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May 17

“Can’t Get A Shitty Meal Here”…

Posted by: Mark Solon        

On Friday afternoon, my wife and I were driving through rural eastern Oregon on our way to Washington. We stopped in the small town of Pendleton (home of the Pendleton Roundup, one of the ten largest rodeos in the world) for the night for an incredible steak at Stetson’s and a few hours of shuteye.

Before getting on the road early Saturday morning, we asked for the best breakfast in town. “Rainbow Cafe, hands down” we were told. When we walked in we knew right away it was a special place. The walls were a venerable museum, lined with pictures and artifacts of more than a century of life in the old west. “Do we seat ourselves?” my wife asked the woman behind the bar (yes, she was pouring drinks on Saturday morning). “Only if you want to eat” she responded with a big smile.

Locals gathering outside the Rainbow Cafe in 1893

Locals gathering outside the Rainbow Cafe in 1893

We sat and opened our menus. I turned mine over and was excited to see a history of Pendleton and the Rainbow (Since moving to Idaho, I love learning about the old west). Pendleton got its start in 1865 as a stop on the Oregon Trail and boomed between 1880 and 1890. Sheep, cattle, wheat and mining fueled Pendleton’s economy which included many saloons and bawdy houses. The Rainbow was established in 1893 and was first known as the “State Saloon and Banquet”. The Rainbow is Pendleton’s oldest continuously open and operated bar and restaurant and the oldest doing business at the same location.

We weren’t sitting more than a minute or two before we overheard a group of about eight adults in the back in a somewhat animated conversation. After a minute or two of some serious eavesdropping, we realized this group was talking about Twitter. “I’ve heard that the Sheriff’s office is using twitter to monitor behavior” one woman said. “I’ve heard they do it anonymously” chimed in another. Throughout the rest of breakfast, the group went about on and on about Twitter.

The group in the back went on about Twitter

Inside the Rainbow Cafe. Pam's in front. The group in the back went on and on about Twitter.

Okay Mark, great story but what does this have to do with technology and venture capital? Well, not much if the Rainbow Cafe was in the same town as Bucks & Il Fornio. However Pendleton is located in the northeast part of Oregon, about a half an hour from nowhere and the population is 16,000. The only thing Pendleton has in common with Palo Alto is that they both begin with the letter “P”.

We were just finishing up our fantastic breakfast when we noticed an elderly gentleman walking out. Dressed in Wranglers and cowboy boots with a big ‘ol white Stetson on his head, tucked beneath the arm of his neatly pressed cowboy shirt was a shiny laptop. We paid the bill and as I walked out and saw a row of dusty pickup trucks parked in front, I was firmly struck by just how much the playing field has changed. In Pendleton, OR they’re talking about Twitter over breakfast and weather-beaten cowboys are carrying laptops…

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you how I came up with the name for this post. I’ve got a somewhat particular way of ordering a meal in a restaurant. Given that I love just about all foods, no matter where I go I always ask my server what their favorite dish on the menu is. The majority of the time, I’ll go with their recommendation. Sometimes I’ll just say, “bring me your favorite dish and surprise me.” I’ve been doing this for years and have had some of the best meals of my life this way. When I asked the waitress at the Rainbow what her favorite breakfast was she grinned and deadpanned “Everything’s great, you can’t get a shitty meal here…”

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