CHS Q&A: The DeLuxe’s Barry Rogel on regulars and the grill’s 50 years on Capitol Hill

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. 

(Images: Sarah Galvin/CHS)

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.

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19 thoughts on “CHS Q&A: The DeLuxe’s Barry Rogel on regulars and the grill’s 50 years on Capitol Hill

  1. That place went down hill in style and service ever since Padraic Jordan was fired. I’ll go have $6 beers somewhere else every time.

  2. They should say thanks for the free ad.

    The burger special is the only reason to eat there. On that N. Broadway the Deluxe does nothing that is community based, nothing from what I hear from other merchants.

    So, do the special – the rest nawwwww.

  3. Wow, so much negativity toward The Deluxe! This is my favorite spot to go grab a cold one and a burger in the city. The staff is excellent, the food is always great (yes, high in calories of course) and the ambiance is always spectacular. I have a feeling that the people who don’t like it are people who don’t come very often. Being a regular makes the place special.

  4. I remember there was a Chinese laundy in the basement. I walked by everyday on my way to Lowell Elementary from 1957 – 1962.

    When I was in my early twenties, I remember the big potatoes came with a small steak sold at happy hour for about $3(?). This was in the 70s.

    How about an anniversary menu?

  5. the service at this place sucks and they know it. got a gift certificate for the horrible service once but will never use it because i will never go back. the food is also very inconsistant.

  6. The DeLuxe has always been involved in the community, it just chooses to do so quietly. But here’s a few: Dine Out For Life, Gift Certicates donated to numerous Hill groups, Lambert House donation, Ronald McDonald House. Perhaps you would like to suggest something specific the DeLuxe should donate to or get involved in. Thanks!

  7. I have to agree about the service. I haven’t been there for a while as two out of the four times I was there last they charged my cc with the wrong amount (if the total of the bill is $30, why would I tip $33?.) The manager was a jerk about it and I suggested that they at least give me a gift cert or something, so he jerkily agrees and then when I get home I realize the gift cert was written out so it was already past the due date. Really?

    The only redeeming quality is the food… while heavy, still good. The burgers are awesome. Shame the service is so poor.

  8. every time I go there, I feel like they are doing me a favor my taking my order. The owner glaring at employees and customers instead of welcoming them. Weird vibe…

  9. I moved to the hill in 1970 and remember the steak and salad special with the huge potatoes, $3.75! I went every Sunday. That’s when I noticed all the electic people going into the Elite across the street and stopped by and found by home away-from home. Anyone remember Doreen the owner?

  10. Seriously I could comment on a ton of places and the shoddy service they had given me but if it’s from years ago, what’s the freakn point. I go to the Deluxe as frequently as possible, without pack’n on the pounds :) and every time I go in the place is busy and pleasant. I’m always greeted and seated within minutes. The Wednesday Burgerama deal is amazing and is always packed… yet I can honestly say the staff is whizzing around all the while seemingly as if having fun. There are no glares or “jerky” managers, simply a busy busy restaurant that I’m sure has to deal with some pretty “jerky” customers on occasion. I recommend the Deluxe and if your last experience was a “bad” one and it was quite a while ago… try again, everyone has off days. Think about your crappiest day at work, now think about having to smile and serve people. Give the Deluxe another go round…

  11. I’m surprised by all the snark. I dine at Deluxe once or twice a month and I have never experienced anything but friendly and engaging customer service. The burgers are awesome and I love the buns! Great selection of beers, including my favorite (which hardly anyone else on the hill has on tap) – Lucile!

  12. Why is it the customers fault when I place doesn’t deliver good service and/or food?

    It’s an opinion. Maybe you are just used to crappy burgers so you like these.

  13. I love the DeLuxe! Used to go for Burger-rama lunch every Weds when I worked on Broadway. It’s still my go to place on Broadway. I’ve never, ever had a problem with the service.

  14. I used to go often and randomly. Now I call first to see who is working. It’s a night and day difference depending.