Our Northwest

Another popular roadhouse eatery shuts down

Friday, February 26, 2016by  Jon Osterberg

Mary McCrank’s restaurantToday we lament the loss of favorite eateries, icons of Americana that served comfort food for decades before fizzling out of existence.

This morning I learned that a longtime favorite restaurant has closed – Mary McCrank’s near Chehalis.

McCrank’s was a roadhouse diner opened by its namesake in 1935 to serve motorists traveling U.S. 99 between Portland and Seattle. Mulligan stew, chicken fried steak, and sour cream raisin pie were among its delights. It closed a couple years ago and was bought last October by a man with plans to convert it into an events center.

I enjoyed a memorable supper there when I was 13, in 1967, with my dad and grandparents. Grandpa was a serious, blue-eyed Swede in his mid-80s. He ordered chicken and dumplings, which weren’t served as hot as he liked.

“I want to speak with Mary,” he blustered to our waitress, who didn’t fathom grandpa’s rare attempt at humor. He had assumed “Mary McCrank” was merely a marketing ploy, a fictional name to conjure up visions of old-fashioned, home-cooked fare.

Soon a rather imposing woman strode up to our table and asked grandpa, “You want to speak with me? I’m Mary.” Grandpa’s blue eyes widened and he struggled for words. He finally blubbered something about wanting to compliment the cook for his tasty meal.

Mary McCrank's fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravyWe revisited Mary McCrank's a decade ago and enjoyed fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. But now Mary’s is gone, like other longtime roadhouses.

Federal Way residents still lament the loss of Rose’s, a Highway 99 restaurant between Tacoma and Seattle revered for real pan-fried (not deep-fried) chicken, potatoes, and biscuits loaded with jam. Dinner in 1939 cost 75 cents. Rose’s burned in 2008.

Generations of travelers enjoyed the Italian Spaghetti House & Pizzeria in Lake City. Seattle’s Dog House restaurant was an institution for 60 years before it closed in 1994.

For years, motorists driving U.S. 10 between Seattle and Spokane were lured to Ellensburg’s New York Café for its mouth-watering Porterhouse steaks. Or, they – and Greyhound bus riders – waited another hour and dined at Martha’s Inn at George, Wash., a convenient stop with a clever name (even if the food was mediocre).
Martha’s Inn at George, Wash
Cross-state travelers today can still find tastier fare nearby at the Golden Harvest in Vantage, an eatery since the early 1960s.

If my favorite Interstate 90 steakhouse – Wolf Lodge Inn east of Coeur d’Alene – ever shuts down, I’ll truly mourn.

What about you? Share your favorite road-trip restaurant of the past.

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