Smiles & Oysters
When you get smiles this big, you know you've had a successful dining/cookbook adventure.
I love this picture of Michelle holding our "traveling cookbook" while her son Kai, holds the oyster shucking tool!
Last August, Don and I visited the landmark seafood restaurant in Portland. We stayed at a downtown hotel, not far from the 132-year-old building, that houses the restaurant.
It was before 11, when we walked over to Old Town, so we hung out on Ankeny Alley and pondered the past... until opening time.
Dan Louis Oyster Bar
Don and I knew about the Dan Louis Oyster Bar, because it was featured in our 1950's cookbook. We peeked at the vintage book while we waited. I studied the super mod illustration of the restaurant's dining room. What a curious boat-like counter!
I also looked over the recipe for oyster stew. As I studied the text, I wondered about the name. Who was Dan?The old cookbook made it looked like Dan, was Louis' first name. But today there is an AND, between the names.
The plaque on the building's corner, told us about Louis Wachsmuth. In 1906. Louis began selling gunnysacks of live oysters, for 50-cents a bag. Before long, Louis and his family were running a busy seafood business and restaurant inside the 2-story building.
We later learned that Dan was Louis' son, who died of influenza at the age of 27. Dan's name was added to the business, as a memorial. So there is a very sweet reason for the name Dan, in the restaurant's name. The Wachsmuth family still runs the business today.
While Don and I waited, we peered in the window as the oyster display was being prepped.
The visual was quite a sight! I tried to work up an appetite for oysters at 11 am, while I inhaled the sweet smells of Voodoo Doughnuts, a block away!
Open at 11
Young Kai (Louis Kai Wachsmuth) turned the sign and opened the door at 11.
We entered the cozy space, where Kai's great, great grandfather sold seafood, over 100 years ago.
Walls Covered in History
There was a lot to absorb in the first room, with its nautical theme and collections of maritime objects.
Michelle guided us to a table in a dining area, off to the right.
Oysters in the Morning
Don and I were the first diners that day. We settled in, with a sampling of Washington oysters. The Eld Inlet tasted mild and creamy.
Kamamoto was buttery and Totten Inlet tasted more fishy and salty. I'm no oyster connoisseur, but I liked the Eld oysters best.
As we dug into our oysters, Michelle came to check on us. When I found out she was part of the Wachsmuth family, I just had to pull out the old cookbook.
Michelle grinned when she saw it. She said she had never seen the book, but recently someone had sent her a photo of that very page. "It's still the same ouster stew recipe that we use today!"
Don's smoked salmon chowder was rich and chunky, with a peppery flavor. Don loves his pepper. I of course had to give the original oyster stew a try. The broth was buttery smooth and the oysters were gigantic. I will admit, I'm a little timid about big plump oysters, but I was thrilled to eat the stew that has been served for over 100 years.
Arriving early, meant Michelle was free to chat. She was also able to give us a tour.
She walked us past Kai's oyster shucking station, towards some of the older dining rooms.
We turned the corner at one point and almost ran into a huge cart, carrying bags of oysters.
Michelle carried on a bit with the white haired man who was pushing the big load. He was nice enough to pause for a photo, before he wheeled the fresh catch towards the kitchen.
We continued through the maze of rooms and came upon a smiling group. "This is our oyster family!" Michelle laughed and the two boys giggled.
I'm not sure how this all works and what their relation was, with the man pushing the cart. But I do know there was a wonderful rapport between Michelle and the folks we kept bumping into as we traveled through the numerous rooms.
The Big Dining Room
We moved into the large dining room, with cozy wood walls and a ceiling that looked like a ship's hull.
The walls were covered in old plates and more nautical decor.
I laughed when I saw the boat-like counter, with portholes on the side. I recognized the image from the kind of kooky illustration in the book.
Michelle shook her head and chuckled, when I asked about the boat. "Half of that boat is in my garage right now."
Pine Walls and Round Plates
I couldn't get enough of all the wall decor!
We didn't get a chance to meet Michelle's husband, Keoni. If we had, I would have asked about some of the memorabilia.
Keoni (Kai's dad) is 4th generation, so I'm guessing he must have spent a lot of his youth in these rooms. If I had grown up in that world, I would have wanted to play hide and seek in all those rooms. I would have probably spent a good amount of time counting all those plates, too!
The kitchen area has been renovated and opened up, in recent years.
It's always a good thing when a food business is happy to let customers see the food being prepared!
Next time, I think I'd like to sit in this tiny dining space, surrounded by painted, wood walls and ceiling.
Or maybe I'd like to sit beside the knotty pine and find out what MV Aspen means.
I believe this is the original dining room. This might be my favorite room. I can picture the Wachsmuth family gathering around this table.
Don and I had a whirlwind visit to Dan & Louis. We had a parking meter running back at the hotel and a drive to Seattle ahead of us.
Next time we will come and rush less. We'll enjoy more of the menu and hopefully more of the family! What a fun place!
12/8/2020 10:01:14 am
Lovely story. Dan & Louis was my dad's favorite restaurant and I grew up eating there at least 3 times per month. During the 60's, 70's & early 80's there was always a line of people waiting to get in. On weekends, that line was sometimes 2-3 blocks long. In spite of what Michelle may have told you, the recipe has changed a bit since that cookbook, but the stew is still just as good as when I first had it in 1967.
12/8/2020 12:16:00 pm
Lyndon, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your memories of Dan &Louis dining with your family! What a lucky kid you were getting to dine regularly, in such a fun, historic place! I’m
2/28/2022 03:42:32 pm
Beth, Im trying to get in touch with you. We are featuring Dan and Louis’ Oyster Bar in this upcoming AAA Via Magazine and I would love to use one of your photos of the exterior of the building! Can you message me at email@example.com and we can chat details? Thank you!
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The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.