My partner and I decided to have breakfast this morning at the brand-newly open McMenamins Spar Cafe & Bar. (Hey, I just noticed that has a simple rhyme.) The place was very busy in the front, but there were still about 1/3 of the tables open in the back. The breakfast food was decent and not too expensive. They were still a bit dis-organized. For example, they couldn’t find soy milk for my chai and they had only Habenero hot sauce for my hash browns and not a drop of a more stomach-friendly version.
They still sell tobacco products from a humidor cabinet. I wonder, assuming that the other locations don’t, if selling specialty tobacco will migrate from the Spar to other McMenamins elsewhere? That would be an interesting twist, to have a signature product from one new location move to all the others.
However, they do not have a spot for music. Apparently they are still thinking about that, and will gauge demand. So, if you loved the Jazz and other music, you should let them know. For me, honestly, I never made it down for music at the old, though I thought about it. I was vaguely hoping that the new would offer something that was enticing enough to get me to go there for music.
The presence of a McMenamins in downtown made me think about what a Burgerville might be like up this far. I suppose then downtown would become a regional-brand theme park, but maybe that would be an interesting thing for a state capital to be?
Near the door, there were some stacks of flyers for some McMenamins things, like the White Eagle in Portland and the Olympic Club in Centralia. In addition to these, there is a double-sided sheet with information on the history of the Spar.
The story is interesting, in spite of need for a minor copy edit on the version I picked up. (Like I’m one to point fingers on that score … only I just did.) A secondary message I got from this was an attempt to connect the historic chain of Spar restaurants with the chain of McMenamins. But, the main message I got was that since the start this location has changed hands and faces, as if to say this transition to new old is not so far from the real history of the location. From a various things, including a saloon, from at least the 1880’s, and the Oxford starting in 1905, the beginnings of the Spar in 1935 wasn’t the beginning of the space, and that the Spar also has changed ownership in the past. Therefore, this sheet seems to being suggesting, the passing of the old to the new old is not incongruous nor breaking a much more historical tradition of various saloons and owners. Interestingly, the sheet frankly acknowledges the challenge of change “has caused a few locals to mourn The Spar’s change of hands–and why not?” This is a double message that says history is important to us all, but also not to fear change.
It will be interesting to see how the new Spar is received across the various cross-sections of Olympia, and whether this quasi-local quasi-chain restaurant will be shunned or not. Especially, when the novelty wears off …