By Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
The 60’s Cafe & Diner in Lincoln City is back in action, with new ownership, a fresh new menu, a full bar and even a new outdoor seating area.
“Pretty much everything is new,” said Greg Behnke, who reopened the restaurant five months ago. “Even the things you can’t see.”
What hasn’t changed is in the name — the decor and music still pay homage to a time when hair was taller, cars were longer, and TVs didn’t need parental control settings.
“The music of the ‘60s is totally my music,” Behnke said. “Sometimes my staff begs me to stop singing along with it.”
Modern flat-screen TVs on the walls help to channel the past, showing classic comedy movies, vintage commercials and cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Popeye.
“We have customers come just to watch the cartoons while they eat,” said Manager Kevin Szmania. “Popeye is very popular.”
Szmania was a manager at the cafe under previous owners many years ago, but moved on to manage other businesses including the Rusty Truck Brewery and the Mist. He was enticed back by Behnke, attracted by the prospect of helping to reinvent the business.
“We’ve been working very hard on the menu,” he said. “And we’ve been getting great reviews since we reopened, so it was worth it.”
It’s probably no coincidence that when asked their favorite menu items, there was something in common — Behnke named the bacon cheeseburger with corned beef, while Szmania’s favorite is the Rueben sandwich, made with thinly sliced corned beef on rye bread, melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.
“We cook our corned beef fresh,” Szmania said. “We also cook our turkey meat. We actually don’t buy any prepackaged sandwich meats.”
“In the ‘60s, no one bought prepackaged meats,” added Behnke.
They also make the dressings in house, including ranch, blue cheese, honey mustard and thousand island.
“I’m all about making things fresh,” Szmania said. “I learned it from my older brother.”
A new menu item, fish tacos, is accented by a house-made mustard-Sriracha aioli.
“Fresh fish on its own doesn’t have that much flavor,” Behnke said. “A great fish taco really depends on a great sauce, and should have a decent amount of it, not just a little dribble.”
The cod fish used in the tacos also appears in the restaurant’s fish and chips — hand-breaded fish served with garlic bread and house-made tartar sauce.
Small plates options on the Happy Hour menu include sweet potato fries, the perfect accompaniment to drinks specials served from 3 to 6 pm. The happy hour menu is also where you will find sliders for $3 each; choose from cheeseburger, bacon cheese, John Wayne, Swiss mushroom or Hawaiian.
On the regular menu, full-size burgers come with a seven-ounce all-American beef patty accented with house-made 60’s sauce and classic toppings.
A 60’s cafe wouldn’t be complete without milkshakes, and with 25 flavors and the willingness to try any combination, these shakes will make you rattle and roll.
“We regularly sell over 100 shakes in a day,” Szmania said. “They are made with just ice cream, no milk added, and whatever flavoring the customer wants.” Flavors include classic fruit varieties and rich sweet treats like Oreo cookie, peanut butter and pumpkin pie.
“There’s a reason they say we’ve got the best shakes in town,” Behnke said. “Plus they’re big. There’s enough for couples that want to share. Or for a person enjoying their own, we serve the mixer with the glass, so they get much more than just the single serving.”
Shakes can also be served adult style, as a “boozy shake,” now that 60’s Cafe has a full bar.
“Now we can serve things like bloody Marys and bloody beer,” Behnke said.
The bar also features six beers on tap, and while the brands will change, they will be sticking to Oregon breweries.
And anything from the kitchen or bar can be enjoyed outside, rain or shine, in the new outdoor seating area, which is enclosed in glass.
“We’re really trying to revive this part of the mall,” Behnke said. “We’ve redone not just the cafe, but we’ve opened an event center that can be reserved for any kind of party or music event, and we’ve made the laundromat really nice and clean too, because shouldn’t a laundromat be clean?”
But the cosmetic changes are just the dressing on the real mission — to give people a place that has good food and a welcoming atmosphere, with Behnke even going so far as to make a shopping trip to fetch ingredients after one customer ordered a dish that was no longer on the menu.
“If you do things like that, people remember you and come back,” Behnke said. “I love food, I love people, and I love the coast; this has been a really good adventure.”
The 60’s Cafe is located in the Lighthouse Square Mall in the north end of Lincoln City, 4157 NW Hwy. 101, and is open from 11 am to 8 pm Sunday to Thursday and from 11 am to 9 pm Saturday and Sunday. For more information about the cafe, laundromat or event center/party space, call 541-996-6898.