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Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodbye, V.C.

The word is out -- the Virginia Cafe is coming down to make way for another soulless office tower. Tom Moyer, who ripped out the Fox Theater, the Spot, and Hamburger Mary's to build his first skyscraper, is going to do the same on another parcel up the street.

Time to reminisce about our times in the V.C. I remember some memorable Thursday evenings in the early '80s, when drinks were either a buck, or 2-for-the-price-of-1. It's not surprising that the details are a little fuzzy. Good times.

And as I recall, the original Embers Lounge was upstairs, on the corner.

You can't stop progress, I guess. Which is why if you haven't made any memories at the V.Q. or the Lotus, now is the time. They're next, I have no doubt. But look at the bright side -- the ground floors of the towers will have more Starbucks and another Gap!

Comments (51)

I'd prefer an H&M.

Ah...Hamburger Mary's. My kids used to love that weird exotic piece of downtown Portland. I remember the kitch on the walls better than the food, but my kids always asked to go there. There's something about "place" that keeps a restaurant real. When Hamburger Mary's moved, they shriveled and died. Just like Dave's Deli moving into the Justice Center after being booted out of their home by urban renewaled Pioneer Palace.

It's sorta like wine grapes --and terroir-- you need to stress the vines, and where the vines are planed is key.

Brasserie Montmarte is now shuttered closed...what's next in that part of town?

Everything I thought was soulful about downtown is being replaced. Some call it progress - I call it a disaster.

Everything I thought was soulful about downtown is being replaced.

A downside of aging, Bill, is thinking about what we've lost...the clubs, eateries. The Jazz Quarry...how long before that block's a new condo tower, with a "Chipotle," "KFC", or whatever "Macaroni's Grill"?

It's not even so much that change happens, but it's the corporate chains taking over that really hurts. Pizza Quarry was dirt cheap, and where I discoverd pasta fagioli. When I was working and going to PSU at night, Sam's Hofbrau down the street from me was where I sought my sustenance. PSU forced that great mom & pop place out to put in a McDonald's.

Yeah, what do we gain when we lose our souls?

Actaully, I think the old location of the Embers was at Park & Salmon, which was later the location of the Rajneeshee restaurant, and currently, SouthPark.

Frank: Hey, at least Hot Lips has survived all this time, and if you're a real PSU old-timer (I had my first legal beer at Sam's) you'll remember when there was a Pizza Hut (a real sit-down one) across the street from Hot Lips. Not all local businesses lose in the long term...

I do miss Sam's though.


Jack was right on the old location of The Embers. Its entrance was on the corner of Yamhill. I distinctly remember walking past it on my way to the downtown library from the bus mall when I was a kid.

We have lost some great old places but we have also gained a few good new ones: Heathman Hotel, the vastly-improved-over-the-old-hole Broadway movie theater, and I'll still take Pioneer Square over the parking garage that used to be there.

Jeez, what is it, old home week? Any of you remember the cheeseburgers in the PSU cafeteria, circa '69?

Glue for the soul.

A bit of historical correction...the Embers were never located on Park & Salmon. I think you're memory is of the old Mocambo, later to become the Rajneeshee eatery. The Embers, still in the same ownership, is now located at NW Broadway & NW Couch (former home of Coast Auto Parts).

As for the Virginia Cafe, it was originally located up on SW Stark (location of the old CLYDE Hotel...currently being rehabbed into the ACE hotel). The VC was on the ground floor in the center of the block...eventually became the Rhondee, then CC Slaughters (which is now in Old Town).

Ah, the history of it all. When I gaze at the parking lot adjacent to the (now closed) National Reserve Bank, I recall the old "Riptide Lounge" of the 60s and early 70s.

"A bit of historical correction...the Embers were never located on Park & Salmon. I think you're memory is of the old Mocambo, later to become the Rajneeshee eatery. The Embers, still in the same ownership, is now located at NW Broadway & NW Couch (former home of Coast Auto Parts)."

Thanks. I think I remember the name of the Rajneeshee restaurant as "Zorba the Buddha". Does that ring a bell?

Mmmm - Hamburger Mary's was the first place I had a Bleu Cheese burger...


What a nostalgiac discussion. I hadn't even thought about Sam's Hoffbrau for years, but it was a great place. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Vat and Tonsure which was just on the other side of the block from Hamburger Mary's and equally a victim of the high rise tower which replaced it.

was pizza quarry up by the jefferson theatre? if that's it, they had incredible food. in hs and college we used to switch back and forth between PQ and old town for our pizza fix. i also remember the "old" dave's deli in it's little hole in the wall space. wow.

part of the price we pay for the system we have in place. you don't see the disappearance of the "neighborhood" restaurant in other cities.

That's 'cause reflecting on the demise of the Vat is too much of a downer... Oh, I consumed some wine there indeed, accompanied by this one girl on many occasions...

