I never knew it was possible to run my dishwasher as frequently as I have these past two months. While I love to bake, and have done so frequently with my nearly three-year-old sous chef during this time physically distancing at home, as Marie Kondo would say, cooking does not “spark joy” in my life. Sure, I can follow a recipe with the best of them, but my motivation to cook nightly meals comes purely from my love of food, not the art of cooking.
While I realize that my excessive dirty dishes are a privileged annoyance, the thing that I am missing the most as we shelter at home is the simple joy of sharing meals with groups of friends and family. In this context, meals become much more than required nourishment, and instead opportunities for shared connections. Meals prepared lovingly, whether by friends, family, or at restaurants, are the best yet. It is in this spirit of community, and deep appreciation for the many individuals working the front lines to provide our sustenance, that we share a few fun snapshots of Oregon restaurants past as well as some of the individuals and companies that have shaped our state’s appetite.
P.S.: If you are looking to support local businesses (and perhaps take a break from the dishes for one night), please consider checking out the various meal delivery services available during the COVID-19 pandemic from local restaurants and caterers. We have a great list of meal delivery services from the Oregon Historical Society’s preferred caterers who depend on public gatherings and events for their livelihoods. During a time when group gatherings are not possible, meal pick-up or delivery is a great option to support our neighbors in the hospitality industry.
Burgers, beer, and candy — what more do you need? This photograph shows a man in an apron standing outside The Home Plate restaurant located at Southeast 49th Avenue and Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland sometime between the mid-1930s or early 1940s.
OHS Research Library, Oregon Journal Negative Collection, Org. Lot 1368, box 372, 372A1176
Two men sit at the J. Hedspeth Restaurant on Flanders Street in Portland in 1912. English G. Hedspeth, who began his career as a waiter at the Portland Hotel, owned the restaurant.
OHS Research Library, Oregon Black History Project records, Mss 2854, box 7, folder 15
While we may not be able to dine by the sea these days, this photograph of a café at The Dorchester House transports us to Oceanlake, Oregon, sometime between the mid-1930s or early 1940s. Oceanlake became part of Lincoln City when it was incorporated on March 3, 1965, combining the three incorporated cities of Delake, Oceanlake, and Taft, and the unincorporated communities of Cutler City and Nelscott. According to The Oregon Encyclopedia, the name was chosen from a newspaper ballot of five of the most popular names considered: Miracle Beach, Miracle City, Surfland, Holiday Beach, and Lincoln City.
OHS Research Library, Oregon Journal Negative Collection, Org. Lot 1368, box 372, 372A875
This photograph of two delivery trucks parked outside the warehouse of the Sno-Kis Fruit Corporation in Portland is an important reminder of all of the essential workers who are delivering food, stocking shelves, and keeping our grocery stores and restaurants running during this pandemic. The photographer likely captured these trucks on Southeast Water Avenue and Southeast Yamhill Street in Portland in the mid-1920s to mid-1930s.
OHS Research Library, Oregon Journal Negative Collection, Org. Lot 1368, box 371, 0371N5639
Missing air travel? You can “take to the air” (when the restaurant re-opens) with a visit to Milwaukie, Oregon’s, iconic restaurant, The Bomber, photographed here in the 1960s. According to The Oregon Encyclopedia, “When Art Lacey, a young pilot and gasoline station owner, envisioned combining his two passions into a business, people questioned his sanity….The Bomber is a one-of-a-kind establishment, a place for classic American food and a reminder of times past and the men and women who served in World War II.”
Copyright The Bomber Restaurant and Catering
Restaurateurs like Henry Thiele put Portland on the culinary map in the early twentieth century. Born in Hanover, Germany, Thiele moved to Portland in 1913 when Simon Benson hired him to be the chief steward of his new Benson Hotel. In 1932, he opened Henry Thiele’s on West Burnside Street at Northwest 23rd Avenue in a unique Mediterranean-style building. With seating for 150 diners, Henry Thiele’s was an immediate success, best-known for its salmon dishes, lentils and wurst, Princess Charlotte pudding, and Dutch babies (puffy German pancakes).
OHS Research Library, Org. Lot 438, album 795
In the decades between his stewardship at the Benson Hotel and the opening of Henry Thiele’s, the restaurateur pursued a few entrepreneurial endeavors, including opening a restaurant in the Sovereign Hotel where our neighbor, Caffè Umbria, currently resides. This photograph shows box lunch delivery bikes parked in front of the Sovereign Hotel.
OHS Research Library, Org. Lot 438, album 795, OrHi 79668
Many restaurants may be closed, but grocery store employees are working overtime to keep people fed. One of the best-known pioneers of the grocery industry in the Pacific Northwest is Fred Meyer, whose entrepreneurial prowess influenced Sam Walton’s creation of Walmart. From selling coffee door-to-door to amassing a retail empire, Meyer revolutionized the way that Americans shopped with his self-service, one-stop-shop model. This photograph shows a Fred Meyer grocery store located at SE 36th and Hawthorne in Portland (now the location of the Bread and Ink Café).
OHS Research Library, ba026035
Spend some time on OHS Digital Collections, and you may discover the Drive-In Restaurants of Portland Oral History Project, featuring a series of interviews conducted by Curtis Johnson in 1980 and donated to OHS the following year. In this series, he interviewed owners and operators of some of Portland’s most popular drive-ins, including Steven Yaw of Yaw’s Top Notch, Eugene Waddle of Waddle’s Restaurant, and Sherman Marriott of Tik-Tok (no, not that TikTok). He also interviewed people who frequented the drive-ins as teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s, drive-in restaurant employees, and architects. This photograph shows a side view of the exterior of Yaw's Top Notch Restaurant, in about 1957, located at 2001 NE 40th, Portland, Oregon.
OHS Research Library, photo file 1752, OrHi 59947, ba017790
In 2016, the Oregon Historical Society hosted the exhibit Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland’s Two Historic Chinatowns, which is now on permanent display at the Portland Chinatown Museum. One of the most recognizable vignettes in this exhibit is the Hung Far Low restaurant, which opened in 1928 and was one of the best-known Chinese restaurants along Northwest 4th Avenue in Portland’s Chinatown. Wong On managed the restaurant and members of his family staffed the restaurant until it was sold in 2004. Although the restaurant moved to Southeast Portland under new ownership, the iconic neon sign remains in Northwest Portland and was restored in 2008 as a Chinatown landmark.
According to the exhibit’s text: “The Chinese restaurant itself became an American icon. Every town in America is believed to have one. More importantly, Chinese “carry out” food — which the Republic Restaurant on Northwest 4th delivered in wicker baskets to locals as early as the 1930s — created the American passion and market for fast food, decades before McDonalds.”
OHS Research Library, Restaurant Advertising Collection, Org. Lot 972, box 4
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