For those who celebrate good food and drink almost in religious fashion, there’s a new church in town.
Actually, it’s an old church at Fourth and A streets in downtown Springfield. But the landmark building that once housed the First Christian Church congregation, and then became an innovative food-business incubator called Sprout in 2011, now is an even more multifaceted food-and-drink hub called PublicHouse. The family-friendly gathering place includes a food pod, a beer hall, an outdoor bar and a whiskey bar (the only 21-and-older part of the property).
The effect is somewhat reminiscent of a McMenamins resort with surprising little hangouts carved into every nook and cranny of an old school or other historic property, although PublicHouse is unlike anything else for miles around Eugene-Springfield.
“We feel like this is one of the most unique pubs in the area,â€ť co-owner Colby Phillips says. â€śThree different bars and four food vendors, which are all independently owned, really help to establish a great community feel and provide a good variety of options and experience for customers.”
PublicHouse will celebrate its grand opening with Oktoberfest-style fun on Friday, Sept. 21, starting with Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg cutting the ceremonial ribbon and pouring the evening’s first pint at 4 p.m. Traditional Bavarian food, brews, gamesÂ â€” among them a stein-hoisting endurance bout â€” and a full night of live music will mark completion of PublicHouseâ€™s recent renovation.
Phillips and Patric Campbell, who also founded the craft-beer-centric Tap & Growler and Beergarden in Eugene, stepped in with other partners to further transform the property after Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, the Springfield-based nonprofit group that germinated Sprout, sold it to a local real-estate investor last fall.
From May through late August of this year, the PublicHouse concept came to life in several phases through a collaboration with Eugene design firm Drawn Agency, Stonewood Construction and Andrew Muckerman’s woodworking business, Mataus Designs.
First came a temporary indoor bar and the 16-tap outdoor Arbor Bar, tucked against the back side of the building with plenty of picnic table seating and space for live music.
Then in July, the dramatically high-peaked former sanctuary, all exposed wood and jewel-like stained glass, became PublicHouse’s newly anointed Beer Hall. A 38-tap bar is the new “altar,” from which flows an ever-evolving lineup of local and regional craft beers, ciders, kombuchas and sodas, with a few wines on tap, too.
Patrons can soak in the spirit of the space from a long table running down the center of the hall, or along the sides seated at cozy oak and leaded-glass booths salvaged from Eugene’s old Marie Callender’s restaurant. High up in back, overlooking the hall from the former choir loft, is a reservable private space with seating/standing room for more than 50 people.
And in late August, PublicHouse’s Whiskey Lab opened across a nearby courtyard in a small enclosed room that previously housed Claim 52 Brewing’s taproom. The bar offers a broad selection of top-shelf whiskeys, tequilas and other spirits, and a house cocktail menu that emphasizes some unusual flavor twists (hence the “lab” in the name). This darker, quieter space also offers a more intimate, date-night kind of vibe than PublicHouse’s other convivial bars and outdoor seating areas.
As front-and-center as the libations are between the Beer Hall, Arbor Bar and Whiskey Lab, PublicHouse also is a destination for interesting, locally sourced and well-crafted cuisine. Physically situated between the three bars, and just steps away from courtyard seating (soon to be covered for the rainy season), is a commissary kitchen with a walk-up food counter.
Three food purveyors remaining from the Sprout days, along with one new vendor, cook up a variety of cuisine and fill the onetime church fellowship hall with enticing smells. Hours and days of operation for each eatery vary, but generally the established businesses there are open longer and offer more food choices now that PublicHouse is in full swing.
La Granada Latin Kitchen offers a menu of tamales, burritos, fish tacos and other authentic Mexican and South American specialties. Looking like something out of a dessert showcase, just as one example, the cylindrical-shaped Causa is a mashed potato terrine seasoned with Peruvian aji amarillo peppers and lime, layered with avocado and chicken salad and served chilled.
Pig & Turnip serves German-inspired cuisine including schnitzel, bratwurst, Reuben sandwiches, pickle plates and pretzels, along with burgers, salads, soups and desserts. Pig & Turnip also will provide specialty Bavarian fare during the Sept. 21 Oktoberfest.
100 Mile Bakery features locally made breads, sweets and an always-changing selection of snacks, soups, salads and sandwichesÂ â€” all seasonally crafted using only ingredients sourced within 100 miles of the bakery.
Cascade BBQ, the newest addition to the food pod, offers barbecue plates with tri-tip, ribs, chicken, hot links or portobello mushroom as protein options along with a choice of signature sides. With a mobile smoker out back near the Arbor Bar, Cascade BBQ’s menu also includes salads and sandwiches as well as quesadillas, nachos and hot wings as starters.
The Sprout-to-PublicHouse transition coincides with the ongoing rebirth of downtown Springfield, most notably in the form of a proper upscale restaurant and bar district that spans several blocks and increasingly draws diners from Eugene and farther afield.
To help build awareness of this burgeoning zone, Travel Lane County and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce are sponsoring a program called Savor Springfield through Sept. 30. A passport-style card can be stamped during a visit to any of the participating locations, which include PublicHouse and its four eateries along with the nearby Plank Town Brewing, Gambinoâ€™s Hut, Memoâ€™s Mexican Restaurant, Bartolottiâ€™s and Dark & Stormy.
Anyone who gathers at least five passport stamps can claim a commemorative whiskey tumbler at PublicHouse, and anyone who collects all 10 stamps by Sept. 21 can earn a free entry into a raffle for a $250 prize package, gift cards and other prizes during PublicHouseâ€™s grand opening.
To learn more about PublicHouse, including weekly live music and other event listings, hours of operation for each bar and food vendor, and more, see publichousehub.com or call 541-246-8511.
Get a taste of PNW Vodka on Thursday
Eugene-Springfield’s newest local vodka â€” EON Distilling’sÂ PNW VodkaÂ â€” will be featured at an after-work social hour Thursday, Sept. 20, at Hyatt Place Eugene’sÂ SkyBar, 333 Oakway Road. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., guests can order from a special PNW cocktail menu, savor sunset views from the fifth-floor bar with live music by Olem Alves, and buy factory-sealed bottles of PNW Vodka as they depart.
Read more of the story behind PNW Vodka, which includes a branding effort built around its Northwest rootsÂ â€” which extend right down to filtering through the carbonized roots of native treesÂ â€” in this column on Sept. 30.
Joel Gorthy has edited and written for The Register-Guardâ€™s Tastings, and other special publications, since 2003. He doesn’t claim to be an authority on food and drink, but he has consumed plenty of both and is a big fan. Follow him @JGorthyRG on Instagram and Twitter; email JGorthy@registerguard.com.