Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ride the Blue Wave

Published in the Post Register October, 2009.
One way to measure how long you’ve lived in eastern Idaho is whether you still remember the Blue Wave as the Blue Room.

Long known for its delicious hamburgers, the Blue Room was purchased by Wes and Roxanne Smith in 2001 and became the Blue Wave. Not a lot else changed, however – weekend manager Rob Hawkins says it’s still just a “nice neighborhood bar and grill,” where hamburgers fill the grill at lunchtime and folks prefer barstools to tables.

“With the recession, people still like the things that they like,” says Hawkins.

What they mostly like is what Hawkins calls “the best cheeseburger in Idaho for five bucks.”

“We do our own burger patties, hand cut the beef,” says Hawkins on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by TV sets showing baseball, football and golf.

The Smiths also own the North Highway Café and once owned Debbie’s Brother, a bar on First Street known years ago for its sandwiches. In other words, if you’re looking for a laid-back, working-class place for food and/or drink, the Smiths have you covered.

The Blue Wave makes no pretense of trying to be anything more than that “nice neighborhood bar and grill” that Hawkins talks about. There’s an antler rack stuck high on the roof outside the building, for heaven’s sake. The patrons make sure there’s never any trouble.

“That’s the thing about this place,” he said. “We just don’t have any trouble. The customers make sure of that.”

Looking to attract some new faces, the Blue Wave now serves breakfast – steak and eggs is the specialty – on weekends. But mostly, it’s still populated by a familiar crowd, some of whom go back decades to the Blue Room days. That includes Hawkins, who would pop in after softball in the 1980s. Just blocks from Tautphaus Park, the Blue Wave still is that kind of watering hole.

There aren't many down-sides to the Blue Wave, but it is a bar and, therefore, there's ample opportunity to breathe in second-hand cigarette smoke. This isn't a health warning -- the cheeseburgers will likely kill you before the smoke. But it -- the smoke -- does cling to cotton sweatshirts and wool hats, both of which I happened to be wearing during my visit. Fortunately, Kathleen was forgiving.

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