Way back in the day

Way back in the day, way back before Portland was hip, before anybody really knew where Portland was, Heidi and Jeff Van Dyke were a young married couple who knew. Heidi and Jeff dreamt about having a small cafe where Jeff could create a new soup from scratch every day, Heidi could bake cakes she learned at her parents' side back in Berlin, and they’d have Sunday and Monday off to spend time with their newborn daughter Stephanie.

Dreams do come true. Some years (38 to be precise), some chocolate (over 360 tons, conservatively, and that's not counting the local butter, cream or eggs), and two more locations later... sometimes dreams just come true in bigger sizes with fewer days off.

Papa Haydn had one of the first espresso machines in town and an eclectic (for the time) menu of quiche, salads and Viennese pastries. Inspired by the Viennese "Kaffeehaus," the restaurant served a light fare with an abundance of desserts. Sacher tortes, Dobos tortes, apple strudel and Linzertortes filled the dessert case.

Today the rest of Portland has caught up with Heidi and Jeff's vision.

Heidi’s sister Evelyn, a sculptor and artist in residence at Lincoln High School, joined the family business in 1980 "just for a year." Business was booming, and Heidi and Jeff needed someone to expand the dessert menu while they focused on the demanding day-to-day operation of the cafe. Evelyn quickly realized that chocolate, sugar and the enormous abundance of fresh Pacific Northwest fruits were just three more mediums in which she could sculpt. More fleeting, perhaps—in the past, her sculptures had rarely disappeared into people’s stomachs—but certainly no less worthwhile. More than 30 years later, her beautiful and tasty creations still can be seen in Papa Haydn's dessert cases.

It is the dessert case that is the heart and soul of the restaurant: The magic takes place in the interaction between guests and the creations in the case. To gaze into the case and its sweet treasures is a bit akin to finding yourself magically transported back to Christmas morning at the age of 7. Your mouth opens, your taste buds awaken and you find yourself pointing to first that torte and then that tart and—oh!—what about that Boccone Dolce?

Five years after opening Papa Haydn's original Eastside location, Heidi, Jeff and Evelyn headed across the Willamette River to Northwest Portland’s Nob Hill neighborhood and 23rd Avenue.  Today, 23rd Avenue is known as one of Portland’s top destinations; back then, not so much. To give you a visual clue of 23rd back then another Portland icon, Gus Van Sant, filmed “Drugstore Cowboy” across the street from Papa’s. Despite a bit of neglect, the neighborhood was, however, full of folks. In fact, it is one of the densest urban populations on the West Coast with over 16,000 people per square mile. And those folks were a very PDX mix of artisans, families, young folks, old folks and characters. Papa Haydn felt right at home.

It was then also that Evelyn’s future husband, Michael, joined the Papa family. Having climbed the restaurant ladder from busser to manager, via kitchen, bar, and waiting, at a disco bar in LA before heading to Portland and Reed College, Michael was brought on, sans his platform shoes and white linen suit, to manage the new location’s beverage operations; Papa Haydn West had inadvertently been granted a liquor license that allowed the dispensing of hard liquor as well as the beer and wine license requested.

Between opening in August 1983 and December 1994, Papa Haydn West expanded into adjacent space, first in 1985 expanding the kitchen and bakery, which allowed for the addition of Sunday brunch, and again in 1990 adding on another dining area and a fireplace for those chilly Portland winters. Papa Haydn West now had taken up two-thirds of the building.

The final third was gobbled up in December of 1994 with the opening of Jo Rotisserie and Bar. Taking its name from Haydn’s middle name, Josef, Jo Bar was to be a bar that also featured great food coming out of the wood burning oven and rotisserie that were among the first in Portland. Today Jo Bar uses exclusively fire fueled by northwest fruit and hardwoods to create eclectic bistro fare that pairs with craft cocktails, a curated list of hard to find boutique liquors, and an outstanding wine list.