– The Story of Papa Haydn –
Way, way back in the day…
...in 1978, before Portland was hip, before anybody really knew where Portland was, Heidi and Jeff Van Dyke were a young married couple who knew. They dreamt about having a small cafe where Jeff could create a new soup from scratch everyday, Heidi could bake the cake recipes she learned at her parents' side back in her previous home of Berlin, and they’d have Sunday and Monday off to spend time with their newborn daughter Stephanie.
And so Papa Haydn was born! Purchasing one of the first espresso machines in town and serving an eclectic menu of quiche, salads, soup and Viennese pastries inspired by the "Kaffeehaus" treats Heidi grew up making and eating. Sacher Tortes, Dobos Tortes, Apple Strudel, Linzertortes and more filled the dessert case at their SE Milwaukie neighborhood restaurant.
In 1980, Heidi’s sister Evelyn, a sculptor and artist in residence at Lincoln High School, joined the family business for "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. Nearly 40 years later, her beautiful and tasty creations still can be seen in Papa Haydn's dessert cases.
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 Avenue back then another Portland icon, Gus Van Sant, filmed “Drugstore Cowboy” across the street from Papa Haydn. Despite a bit of neglect, the neighborhood was, however, full of folks. In fact, it was one of the densest urban populations on the West Coast with over 16,000 people per square mile. And those folks were a very Portland mix of artisans, families, young folks, old folks and characters. Papa Haydn felt right at home.
It was then that Evelyn’s future husband, Michael, joined the Papa Haydn 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 bar program.
Between opening in August 1983 and December 1994, Papa Haydn West expanded into the space next door, 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. The rest of the building was gobbled up with the December 1994 opening of Jo Bar & Rotisserie. Taking its name from composer Franz 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 fare that pairs with craft cocktails, a curated list of hard to find boutique liquors, and an outstanding wine list.
The moral of the story is that dreams do come true. Some years (40 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.