewery and Cider House. It’s a family-owned gastropub with 24 craft beers and ciders on tap and a Southern/NW fused kitchen. Decorated with antlers and whiskey barrels, their large dining room features live edge wooden bar seating and a shuffleboard table. Outside, the fire pit is perfect for gathering around on a chilly evening, as are the TVs when the Ducks are playing. However, if your vibe is more “eating Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese on your couch with no pants on,” you can have that too — Elk Horn offers delivery by Hungry Ducks straight to your door! Elk Horn chef Ryan Gengler met us in the kitchen at Elk Horn, where he had a few tips to share with hungry ducks everywhere.
Emerald Essentials: How long have you been at the Elk Horn?
Ryan Gengler: About a year and a half. The first restaurant I worked at when I was 18 was a brewery with a restaurant. When I took the job, I had just gotten back from France, and I met [the owner] Stephen. We started talking, and Elk Horn was here, so I thought I’d give it a try.
EE: What does “a day in the life” look like for you?
RG: I get here around 5:30 to 6 a.m. and turn everything on. I make sure everything’s lined up for the day and I find stuff we don’t have and figure out a way to work around it. I get the specials going and make sure everyone is on the right track as far as prep.
EE: How long are you here for each day?
RG: About 12 hours. Sometimes 10, on a good day, but usually about 12 hours, five days a week. Still, I find myself here on the sixth and seventh day trying to get things done.
EE: It was smelling pretty good outside.
RG: Yeah, the smoker gets fired up at 7, and there’s meat on there by 8. That goes all day, until 3, 4 or 5 o’clock, when everything’s done.
EE: Do you have a favorite food on the menu?
RG: You know, it depends on what I’m in the mood for. I love the cheese curds. I love the dirty fries. I like the Maker’s Mark Bacon and Blue Burger, and the Chicken and Waffles is really good. It just depends, because I eat here all the time. Let’s say we smoke the pulled pork one day, and I’m dealing with it all morning on the smoker and then in the oven. By the time that comes out at 5:30, I’m probably going to eat that because it just came out of the oven, and I can’t help myself.
EE: Has delivery always been pretty popular here?
RG: We get quite a bit of to-go food. A lot of burgers and sandwiches, and a lot of appetizers.
EE: What travels well?
RG: The Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese, all the sandwiches and all the burgers. The Dixie Picnic platter also travels well.
EE: There’s at least six things on there, right?
RG: Yeah, we pack all those things up separately, so they can be as perfect as possible. A lot of things here are messy and saucy, so we leave a lot of the sauces and condiments off of the burgers and sandwiches for delivery.
EE: Where do you like to shop for food?
RG: I like to go to the outdoor market, when it’s going on. Other than that, I don’t get a chance to leave very much. But we use a good produce company that’s based out of Portland, and they come to Eugene twice a week. Elk Horn uses a lot of local and seasonal stuff.
EE: What would you be cooking if you lived in a college dorm?
RG: Probably ramen.
EE: (Laughs) What if you wanted to make something nicer?
RG: I guess if I were going to be cooking for my friends in the dorm kitchen, I’d probably make meatloaf, mashed potatoes, some veggies and a salad. That’s always easy.
EE: Do you have any quick cooking tips for college students who are just learning how to cook?
RG: I think the best thing to do is just to decide what you like, and maybe do a little research on where it comes from and what you need to prepare it. Definitely buy good ingredients, and maybe just look at some recipes before you get started and get an idea of what you need to do. Preparation is obviously one of the most difficult parts, so be prepared.
EE: What’s your favorite cookbook?
RG: I like reference and science books, so one of my favorite cooking books is called “On Food And Cooking.” This gentleman Harold McGee breaks down the science of almost everything you can think of. But then he’s also got lore behind it, so he’s got nice stories tied in with all of his scientific proof. He breaks it into meats, and vegetables and dairy. He goes from the beginning of time, talking about how we started gathering, all the way to modern cuisine. Then he ties it all in with science and cool little stories. I think “America’s Test Kitchen” is probably my go-to book if I have to find recipes.
EE: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever cooked?
RG: There was a Thanksgiving we took a Cornish game hen and then stuffed it inside a duck, and then stuffed that inside a goose. It was kind of like a Turducken. It was for a meal we had planned for friends and family through our restaurant. We used the restaurant kitchen but it was quite a bit of prep. It took three days to get it ready and 6 to 8 hours to cook it. But it was good!
Hungry Ducks delivers Ryan’s food from 11 a.m. — 9:30 p.m. Order at hungryducks.com or on their app. To sample Elk Horn’s beer, cider and Southern hospitality, head down to the brewery at the corner of East Broadway and Hilyard Street.
Delivery Mininum: $8.00
Delivery Fee: $3.99 – $6.99