I unearthed an old Polk's Cd'A City Directory from 1989 at St.Vincent du Paul Thrift Store recently for one greasy dollar. Wow, 20 years ago! Scanning through the listed restaurants, the memories started trickling back, some pleasant, others not so much (Spats, anyone?). I could write entire columns about some of these ghosty joints, but for now I'll keep it sorta brief. I'd really love to see your comments and obscure memories about these long-gone favorites from 20 years ago...
1. Mr. Steak (605 Emma Ave.)
Now: medical center parking lot
It was every family's default gathering spot for after church, funerals, grandparents day, and best of all, your steak dinner was free on your birthday. I miss this place still; the green polyester napkins, the baskets of hard rolls with gold foil butter packs, the bouffant waitresses sporting some kind of barfy plaid get-up. Mr. Steak was a stone cold classic: cheap, satifying and totally utilitarian.
2. Ritz Cafe (501 W. Appleway)
Now: Mattress Land
This was an attempt at a '50's rock-n-roll themed 24-hour diner that was a big hit for a while, especially among us teenagers who would sit and drink coffee for hours and hours on end and eat baskets of french fries with ranch dressing and chain smoke. They didn't seem to mind us, even when we harassed the seniors who also seemed to hang out forever. Bright blue and red neon and endless golden oldies. A fun place.
3. Henry's (1001 Sherman Ave.)
Now: Dan Davis Realty
With Henry's, my roots run deep. My mother's old high school co-hort established this plush bar and bistro, and she worked there as a hostess for many years. She dated the bartender for a while, her best girlfriend was the house manager, and her best friend/gay sidekick was a waiter there. My very first job was as a dishwasher/prep cook at Henry's at age 15 and I hated it. I loved the food however, most memorably Joe's Special with spinach and scrambled eggs and the Wagon Wheel chicken pasta salad that I still crave occasionally. It closed suddenly and a tight-knit family of staff and regulars was tragically shattered.
4. Jimmy D's Cafe (320 Sherman Ave.)
Now: Pita Pit
This was the most popular eatery downtown for a while and deservedly so, it was elegant but affordable, had a relaxed jazzy atmosphere, and endless bottles of local wines years before that kind of thing was really trendy. Eventually relocated across the street as "Jimmy D's Wine Cellar" before Jim Duncan retired and they shortened the name to its present state.
5. Log Cabin Restaurant (213 W. Appleway)
Now: Kelly Services/Appleway Chiropractic
Liver and Onions. Ugh! My parents loved it and I specifically remember trips to the Log Cabin Restaurant just for that reason. Pretty sure I had spaghetti instead. Seems like it was a fairly chi-chi kinda place at first, but by 1989 it was just another breakfast/lunch hash house, and it didn't survive too long into the '90's.
6. The Atrium (757 W. Appleway)
Now: Top of China Buffet
In the 80's, it was still halfway classy, the last remnant of the singles lounge 70's. A few years later it would devolve into mega-sleazy dance club "Players", a total meat market that could actually be fun once in a while. Scary but fun.
7. Bonanza (221 W. Appleway)
Now: Tomato Street
Memories of this one are so fuzzy, but it seems like this was sort of a cross between a prototype Applebees and a farm-themed hospital cafeteria. my mind conjures phosphorescently lit images of fake plastic steaks and grilled chicken, photogenic baked potatoes with chives and bacon bits, and bland white macaroni salad. Actually, I'm pretty sure a whole salad bar was involved and it wasn't pretty.
8. Father Guido's (400 Northwest Boulevard)
Now: Kootenai County Offices
Born as Pappy's Pizza, this was one of the last of it's kind, a pizza place where the whole family could keep entertained complete with video games, a jukebox, shag carpeting, pitchers of cold beer, wrought iron railings to climb on, big loud televisions. Soon Pizza Hut, Godfathers and the other chains would come along to ruin all our fun with their corporate homogenization and speedy home delivery.
9. Papino's (315 Walnut Ave.)
Now: Anthony's Midtown Bistro
Ground zero for killer Italian food for a very long time in Cd'A, I don't think anyone will ever be able to replicate the manicotti and garlic bread they served up in times of joy and crisis. I have the saliva-inducing scent of walking into Papino's lobby forever etched into my brain.
10. Rosauers Family Restaurant (225 W.Appleway)
Now: Tuesday Morning
The food was never very good, but there was something homey and loveable about this geriatrically inclined family diner. Meat and potatoes and gravy and everything was squishy and bland. She didn't age gracefully at all and she was looking pretty ghetto, but I was a faithful devotee, especially for breakfast, until the bitter end three years ago when they shuttered the Cd'A Rosauers store for good. Lordy, bring it back!
11. Topper Too (2812 N. Government Way)
Now: Les Schwab parking lot
Paul Bunyan's burgers etc. are somewhat similar, maybe cousins to the greasy lovebombs served by the hefty girls of the Topper Too, but not twins. The cuisine at the Topper was even more gung-ho and pro on the trans-fatty tip. Where else could you get a Pineapple Coke? It was a miracle that the drive-up squawk box outside ordering system still even functioned at the end. Still crying hippo tears to think I'll never taste those onion rings again. Sigh.
12. 3rd Street Cantina (201 N.3rd)
Now: Los Palmitas
It was like a cross between a Mexican gay discotheque and an island safari with yak leather chairs, mirrored walls, bamboo huts, stuffed zebras, giant ceramic parrots hanging from gold hoops, and white shag carpeting. Woah, was our little town ready for it? Great concept, great food, and legendary in it's heyday.