Clyde’s Prime Rib, Portland, Oregon

In 1938 Lawrence Frank co-founded Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Los Angeles and for the restaurant he invented a Streamline Moderne, stainless steel serving cart so prime rib could be carved to order and served piping hot, all at the diner’s table. The popularity of Lawry’s led to imitators, including San Francisco’s House of Prime Rib and Portland’s The Prime Rib, now Clyde’s Prime Rib.

 

postcard by Cardboard America on Flickr

postcard by Cardboard America on Flickr

 

me at The Pagoda, 1999

The Jab at The Pagoda, 1999

 

After WWII the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland became the new desirable suburb in town and Sandy Boulevard (which was part of U.S. Highway 30, a main cross-country west-to-east route before the interstate highway system was developed) went right through it. Restaurants started popping up along Sandy, including The Pagoda in 1940 (closed in 2008; Le Continental visited in 1999), Henry Thiele’s for German style pancakes, Poncho’s for Mexican food, and Taste of Sweden. In 1954 Eddie Mays opened The Prime Rib in a building which from 1930 to 1949 housed a branch of the Coon Chicken Inn, a chicken restaurant chain with an entrance made from a huge racist caricature of an African-American red cap (a common name for a railroad station baggage porter).

 

postcard by StumptownBlogger.com

postcard by StumptownBlogger.com

 

Eddie Mays built a rock medieval castle-like wall with a tower entrance in place of the grinning face, with elegant old English decor inside (common in Prime Rib restaurants). He owned several other restaurants including a Prime Rib in Tacoma and Eddie’s and Davey’s Locker in Portland (all closed).

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

Pass the knight’s suit of armor after you enter and you may meet Ernest ‘Clyde’ Jenkins, the friendly owner of Clyde’s Prime Rib since 2006. The cocktail lounge has rock walls and vinyl booths, a dance floor, a giant fireplace, and a bar, of course.

 

dining room

dining room

 

The dining room has red velvet (!) booths, chandeliers, framed paintings, a fireplace, and an open beamed ceiling. It looks like not much has changed since 1954 and it’s dark, and that’s the way we like it at Le Continental.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

photo by Dean Curtis, 2014

 

The menu is beefy, with aged prime rib served in five different sized cuts, plus steaks, as well as some chicken, pork, seafood, and pasta dishes. I’ve heard good things about the steak, but I’ve always just had prime rib. The waiter or chef carves your meat tableside on a large rolling serving cart. Note the cart isn’t the same as the Cadillac of prime rib carts at Lawry’s (which cost $30,000 each!), but it looks the same as in the old postcard at the top of this page.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2008

photo by Dean Curtis, 2008

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2008

photo by Dean Curtis, 2008

 

Clyde’s Prime Rib has live music in the bar on weekends, usually contemporary R&B or blues on Friday and Saturday, with jazz on Sunday, and occasional Thursday night music.

 

Clyde’s Prime Rib
5474 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97213
(503) 281-9200
Open Mon-Thu 12:00pm – 12:00am, Fri 12:00pm – 1:00am, Sat 5:00pm – 1:00am, Sun 5:00pm – 12:00am (dinner served Sun-Thu 5:00pm – 9:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm – 10:00pm)

 

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Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland, Oregon

On this New Years Eve for my last post of 2013 I thought I would wrap up coverage of my recent visit to Portland, Oregon, with a post on another venerable seafood restaurant in Portland, Dan & Louis Oyster Bar. Because oysters and champagne go great together! And I believe Dan & Louis is open on New Years Eve (always call first).

 

image by The Jab

image by The Jab

 

In the 19th century the first oyster farm in Oregon, at Yaquina Bay, was started by Meinert Wachsmuth from Denmark. His son, Louis Wachsmuth, opened a small seafood shop and oyster bar in Portland in 1907, expanding into the former Merchants’ Exchange Saloon in 1919. To accomodate the demand for his popular oyster stew, Louis added a wonderful nautical themed dining room complete with a mast and porthole windows in 1937 and a ‘reserve’ dining room with a boat-shaped exhibition style kitchen in 1940. Both dining rooms and the bar are still in use and are chock full of bric-à-brac, nautical artifacts, and historic photographs of Pacific Northwest fishing and boating scenes, many wonderfully displayed in backlit porthole ‘windows’.

 

main dining room - image by The Jab

main dining room – image by The Jab

 

image by The Jab

image by The Jab

On Dan & Louis’ web site the restaurant claims it is the “Oldest Family Owned Restaurant in Town”. Huber’s Cafe has been in the same family’s ownership since 1912, and claims to be Portland’s oldest restaurant, which is true according to my criteria since it dates back to 1895 as Huber’s. But Dan & Louis technically started in 1907 by Louis Wachsmuth (although not in its present location until 1919) and amazingly it is still owned by the same family. Currently it is operated by Doug Wachsmuth (grandson of Louis Sr.) and his sons Ted and Meinert Keoni Wachsmuth. So, it beats Huber’s by a mere 5 years to have the honor of being Portland’s oldest family owned restaurant. In case you’re wondering where Dan fits in their history, he was Louis and Elizabeth Wachsmuth’s second son (their first was Louis Jr.) who died tragically at only 27 years old, so his name was added to Louis’ name on the restaurant’s sign in memorial.

