01 August 2009

Eating by a Small Waterfall

The best hamburgers in Portland were served at a place called The Carnival. You watched them cooked over leaping flames, and then you carried them over to a round carousel-like arrangement where every condiment known to man could be found. Unlimited pickles were my personal enthusiasm; none of this three doled out and spaced carefully about the bun stuff. Weather permitting you could eat outside by a small waterfall, and watch squirrels zip about in the vegetation. I know they had a variety of other food, but the hamburgers are what I remember.

The decor consisted mainly of old circus posters, possibly genuine, along with paintings of clowns and performing animals. The dining area was entirely surrounded by windows, and at least some of them looked out into the greenery. Once in 1969 my father had a flat tire not too far away, and he parked my brother and me there with cokes while he went off to get it fixed. For reasons too complicated to explain here (it's part of a whole other story) I was clutching a sack containing two infant iguanas at the time. They were now scrabbling around quite vigorously and I had visions of them clawing through the side of the sack and racing off into the depths of the restaurant. Fortunately nothing of the sort occurred, but the fantasy made an otherwise forgettable experience memorable.

A few years back I took my niece and family to the Carnival; the name had changed to the Carousel but in other respects it was much the same. The decor was somewhat the worse for wear, and the new owner was present. It turned out that we were the last customers to eat there under the old regime; the next day it was closing down for remodeling, and when it reopened, it would reopen as a teriyaki place. The new owner spoke vaguely of keeping at least some of the original menu, but it was apparent that the old days were pretty much gone. Presumably forever.

Today, for no good reason—I was trying out a supposedly new MySpace feature, actually—I tried invoking the Carnival genii, forgetting for the moment that it was no more. It wasn't there; neither was the Carousel. I googled it finally—and finally turned up a set of pictures. It seems the teriyaki place never thrived, and closed down not all that long after opening. From the looks of it the building just sat for awhile. Somebody had posted a set of pictures of the place as it looked not long before it was torn down.

Apparently there's nothing there now but parking lot. I don't think I'll bother to check it out, to tell the truth. There was always something a little sad about the place, a little tacky, but damn, they made good hamburgers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too have fond memories of the Carnival-- great grilled-to-perfection hamburgers, really decent tomato slices and pickles, nothing pre-slathered, so that each family member could have a hamburger to his or her taste. We seldom used the outdoor tables, because of weather, but the windows looked out on the waterfall and parking lot, and there was always expectancy and a touch of excitement about just being there. All were happy ... rfh

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