In my world, the Krain Restaurant is very important. It’s only a couple of city blocks from my house. Two or three times a week, weather permitting, I walk or jog or run or crawl down to the corner for breakfast, where I sit in Shalyn’s bakery over a cup of coffee and a cookie of my choice. Other times, owing again to convenience, I drop by in the afternoon for an almond latte.
Shalyn has a wonderful, dazzling collection of earrings and a first-class talent for baking pies, cakes, and cookies. I can’t think of a more amicable waitress to shoot the breeze with in the morning.
It hasn’t always been this way. Ask any old timer and they’ll tell you some hair-raising stories about the old Krain Corner Tavern which, back in the day, was the favorite watering-hole for half the men in the Krain/Neuwakum region; i.e., the “good ol’ boys” like the Bellack brothers. This original tavern only occupied the tiny front section of the current building and was barely large enough to hold a pool table, a couple of booths and a bar with a few stools. It opened in 1917 and served booze until prohibition came along. (During those “dry” years, it was rumored to be an important cog in a major bootlegging operation.) When prohibition finally went down the drain, it reopened again as a legal tavern and, during the past 80 years, it’s had three or four different owners. (The place is listed on the King County Historic Register.)
I first went in the place one winter’s evening when I was 8 or 9 years old. My uncle and I were driving back to Enumclaw from Black Diamond and apparently he couldn’t pass the Krain without stopping for a beer. (Beer and my uncle were like that.) On this particular evening, the place was very crowded — standing room only — which didn’t take much, perhaps 10 or 15 guys. (As you’ve probably surmised, it was a decidedly macho place.) As we pushed through the front door, I remember stepping into a wall of smoke, a blast of hot air, a polluted scent of stale beer and other foul odors and the roar of laughter and conversation.
Let’s face it: By today’s standards the old Krain Tavern was a damned dump!
I tugged at my uncle’s sleeve and when he bent down I whispered in his ear, “I don’t think I’m supposed to be in here!” He laughed and messed my hair.
Someone jumped off one of the bar stools, picked me up and sat me on it. His face was a bit scruffy from a three-day beard and he looked down at me, directly into my eyes, and asked, “How you doin’, Big Guy?”
I was too dumbfounded to speak.
Anyway, over the years there have been some major renovations and, today, the place is at least three times the size of the original tavern. The current owner is Andy Hatch. His mother and her deceased husband, Glenn, are largely responsible for its newest reincarnation as a family restaurant that serves ample helpings of tasty, straight-ahead, all-American, reasonably priced food.
One evening several months ago I stopped by for a veggie wrap. As I sat there enjoying my sandwich, my mind wandered back to the old tavern and my first visit. And while drifting about in such nostalgia, I noticed this fellow ambling across the room toward me. He was a casual acquaintance; that is, we’d talked a few times in the last year but I couldn’t remember his name. His face was a bit scruffy from a three-day beard and he looked down at me, directly into my eyes, and asked, “How you doin’, Big Guy?”
Yep, that’s exactly what he said. I was too dumbfounded to speak.