1000 Broadway was Tom Moyer's first office building, then came the Fox Tower. 1000 Broadway should have been named the Ban Roll-On Building.

Hamburger Mary's, with burgers on the good, wholewheat bread, rather than buns... great sidewalk-level windows... Ahhh.. the old days...

"was pizza quarry up by the jefferson theatre? if that's it, they had incredible food. in hs and college we used to switch back and forth between PQ and old town for our pizza fix. i also remember the "old" dave's deli in it's little hole in the wall space. wow."

Pizza Quarry, later the Jazz Quarry, was indeed up by the Jefferson Theater.

I remember when I first came to work downtown in 1973, Dave's Deli was a great place to eat (despite getting food poisoning there once). (Of course it was also a favorite spot of Neil Goldschmidt's as well.) It was on the block where the 4th and Morrison Parking Garage is now. There were two theaters on the block - The Blue Mouse on the Morrison side, and The Roundup on the 4th Avenue side. Next to the Roundup was a restaurant/bar called the Stockmen's Club, which featured "booths for the ladies" sign painted on the windows. As I recall, the clientele actually seemed to be aged cowboys...


That's sad news. I've many-a memory in Virginia Cafe. And the Vat and Tonsure was such a great place.

Just wait, in ten years The Horse Brass will become a victim of Urban Renewal.

PMG, "Zorba the Buddha" was its name. I went to the opening night party and was struck by the fact that most of the men were middle-aged and the women were noticeably younger.

"Just wait, in ten years The Horse Brass will become a victim of Urban Renewal."

No, it'll die when the City gets authority from the state to ban smoking in bars.

Medieval Inn

Dollar doubles.


I hadn't even thought about Sam's Hoffbrau for years...

If you get REAL nostalgic you can come over and see I bought --at the auction that closed the place-- the big German barrel sign with the "S" that was behind the bar. Well...AND the giant beer stein behind said bar. And a bunch of their chairs. And a few tables (since donated to Amanda Fritz' cmpaign office). I even bought --and use-- their big rolling pin! (And I've never set food in a MCDonald's since.)

The Pizza Quarry co-existed with the Jazz Quarry, their entrances on different streets.

At least NICKS's Coney Island lives!

The story of downtown Portland reminds me of an Onion headline which ran something along the lines of, "Girl Gradually Changes Boyfriend Into Somebody She's Not Interested In."

So long, VC.

Check today's Blogtown. The VC wasn't even told this was coming.

I guess people like Tom Moyer aren't really concerned with the idea of Portland supposedly being anti-business. They're more concerned with being pro their own business. But razing a downtown staple and icon I guess isn't anti-downtown-business.

Another quintessential Portland icon bites the dust. Where else is there to drink in the middle of downtown that isn't a club, a ritzy restaurant or a hotel?

Here's hoping that the VC will beat the odds and find a new spot to squeeze into. I don't think it would work well in a strip mall-esque space beneath a condo tower though.

Miss Sam's Hofbrau?
You bet.

I used to work at the Pizza Hut (now Micky D's) delivering pizzas, which was a fairly cushy gig back then b/c most of the deliveries just went across the PSU campus.

The 2 for 1 drinks at VC were always a great way to get one's evening rolling, before strolling off to the Long Goodbye or Satyricon for some rock and roll.

I wouldn't call it nostalgia so much as the collective experiences many of us share. It brings alot of us together, even if we've never met.

I wonder what memories Neil has of the place:

"She was part of a hard-partying crowd that frequented nightspots like the Virginia Cafe and the Dakota."

"Susan spent the afternoon of Dec. 15, 1986, in the Virginia Cafe downtown tossing back brandy and champagne. Later, as she drove her tan '79 VW Rabbit out of the garage below the Galleria, she clipped the rear bumper of a pickup truck. A security guard who witnessed the accident called the police.

"I want to personally make sure you get shit for this," she told Portland police officer Clarence Lankins, according to his report. "Neil Goldschmidt is my best friend." "

"It was also about this time, numerous sources say, that she was hanging out at the Virginia Cafe on Southwest Park Avenue, telling her story to anyone who would listen.

It is, in fact, amazing how many people were actually aware of the story Ñ not just her friends or restaurant workers. At the time, the Virginia Cafe was frequented by a number of lawyers, including junior members of the district attorney’s office. Just how high up the chain of command the information went is unclear."

My memories of Sam's go back to my days in PSU Grad School (late 1970s). When money was tight, we could always escape to Sam's for a turkey drumstick (the baked turkeys and hams were usually on display in the north windows).

Another memory (going WAY back) is relative to the Brasserie Montmarte. It was originally a lesbian bar named Zorba the Greek. Really!

