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Saturday, August 25, 2007
The return of Yaw's...kinda
I was born a generation too late to ever eat a burger at Yaw's but, from what I've heard, the drive-in was once a local institution. For decades it served up innumerable happy memories. Many a local Baby Boomer squealed with delight when news hit that the late, great burger joint would reopen under the watch of none other than Mark Lindsey, former frontman for Paul Revere and the Raiders.
I'm not sure if fans of the original are going to take to this new incarnation though. I walked by last night and "Mark Lindsey's Rock & Roll Cafe/Yaw's" is a far cry from long-running area joints like the Giant, Humdinger or the Skyline Cafe. When I first heard about the re-opening, I pictured something along the lines of the old Jamie's chain or the drive-in Ron Howard ran around during the opening credits of Happy Days. This place is much more upscale.
Last night the owners were hosting a soft-opening and, even if I'd had an invite, I'm sure I would have been kicked out for wearing jeans and a t-shirt. There were hostesses guarding the front doors. The crowd was mostly over 50 and looked, how do you say, "well to do." That wasn't enough to deter me getting a look at the place through the windows.
Instead of a malt-shop, the cafe looks more like the inside of the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas or something you'd see in the Pearl District. Housed inside a cold, brick building, the cafe is dark, fake and feels like a martini bar or a restaurant with menu items in the "$$$" range. A round bar, the kind with booze bottles instead of soda jerks, is centered in the middle of the main dining room. Even if the bartender is willing serve you a milkshake, you're going to feel like a schmuck for drinking one in such ornate surroundings, despite the record covers on the ceiling (see above, sorry for the sub-par, cell phone quality).
Regardless of how completely wrong it feels, I hope the new Yar's does well. The cafe/radio station/museum idea is definitely ambitious and the idea of being able to wave at on-air DJs while driving down NE Sandy is cool enough. Portland could use a standing tribute to its musical legacy but did it have to be like this? Yet another icy yuppie hang-out in a city full of them?
When Rose's reopened in NW a number of years ago, it was updated but still managed to retain a lot of its original charm. I can't help but predict that the Rock & Roll Cafe is going to be the sort of place people go to once, much like a Planet Hollywood. Will it be able to pull in enough regulars to keep it going for decades like the original?
Sorry guys, I think I'm going to stick with Fat City, the Skyline or any of million other local burger joints that don't serve $8 cocktails.