 

main dining room - image by The Jab

main dining room – image by The Jab

 

Their specialty, oysters, come in several varieties from the Pacific Northwest, which change daily. I ordered a half-dozen oysters on the half shell in an assortment (two of each of three different varieties). All were extremely fresh and tasty. Some of the best oysters I’ve ever had! The price varies but during happy hour (M-F from 4:00pm-6:00pm) you can get a dozen for $15.95 (bar only). I was in the mood for scallops so for my entrée I had the half portion broiled scallops platter (half portions are only on the lunch menu) with a cup of excellent smoked salmon chowder. The scallops were fresh and delicious. They are also famous for their seafood stews (oyster, crab, or bay shrimp), so they are another good choice.

 

reserve dining room - image by The Jab

reserve dining room – image by The Jab

 

Take it from Sebastian Cabot and eat at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland’s oldest family owned restaurant! Why not go tonight and start a New Years Eve tradition? Dan and Louis offers a good domestic sparkler, Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, but at a hefty markup – $48/bottle (ouch). I would get a great local beer (also great with oysters) or wine.

 

Sebastian Cabot at Dan & Louis - image by The Jab

Sebastian Cabot at Dan & Louis – image by The Jab

 

 

Happy New Year, dear readers! I wish you many happy dining pleasures in 2014!

 

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

 

 

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar
208 SW Ankeny St, Portland, OR 97204
(503) 227-5906
Open Mon-Th 11:00am-9:00pm (bar opens at 4pm), Fri-Sat 11:00am-2:00am (???), Sun 12:00pm-9:00pm (Le Continental always recommends phoning first to confirm, as I tried to visit on the Sunday before Labor Day a few years ago and it was closed)

 

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Jake’s Famous Crawfish, Portland, Oregon

On my first visit to Portland (that started my love affair with the city) in the 1990s the first place I remember eating at was Jake’s Famous Crawfish. We stayed in the venerable Mark Spencer Hotel, only a block from Jake’s, so when we saw their neon sign we knew where we wanted to eat (without the help of smart phones or online reviews).

 

Jakes

photo by The Jab, 2013

 

We were very pleased with the food, atmosphere, and service. As I recall our veteran waiter was from San Francisco, where he had worked at the Blue Fox until it closed in 1993 (now Alfred’s Steakhouse). Since then I found out that Jake’s is owned by a large chain, McCormick & Schmick’s, and I also learned that it’s mainly a tourist place that few locals visit, with so many other better choices in the food scene in Portland in the last ten years. But it will always have a place in my heart, as a warm & comfortable historic landmark that serves great fresh local seafood (if one orders with savvy).

 

Jakes Famous Crawfish

image by Citroendork on Flickr.com

 

Jake’s Famous Crawfish opened in its current location in 1911 in the Whitney & Gray Building (1910), making it Portland’s second oldest restaurant, after Huber’s, which dates back to 1895 using my guidelines. It opened as a saloon that served crawfish called Mueller and Meier, which had existed in a previous location since 1892.. In 1913 the name changed to the Mueller and Meier Cafe, staying open through Prohibition by switching to soft drink service. In 1920 the restaurant was purchased by Jacob “Jake” Frieman, a popular waiter in a local crawfish restaurant called Quelle, who was responsible for the restaurant’s good reputation as a seafood house (and I assume when it started being called Jake’s). The restaurant went through several ownership changes until 1972, when it was purchased by William “Bill” McCormick, who hired Doug Schmick as his manager. The pair would later form the restaurant corporation McCormick and Schmick’s.

 

Jake’s bar. Image by mondodinner.com

 

As you enter Jake’s you come to the hostess stand. On your left is the bar (the back bar was shipped around Cape Horn in 1880), where seating is unreserved so it is a good backup plan if there is a long wait for the dining rooms (and there often is). The room is fine for dining with wooden tables and chairs in front of large windows overlooking the street and full menu table service by a waiter. But if you want a more formal dining experience you may prefer to eat in the dining room on surrounded by dark woods and oil paintings of Northwest scenes, lit by chandeliers that date back to 1881.

 

image by http://anadventurouspalate.tumblr.com

 

The menu changes daily and features listed at the top various fresh Northwest seafood specialties of the day, including several oyster varieties (all have location of origin). When crawfish is in season during the months of May through September do not miss their crawfish specialties. Among the scads of seafood dishes they have a few steak and other meat dishes. On my most recent visit I had grilled steelhead (an anadromous – spawns in freshwater after living in the ocean – rainbow trout) from Washington. It was moist, tender, and perfectly cooked, served in a basil-butter sauce. The prices are pretty high, as in all quality seafood restaurants in the west (not like in Florida, where super fresh seafood can be inexpensive).

