New ‘Yaw’s Top Notch’ packed with diners – before ‘grand opening’

Take a look inside this reborn iconic Portland eatery – and discover why folks are flocking in for lunch and dinner – it’s not just for the nostalgic decoration …

Long-time Portlanders may look twice, when they see this new Yaw’s Top Notch restaurant open in the Gateway area.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When most restaurants open, the owners fervently hope for customers. But, not so, for one new establishment in the Hazelwood Neighborhood.

With “opening soon” signs posted around the now-open Yaw’s Top Notch restaurant in the Gateway District on NE Halsey Street – they couldn’t keep customers away.

Gateway Area Business Association “Keystone Kops” give one of the organization’s original Kops –  Stephen Yaw, Sr., – their formal “rubber chicken” squawking sendoff at the new  Yaw’s Top Notch restaurant.

“We’ve been installing equipment all night long, after we close for the day,” Stephen Yaw, Sr. told East Portland News on October 3. “And, most of our employees are getting on-the-job training – business has been that good during our ‘soft opening’ a couple of weeks ago.”

As life-long restaurateur, many would think he’d choose to move away from the hustle-and-bustle of running a traditional diner. But, Yaw said former employees persuaded him to consider opening a new location of the once-iconic Portland drive-in diners.

“It took about three years to find the right property,” Yaw said. “When we found this location, we jumped on it.

[Also seen on our Front Page] Serving customers wearing her poodle skirt and white saddle shoes, Adrienne Atwood says working at Yaw’s Top Notch is “super-fun”!

“We believe Gateway is a great area. There was a Yaw’s Take-out restaurant at NE 107th and NE Halsey Street – it’s now King’s Omelets,” Yaw went on. “I grew up out here, and went to Reynolds High School. I was involved in the business from about six years old, when I started taking the stems off the strawberries, and cutting the French fries.”

The former Carrows Restaurant building in outer East Portland at 11340 NE Halsey Street had fallen on hard times, and was most recently the location of Gossip Sport Bar – an establishment that reportedly showed up on numerous police reports.

“The building was the right size, there’s lots of parking – and we even have room for in-car service, just like people remember,” Yaw said. “Pull up, flash your headlights, and we’ll come serve you!”

As for it being the “right size”, Yaw explained that they needed a building large enough to house their bakery and meat department – two unusual features for a modern fast-food restaurant.

Everything – from the menu items, to the décor – will bring back memories to those who remember the Yaw’s diners…and will bring back younger customers who discover the high quality of the restaurant’s food.

“We bake our own pies from scratch, from our old family recipes,” Yaw continued. “People are already requesting their favorites – from double-crusted fruit pies to banana, chocolate, and strawberry cream pies, when they’re in season.”

Yaw revealed that they cut and grind their own USDA choice chuck beef, which comes from two ranches in Oregon and Washington. “It’s more than just ‘Inspected’ – it’s also ‘Tested’, and has a USDA Certificate that ‘follows the meat’ from the pasture to the plate.”

Guests are encourages to slide onto a stool at the soda fountain, and be served drinks and desserts by trained “soda jerks”.

Once in the door, customers’ eyes are certain to be drawn to the soda fountain island – ringed by stills and a counter. “It’s staffed with ‘soda jerks’ making hard ice cream milkshakes,” he said. “So, if those are not a little bit lumpy, they’re not made right.  Banana splits, ‘Black-and-Whites’, ‘Short and Thicks’ – all the favorites are here, including the ‘Red White & Blue Patriotic Parfait’.”

Something that makes their restaurant different from others they’ve run – and from most modern restaurants, too – is that “We’re going ‘green’. Almost everything we use is compostable – including the drinking straws. We’ve worked hard to find compostable packaging,” Yaw shared.

Those not choosing to be seated inside the retro-decorated 165-seat diner – and to be served by one of their 75 crew members – will soon be welcome to park in one of the 14 “car service” spots in front of the building, mentioned Yaw.

“Once we get our serving trays, and put up our signs, customers will be able to drive up, and turn on their headlights for car service. ‘Car Hops’ will take the food out and serve the food at the cars. We’re getting our takeout department set up – that’s growing more quickly than we thought.”

Fortunately for the diners, they won’t be served by GABA Keystone Kops at the soda fountain, owner Stephen Yaw Sr., (far left) says.

Week-long grand opening
The official grand opening of this new mid-County restaurant starts on October 15, and culminates on Sunday, October 21 with cruise-ins, live rock-and-roll music – and, of course, all of the traditional food and beverage favorites, Yaw said.

Yaw’s Top Notch is located at 11340 NE Halsey Street – and, as of October 15, will be open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.

> For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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