Brails Restaurant on Willamette Street in Eugene is straight out of central casting. It’s the quintessential American diner with its wrap-around lunch counter dotted with red swivel stools, tables and comfy booths for larger groups, and short-order cooks stacking plate after plate of piping hot breakfast in the pick-up window.
Friendly servers run food out to tables and refill coffee, while diners talk about their plans for the day, the latest Oregon Ducks’ football game, or nurse hangovers while recalling their late-night escapades.
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Brails has been a go-to breakfast joint for Eugene dwellers for over 20 years, and in 2016 they opened a second location on 5th Avenue that boasts outdoor patio seating and is often less crowded. They frequently find themselves on the “best of” lists and have been voted “best hangover breakfast” for several years running.
But the secret of Brails’ long success is more than simply slinging out tasty breakfast fare—it sounds cliche to say, but it’s really the people that make Brails such a mainstay of the community with one person in particular who led the way.
Sang Joo “Joy” Knudtson, the long-time owner and face of Brails, sadly passed away in January 2023 and her family, employees, and customers are still dealing with the loss of such a charismatic leader. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Joy moved to the States at 19 years old where she found herself working as a waitress at Brails until she was eventually able to purchase the restaurant and make it her own.
Joy quickly made a name for herself by greeting everyone with a smile and making them feel like Brails was a home away from home (some of her employees even called her “umma” which means “mom” in Korean).
She would go so far as to invite employees and customers to her own home for holidays if they didn’t have anywhere else to go. The restaurant is now run by Joy’s son and daughter who hope to continue her legacy of providing delicious food with the warm and welcoming hospitality that Joy was known for.
However, even the friendliest customer service can’t keep a restaurant running this long without having food that’s equally as impressive, and here Brails holds its own. Most of the menu is traditional diner food with fluffy, plate-sized pancakes, perfectly-cooked omelets, homemade biscuits and gravy, or breakfast burritos. Customers frequently rave about the perfectly crisp hash browns, mouthwatering eggs benedict, and bacon waffles.
If you’re too late for breakfast, the lunch menu doesn’t disappoint. Try the Riley Melt with corned beef, hamburger patty, grilled onions, American and Swiss cheese, 1000 island dressing, on grilled rye. Over the years, Joy has also added her own cultural influences to dishes with the Korean Style Spicy Pork Omelet or lunch specials like bulgogi, rice and noodle bowls, and teriyaki chicken.
The downside of Brails? It’s almost always packed (which is a testament to how good the food and service is), so be prepared for a bit of a wait especially if you’re headed there on a weekend.
However, even when the restaurant is packed, the genuinely friendly (and highly-skilled) servers create a relaxed atmosphere as customers chat with one another while waiting to be seated.
Brails has always been a welcoming place for everyone and on any given day you’ll see a mix of seniors, downtown business workers, students from the nearby University of Oregon, or tourists who’ve heard about this legendary cafe.
Come for the outstanding service and consistently great food, and see for yourself why Brails racks up reviews like this:
“Hands down, the best breakfast in town! Excellent food, personable service, reasonable prices. A “must do” every time we are in Eugene.”
“Brails is one of those places you have to experience. Great food, great atmosphere and an energy that can only come from a mix of humanity that is completely organic. You can sit in the back where it’s a little quieter but up front at the counter is where the action is!”
The beloved Joy may no longer greet you as you walk through the doors, but her memory lives on in every smile, stack of pancakes, and cup of coffee.
Address: 1689 Willamette St, Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 343-1542
Hours: Every day, 7:00am – 3:00pm
5th Avenue Location:
Address: 395 W 5th Ave #2506, Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 342-2075
Tuesday – Sunday, 8:00am – 2:00pm