But as in most restaurants and bars in Portland there is a bargain happy hour every day of the week, and late at night on Friday and Saturday! Another reason I love Portland: happy hours are long, usually every day, and offer better deals than in the Bay Area (where $1 off drinks from 5pm-6pm M-F is the norm – big whoop). Bars have to serve food in Portland so it’s a great town for drinking but not getting too loaded!

 

Here’s a clip from Elvis’ best movie, King Creole:

 

Jake’s Famous Crawfish
401 SW 12th Ave., Portland, OR 97205
Phone: 503.226.1419
Open M-Th 11:30AM-10:00PM, Fri-Sat 11:30AM-12:00AM, Sun 3:00PM-10:00PM

 

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Huber’s Café, Portland, Oregon

Since Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us and I just returned from one of my favorite cities in the U.S., Portland, it’s a good time to feature Huber’s Café, Portland’s oldest restaurant.

 

Hubers

 

Huber’s Café claims to be in operation since 1879. But does it really go back that far?

There are three important factors when looking at a claim of oldest restaurant in any place: the name, the owner(s), and the location. In my opinion, if all three factors change several times it is unreasonable to claim that it is the same restaurant. However, if one or two of these factors remains unchanged over the years then it is close enough to being the same restaurant. In the case of Huber’s, the name has remained the same since 1895, it has existed in the current location since 1910, and the management has been in the same family since 1912, so it is reasonable to claim that the restaurant originated in 1895, but not in 1879. However, that still makes it Portland’s oldest restaurant.

Another restaurant in Portland that sometimes makes the claim to be the oldest restaurant in town, Jake’s Famous Crawfish, says it originated in 1892, but its current location opened in 1911, became Jake’s in 1920 through a change in ownership, and has been through several more ownership changes, most recently by the McCormick & Schmick chain in 1972. So by my rules it dates back to 1911, not 1892.

 

 

Huber's dining room entrance. Image by The Jab, 2013.

Huber’s dining room entrance. Image by The Jab, 2013.

 

 

Huber’s History

Frank Huber started working as a bartender at the Bureau Saloon (established in 1879) at First and Morrison streets in 1884. He took over ownership in 1888 and hired a Chinese cook named Jim Louie in 1891. In 1895 Huber opened Huber’s bar on Washington Street, with Louie as the cook. In 1910 Huber’s moved to its present location in the Pioneer Building, formerly the Railway Exchange Building. Jim Louie took over management of the bar when Frank Huber died in 1912, and converted it into a restaurant when Prohibition was enacted. In 1941 Jim’s nephew Andrew joined as the Louie family entered into joint ownership with the Huber family. Upon Jim’s passing away in 1946, Andrew took over management, and became sole owner in 1952. Impressively, the Louie family are still owners of Huber’s.

 

Huber's classic wooden booths. Image by The Jab, 2013.

Huber’s classic wooden booths. Image by The Jab, 2013.

 

 

The main bar and dining room are accessed via a long hallway from the main 3rd street entrance (I recommend you avoid the newer bar area’s entrance to the left). The room features mahogany wood paneling, tile floors, a beautiful arched ceiling with massive stained glass skylights, and wrought iron lamps, all dating back to the 1911 opening.

 

 

Hubers2

Image by The Jab, 2013.

 

 

Jim Louie. Image by Menuism.com

Let’s talk turkey! Jim Louie started featuring turkey dinners with all the trimmings at Huber’s back in the 19th Century (check out the oil painting of Jim in the restaurant), and it’s still a specialty today along with turkey sandwiches, turkey gumbo, turkey piccata, marsala, and cordon bleu, as well as turkey drumsticks and wings. They also serve a great sliced ham dinner, or you can get a combination turkey/ham dinner, which is what I had on my recent visit. The turkey was moist and tender and the ham was also very tasty. I liked the sage dressing and mashed potatoes but the vegetables were a bit undercooked.

 

Turkey dinner at Huber’s. Image by Menuism.com

 

 

Another specialty at Huber’s is Spanish Coffee, a sweet blend of Bacardi 151, triple sec, Kahlua, and coffee, made tableside with plenty of flame and flair, and topped with whipped cream and nutmeg. It was developed in the 1970s by James Kai Louie, Andrew Louie’s son, but one online source claims he got the idea from the Fernwood Inn in Milwaukee.

 

Huber’s Café, where every day is Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear readers!

 

Huber’s Café
411 SW 3rd Ave., Portland, OR 97204
503-228-5686
Open Mon-Th 11:30am – 10pm (bar open until midnight), Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm (bar until 1am), Sun 4pm-10pm

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CLOSED – Country Bill’s in Portland, Oregon

Status

This blog is primarily intended to celebrate classic and historic restaurants that still exist, but occasionally I will be mentioning a restaurant that is gone or recently closed.

Le Continental visited Country Bill’s in Portland last May and regrets to report the news that it will be closing at the end of this week, after 48 years in operation. The last day it will be open is Saturday, Sept. 15th., 2012.