There aren’t many options for University of Oregon students seeking food and a quiet place to study after 11 p.m. There’s Shari's on W 11th Avenue, but it’s not walking distance. There’s Denny’s near Glenwood Boulevard, but it’s not too close either. In December, Mandy’s Family Restaurant opened on 15th Avenue and Willamette Street, making it the first and only 24-hour diner in the campus area.
The owner, Amanda Watts, or “Mandy,” has lived in Eugene for 20 years. Originally from Pendleton, Oregon, Watts is very familiar with the restaurant industry, as well as student life. Before leaving to open Mandy’s, Watts was the general manager for Studio One Cafe, just two blocks from Hayward field and a popular brunch destination for students on the weekends.
“With all the student housing around me, I really felt there was a need for a 24-hour restaurant,” Watts said. “Just from working at Studio One, I know what college kids like. Maybe they have a class at 7 a.m. but they want to study at 4 a.m., and during finals week they’ll have a place to go at all times.”
In classic diner fashion, the menu has a little bit of everything: Breakfast is served all day, with lunch starting at 11 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m.
“Our specialty is comfort food,” Watts said. “But I really try to have something for everyone, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat lover. If you’re a kid, I got a kids menu.”
UO student Rachel Hammack, who grew up in Eugene, has always wanted a safe place to go after hours.
“Growing up here, I always longed for a 24-hour diner,” Hammack said. “Mandy’s is finally fulfilling a much-needed service in the South Eugene area.”
Hammack went to Mandy’s for the first time last week for a late night meal. She got the waffles, which she said were served with warm syrup.
“I’m so glad there is finally a place for Eugene locals and students alike to enjoy a reasonably-priced meal any time,” Hammack said. “Oh yeah, and the coffee is great!”
Since opening, Watts has made sure to oversee every facet of the restaurant’s operations. She even moved into an apartment above the space to be available 24 hours a day.
“For the first 6 months, I want to be accessible to my employees. Whether it’s the cooks, servers, dishwashers — it doesn’t matter. I want to be available.”
Watts earns the right to call Mandy’s a family restaurant by employing her husband, her two daughters — and even her grandkids come to the restaurant. Her husband helped build the bar area and her daughter, Kelsey Watts, works as a server.
“I love working with my family,” Kelsey said. “I get to bring my son with me every day. It’s rewarding watching him create such a strong bond with regulars at the restaurant.”
Kelsey, who tended bar at Sam Bond’s Garage before helping her mother with Mandy’s, is familiar with the Eugene nightlife and is confident that Mandy’s is just what Eugene needs.
“I’ve been a bartender for nine years,” she said. “I know we have a need for a cool after-hours spot where you can eat some breakfast and drink some coffee. I hope our spot fills the void.”
Correction: This article was updated to correct the restaurant's address.