Friday, January 27, 2017

Long-time Laurelhurst Resident Memories of Carl's Restaurant

Long-time Laurelhurst residents, the Wyckoffs, shared their memories of the interesting history of Laurelhurst from their many years of living, shopping and eating in the neighborhood in this recent Laurelhurst Blog post.

Here is a poem Mrs. Wyckoff wrote about Carl's Restaurant, which she said "was housed for decades in the old building where the now defunct Chloe’s Bistro opened, several doors down from that restaurant."

She added that she grew up on Carl’s burgers "and still drool (like other Laurelhurstian elders) thinking of the fries."

Remembering Carl’s

Sixty five years ago, give or take a burger or two
we cut our culinary teeth at Carl's Restaurant;
walking down the hill from Laurelhurst Elementary
after school with dimes in our pockets.
Boys in boxy cords, girls in swirling skirts.

Carl stood tall in his tiny kingdom.
Brown eyes, beefy face, World War 2
mementoes etched along his muscular arms,
he wore a tiny paper hat shaped like an envelope
proving that the Department of Health
had a ruddy sense of humor.

Two booths in the back; a long counter
with eight round stools upholstered in red
plastic that squealed with tomato dreams;
a cash register near the door.
One small juke box and a window looking out to 45th.
Hopper was here,
or should have been.

Carl fried up patties on the grill, mixing the aroma of meat
with the sweet scent of thick milkshakes; caramel, chocolate, vanilla,
served in glasses shaped like the Saturday afternoon starlets
seen at the Neptune and Egyptian double feature.
Shakes so thick that your straw went on a slow boat to China
before it even reached sucking level.

Even though we studied the menu, everyone knew
what the after school order would be.
A thick white plate stacked with salty golden dreams.
Hot crisp romance in the making.
The fries were french.
The future kiss of our dreams would be french,
redolent with ketchup.

Carl’s tickles our memories.
Who says you can't go home again!

-Margo Hartland Wyckoff

Mrs. Wycoff told the Laurelhurst Blog about the restaurant:

It was a small restaurant with a long counter and about 8 or 10 red vinyl and metal stools that you could twist around on for viewing your friends who might be sitting in the several back booths, also upholstered in red vinyl, which held six in a pinch.  

We could watch Carl who was the owner as well as the Chef (a loose term), flip burger, sink his delicious fries into hot grease and make milkshakes and malts in his three shakers which were mounted on the wall.  There were more than the standard flavors at Carl’s - we remember root beer being a favorite one year when we were in the 4th grade at Laurelhurst Elementary.   
There was a counter-mounted small juke box on the counter nestled in between the bottle of ketchup and each of the several booths had one of those music selectors that we “flipped” like pages of a book to make our choices.  A very large white refrigerator dominated the end of the galley section which Carl opened and shut with grave regularity, pulling out patties of ground beef, squares of American cheese, and chopped iceberg lettuce.   
In addition to burgers, you could order a tuna sandwich and probably some other items as well although hamburgers and cheeseburgers were so dominant we cannot dredge up any other menu memories.   
Carl’s was definitely not a chain!  This was the 1940’s and 50’s after all - there were few chain restaurants and Carl’s pre-dated the Burgermaster.  A Chinese restaurant named Mars operated for years where Varlamos is now - they had rather typical American/Chinese offerings and featured sad looking plants in the window which never really died and never really flourished.  Mars was a favorite of our neighbors in Laurelhurst, as was The Barbecue, no kin to the current Burgermaster which was located in the same spot where The Sand Point Grill flourishes now.  
Carl was a silent and calm man, tall and with the sort of presence which demanded respect.  He never asked us to be too “good” nor did he allow bad behavior.  He was reminiscent of a good Army Sgt. and we all liked him.  He had an air of world weariness about him.  We never remember Carl’s being closed - he was a constant provider! 

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