As for the Embers, the upstairs dance venue was called The Rafters. I recall many a hot afternoon as we sat there. The east windows faced a rather seedy cafe (maybe called the Rod 'n' Reel) on the back of a movie theatre. That entire block is where Nordstrom's is located.

One lasting (and funny) memory...a friend was a cocktail waiter at The Rafters. He loved to wear a black t-shirt with rhinestone lettering that read, "Queen of the Cha-Cha Palace!"

What a stroll down memory lane. For its day, Pizza Quary had decent (to an east coaster) pizza. And anchoivies.... mmmm.

As for the Virginia Cafe, Weds. night was 2 for 1 night aka happy hour in the early 80s and the home of hump night for the IT staff at Pacific Power. I got seriously smacked down by some Long Island Ice Teas there one night (at the time I had no idea what was in those drinks).

Does anyone remember the Brunch Bucket, another notable dive in downtown PDX's history?

Anyone remember the old PC&S tavern at 11th and Morrison? I used to practically live there when I worked at Crystalship records at the Galleria in '76.

A good friend of mine from Crystalship, Tom Garman, was a bartender at Virginia Cafe in the '80s. On Thursday dollar drink day, my shot glass of bourbon would miraculously turn into a water glass full of Jack Daniel's.

this value judgment of Moyer's says it all, I suppose:

"It's a good, underdeveloped block in town,"

One man's "underdeveloped" is another man's "community".

This, my friends, highlights everything's that wrong with "development" by people like Moyer. it's all about the "opportunity to invest money". Moyer doesn't live there, doesn't go there, has no community there. So, it's an investment opportunity.

To the chickens, the henhouse is home. To the fox, it's a grocery store.

IMO posts by Ulysses and Tejas deserve two if not more rereads.

High-rise is so passe'and un-Oregon unless you are a developer. Portland developers want to emulate high-rise Seattle and line their pockets while they are at it. This city is beginning to build zero energy/waste homes. These homes will help us become the un-urban concrete jungle that is Seattle. Where is preservation, where are the property taxes from recently built skyscrapers in Southwaterfront? Skyscaper sprawl is scarifying and bankrupting this city.

I remember the VC and Mary's (not the strip club, but Hamburger Mary's) from my high school years. They were sufficiently all-ages that I could hang out there with a close friend who was gay and (eventually) over 21. We danced at the Metro a lot, too--where Dante's is now.

My sister and I got our ears pierced at the jewelry store across from Mary's--where the Taco del Mar is now.

Does anyone remember the Riverside Cafe? I was in a little concrete building across from apartments on the west side of the 405 near Lincoln High, then in a glassy space on one of the east-west streets--maybe Salmon.

How about a place kitty corner from Nordstom called Caffe Roma? I remember having a divine coffee and ice cream concoction--must've been an affogato--very early in my coffee drinking days.

And don't get me started about La Patisserie.

Of course it was Moyer who evicted the Vat & Tonsure as well.

I think I fell in love with Portland at the Vat & Tonsure. I experienced other feelings easily confused with love there, as well. I even acted on some of them, albeit not while still at the Vat & Tonsure.

Where's the Jack-a-bo meter when we need it. The one that keeps tally of our disdain of high-rise. Do we really needs more skyraper domiciles. One wonders whether these monoliths encourage shopping or civic involvement? Vote now and vote often because the O. now has a serious campaign to put another high-rise in your back yard.

And yet another 350 underground parking spaces, next to the ones Moyer's already building next door (which are themselves next door to the one's he's already built under the Fox Tower!) Take that all you mass-transit, bike-ridin', pedestrian-huggin' multi-modal pussies!

Take the streetcar? Are you friggin' kidding me?

Ahhhh, Frank,

The "agressive pedestrian" strikes again. The streetcar isn't mass transit, it's an ego trip for progressives. While stroking their egos, it strokes the taxpayers to the tune of what, nearly $1B a year. It goes nowhere real people need to go.

Like it or not, there WILL be people who want to live downtown who want or need cars. Would you deny these people choice? Would you relegate them to second-class status? Why do you hate them?

Please, can't we all just get along?


Does anyone remember the old Aero Club building, kitty corner from Hamburger Mary's? It was torn down in the 90's, to make way for the Paramount Hotel.

I don't know when it became vacant, but in the late 80's, I was an extra in the movie 'Love At Large.' A 1940's dance club set was created inside the Aero Club building, and the club scenes filmed there.

The waiting area for all the extras was a big open dance hall on the east side of the building. Though pretty decrepit, you could sit there and imagine what that place was like in its heyday.

Anyway, add me to the long list of people who are upset over the end of the VC.

The Aero Club functioned as a poor man's MAC into the early '80s. It was the cheapest place you could belong for a workout, and the location was ideal for us downtown workers. A great place to start and end a lunchtime run up Terwilliger hill, it had a small swimming pool in the basement and an undersized basketball court on the top floor. I have a slightly crooked finger thanks to one of the many pickup games in which I played up there. The best part of the whole thing was the blind guy who ran the men's locker room -- a wonderful spirit to greet you and send you on your way.

