On Saturday, after a brief soft open period, Claim 52 Brewing threw open the doors for the grand opening of Claim 52 Kitchen, a satellite restaurant at 1203 Willamette St. The Kitchen features Claim 52 beers, plus wine, cider, and a guest beer.
The multi-use building was just renovated and has a modern, minimalist vibe with warm Doug fir beams and a high overhang above the outdoor seating area on Willamette Street. Clear roll-up doors allow diffuse daylight into the restaurant, and when open will provide a very welcoming atmosphere when the rains stop. The view is of, unfortunately, the ugliest building in Eugene; patrons should not let that stop them from enjoying a beer on the sidewalk. The building will perform the service of blocking direct afternoon sunlight, which can be blinding in the summer.
Indoors, the ceiling beams are exposed, and the concrete south wall has a large mural of Claim’s updated logo and a couple of poster-sized labels, all designed by local graphic designer Ali McQueen. The splash of color offsets the gray nicely.
At the bar, comfortable cushioned seats cradle your butt; a welcome change from those ubiquitous metal stools. The bar top is stainless steel, and reflects the light of the marquis-style beer menu, which is brightly backlit so that ordering a beer feels a bit like ordering a movie ticket, in a good way. (Two very minor complaints: the bar needs hooks or something to hang your stuff on, and the lighting on the menu is distractingly bright.)
At the Grand Opening, familiar faces from the brewery’s taproom joined curious industry-folk and families, easily filling the entire restaurant. With the conference room and the outdoor seating full, it can hold around 170 people.
“We weren’t looking for another location,” said Claim 52 owner Mercy McDonald. “A friend was involved in the purchase and renovation of 1203 Willamette and was telling us about the project, the more we talked about it, the more it felt like the right location and the right time.” Claim 52 partnered with chef Lannon Cling for the food side. Cling is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and was previously chef de cuisine at The Dumpling Group food truck in Eugene.
The menu looks standard at first glance, but has bits of international flair. The beef bulgogi tacos aren’t huge, but have lots of spice and pair perfectly with Claim’s Admiral of the Red. The pimento burger, which came out just pink in the middle with nice bits of char at the edges, incorporates pork jowl bacon and a thick, creamy pimento cheese. The best part of the burger, though, is the fries. Thick, spiralized slabs of meaty potato, “fried starch commas,” are contained in a lightly spiced, crispy fried exterior that doesn’t get soggy before you eat the last one. They don’t even need sauce.
But the drumsticks… oh, the drumsticks. Just order the goddamn drumsticks.
The plates and sandwiches nearly all contain meat. I’d challenge the chef to go a little greener, especially since Claim’s hallmark hazy/milkshake/etc. IPAs will pair with plenty of vegetarian dishes, desserts, and cheeses. But that’s me.
The brewery taproom on Tyinn will stay open, though hours may be modified depending on business. Claim 52 Abbey in the Sprout! building in downtown Springfield will close on April 30, as, “the building owners chose not to renew our lease,” according to McDonald.
The brewery has been steadily expanding since adding a full-size brewing system in 2016, which nearly doubled its 2017 production to around 1,300 barrels. Its beer is distributed by Bigfoot Beverages. “At the time of expansion we added additional glycol drops to the circuit so we could quickly and easily bring more tanks online as needed. We are hoping this pre-planning on our part will enable us to absorb the need of more beer for the Kitchen without impacting our distribution partners too much,” said McDonald.
Claim 52 Kitchen marks a spot on the Eugene Beer “T,” a pub crawl that hits all of the major beer spots in Eugene, including the new Viking Braggot Company – Southtowne location, opening soon.
Claim 52 Kitchen
1203 Willamette St, Suite 140
Eugene, Oregon 97401