CHS visited the perennially popular DeLuxe Bar and Grill to talk to owner Barry Rogel about the neighborhood, The DeLuxe, and the eclectic history of the building that houses it. Barry escorted CHS to a booth beneath a mural of an assortment of The DeLuxe’s past regulars.
Any especially memorable regulars? There have been so many of them. It really just comes down to people in the neighborhood who make The DeLuxe an extension on their living rooms. The bartenders and servers all know their names, like on Cheers. The DeLuxe really tries to be everybody’s bar. You’ll see biker guys having lunch next to people who just left St. Mark’s.
The Daughters of the American Revolution building has been on Harvard Avenue even longer than the DeLuxe. Has the DeLuxe historically been a popular hangout spot for DAR members? Historically yes. It’s been a good relationship. There have been a lot of pre-wedding functions and even some rehearsals.
How has The DeLuxe changed since you’ve worked here? The DeLuxe has always tried to cater to people on The Hill, which has changed drastically over time. I think what’s going on right now is great—Pike and Pine are exploding. I think Capitol Hill is becoming like the Pearl District in Portland. I started working here in the mid ‘80s. The biggest change to the restaurant itself was the remodel in the 90‘s. We expanded the dining area and added more taps. When we tore down a wall during the remodel, we discovered pink wallpaper left over from the ice cream parlor that was in this space during prohibition. The coolest story about this place, though I don’t know how to verify this, is that during prohibition there was a speakeasy in the basement. When there was going to be a raid, the police would tip them off and they’d escape into the Harvard Exit’s basement. Before prohibition, it was actually a liquor store.
I read on your web site that in the 50‘s The DeLuxe’s claim to fame was baked potatoes as big as size 11 mens’ shoes. Are your potatoes still big enough to put my feet in? They’re about a pound each. Depends how big your feet are! It was really more like the 60‘s though—my dad bought the place in ’62. The DeLuxe opened in ’32, and I don’t know how to verify this either, but supposedly it was one of the first post-prohibition beer bars.
Is there any dish you consider impossible to finish in one sitting? The mac and cheese is pretty rich. When people get a full order they usually end up taking some home, which is fine because it’s excellent reheated.
What should I order for someone with whom I hope to end up naked later? (Laughs) The food here has a lot of calories—depends what kind of shape you’re in. I don’t think you can go wrong with one of our burgers and a beer. That will give you the calories you need to do what you want to do. We also have some high-protein salads, like the Black and Bleu. (Laughs) Maybe skip dessert.
Which drinks would you recommend for someone who’s just having drinks? I’d have the Founder’s Ale—that IPA was made especially for our 50th anniversary. You can check which cocktails we have at the bar. I’d have the Sazerac, which is Old Overholt rye whiskey and absinthe, or the hibiscus margarita.