Thursday, April 26, 2007

You Never Forget Your First...

Barely out of college but living on my own, a good friend of mine called me up one day and asked me to meet him at the restaurant down by Union Station. Up until this time in all my years in Portland, I had not once set foot near that train station, let alone the restaurant that was located within it.

The minute I was walked in I knew there was something different about this place: red high-back chairs in lounge, a large dining area filled with people who looked as old as my grandparents, and a lounge-singer playing piano beside the bar. The performer was a musician by the name of John Gilmore. It wasn't too long after our initial visit that he would join us for a drink each night, recounting tales about his father who produced many of Frank Sinatra’s hits when at Columbia records, his experience at meeting the Chairman of the Board himself while at UCLA, gigs he played, commercials you might recognize him from, and generally being an overall generous host. An outstanding artist in his own right, John still takes any and all requests from the audience; from the Rat Pack to Lionel Richie.

For the next couple of years we spent our time at Wilf's as regulars. Our Manhattans would be waiting for us as we arrived every Friday, John would take our requests, and in those times we lived on top of our world. Times have changed for us since then, some friends have come and gone... and however soul-crushingly sentimental this may be - those days of good friends, cigarettes, Maker's Mark and The Chairman's 'Wave' are my final round.

Founder Wilf Nofield established the restaurant in 1975, and today his three daughters (Adele, Candace and JoAnne, who all manage the restaurant) preserve his legacy.

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