All of those good vibrations have been pounded out of downtown now. What's left is corporate America, slick and vapid, one Banana Republic after another. Portland Monthly, baby. It's happening in other cities, too, but you would have hoped that Portland would have had the guts and the smarts to be different. Unfortunately not the case.

Ulysses wrote, "Moyer doesn't live there, doesn't go there, has no community there."

It's a stretch to say that about a Portland native who's been doing business on that part of Broadway, one way or another, for the last 30+ years.

He even gets indicted there.

Small world, Lisa, I was an extra in Love at Large too. As I recall, I think it was a swanky lounge scene they used us for. That was my only glimpse inside the Aero Club. Cool building.


doing "business" is exactly right. he's not part of the community--he's an *investor*. him being a long-time Portlander doesn't make him part of the investment property he holds.

did you actually read his quote, or know his history? he sees it as an investment opportunity in an "underdeveloped" block. *underdeveloped*.

which, as anybody who's thoughtful knows, means "not profit maximized". he wants every dollar he can get, out of every square foot. and, to transform the city into his "vision" of high-rise, affluent nonsense.

too bad the fellow is elderly and won't be around to live there. he's never been benevolent--he's driven dozens of small businesses right out of town. for 30 years.

oh wait--he doesn't live downtown. he lives on a hill above it.

All of those good vibrations have been pounded out of downtown now. What's left is corporate America, slick and vapid, one Banana Republic after another. Portland Monthly, baby. It's happening in other cities, too...

We're in Seattle, just for the heck of it, and it is SO depressing to walk around downtown and struggle to find something unique to Seattle. Gap, Banana Republic, Starbucks, Borders, Talbots, etc ad nauseum.

Had a good stout at Pike's Place Brewery but the fish and chips were tasteless and soggy. Zeke's pizza's pretty good, though. Have had better gumbo at McCormick and Schmidts for happy hour then at Sazerac.

It feels, though, like a cultural noose tightening...

there WILL be people who want to live downtown who want or need cars. Would you deny these people choice? Would you relegate them to second-class status? Why do you hate them?

I owned a car when I lived downtown at Portland Center years ago. I paid for a parking space. At one point they took a bunch of spaces away from us, relegating us to less desirable underground parking, so they could sell our original convenient surface parking spaces more profitably to "visitors."

I believe NONE of Moyer's parking is for residents who live downtown. Straw man, my friend "r." I totally support residents who want to have parking spaces for their cars having them available. What I question is gridlocking downtown traffic...

What I question is gridlocking downtown traffic..
JK:Of course one major cause of gridlock is density. See:


I stopped going to the VC when it became a cheap place to get tanked. The VC I miss was before that, and used to have union waitresses who would call you "honey". The place was warm and those wooden booths were clean and cozy then -- great place to go with friends for pie and coffee after a movie. On some level, I can't help feeling that civilization ended when places like that disappeared.

The latest cool-aid being drunk by the Portland planning mafia says that hi-rises are the kind of development we need the most -- and need enough to need to publicly subsidize it. I think that translates to -- the kind of development they need the most on their resumes. There is going to be no "there" here at all pretty soon.

Parking downtown and parking garages. People are discovering the health risks associated with underground parking. It's called car exhaust. If a parking garage is linked to a building with an elevator the exhaust can enter the building. How about green buildings devoid of car exhaust? How about red bike barns in downtown Portland. Downtown Portland is also sandwiched between to major freeways which means it probably has some of the worst air in the state. Cleaning up downtown Portland's should become a top priority. Daily is see large vehicles idling for long periods of time. I'm all for people living downtown and let's find a way to make it happen with more clean air.

Wow, Morty! Maybe we were in the same scene. I was a ballroom dancer when Ann Archer sang a torch song on the stage. I wore a black and white polka dot dress.

It was an interesting building. I remember a very narrow and dark staircase. It was also freezing cold.

Another great place was the Quality Pie Shop. We'd stop there for pie or mashed potatoes after clubbing. I miss the days when NW 23rd was for real people, instead of trendbots.

I proposed to my first wife in a booth at Quality Pie. Then I spilled Coca-Cola all over the place. An omen that I missed at the time.

Moyer has a Penthouse Apartment at the top of the Fox Tower. I don't know if he lives there full time, but he certainly spends a lot of time there.

From my reading of history, he's as colorful a Portland character as they come. I can't imagine there are any other developers in town that had his record in the ring. Just because he's made a lot of money doesn't make him bad, does it?

I'm watching Sten (et al) meeting in a "work session" with the PDC where they are talking about the next big "River District" scam. We need more retail in Old Town? Who knew.

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