Iconic Steakburger feted for tradition of good food, family fun

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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More than a few dozen resolutions, spotlighting causes and honoring people, are signed every year by the Board of Clark County Commissioners.

The resolution read Tuesday honoring an iconic Hazel Dell establishment was more lighthearted than most.

Chairman Marc Boldt said it was a real privilege for him and Commissioners Steve Stuart and Tom Mielke to mark the 50th anniversary of Steakburger & Golf-O-Rama.

Boldt, 57, said he was 5 or 6 years old when he first picked up a putter at Steakburger. He joked that exposure to miniature golf kept him from learning how to play golf, because he knew it wouldn't be as much fun.

"You saved me a lot of money," Boldt told owners Merilyn and Bob Condon, who opened the former drive-thru restaurant on Jan. 1, 1962. Merilyn, 71, and Bob, 73, built the two 18-hole courses on wetlands behind the restaurant. Merilyn's parents purchased the restaurant, because the owners of the drive-thru wouldn't sell to Bob because they thought he was too young.

The resolution said Steakburger was noted for "good food, good family fun and a great place for a first date" and recognized that "many generations of Clark County residents have had memorable and affordable miniature golf outings because of Steakburger's presence in our community."

Stuart, who like Boldt grew up in Clark County, recalled fun times at Steakburger — with the exception of the infamous volcano hole, which got its own line in the resolution.

"Whereas, many a miniature golf enthusiast has cried or cheered as the game's outcome was decided as the ball navigated the round, mound hole called Mount St. Helens," Boldt read.

"Now, therefore, be it resolved by this Clark County Board of Commissioners that we do hereby commemorate Steakburger's 50 years serving and contributing to our community; and be it further resolved that we do in unison extend our best wishes for the continued success of Steakburger for the next 50 years and beyond," Boldt read.

Burgers and shakes

At lunchtime Tuesday, diners included Kelly and Courtney McCuen of Salmon Creek and their children, Ian, 8, and Keira, 5. The family was eating outside, enjoying burgers and fries before playing a round of golf. Courtney McCuen said the family visits Steakburger every few months; their youngest started playing when she was 3.

Keira said she likes playing mini golf — and Steakburger's milkshakes, too.

Steakburger Manager John Derr, the first nonfamily member hired as a manager, joined the staff in 2009. He said the restaurant has between 14 and 16 employees in the summer, fewer in the winter.

"I've got some really good people," Derr said.

The combination of burgers and miniature golf has wide appeal: Derr said teenagers play at night, but adult couples and retirees play in addition to families. It costs $2.50 to play 18 holes for children ages 11 and younger; $3.50 for people 12 and older. People who play all 36 holes save $1.

During the school year, Steakburger distributes coupons to schools that are used as rewards for good readers. Derr said he also distributes coupons that are given to people who complete court-ordered anger management classes.

During the summer, Steakburger, 7120 N.E. Highway 99, has also hosted youth camps but, again, it's not just for kids. Today there will be a corporate golf tournament, Derr said, and players will enjoy a buffet-style lunch.

The 50th anniversary was marked in December with a special on Jumbo burgers. Steakburger's meat comes from Fulton Provision Co. in Portland, while the dairy comes from Portland's Alpenrose Dairy, Derr said.

Looking forward, Derr said he plans to promote the "corporate golf tournament and lunch" idea, and brighten the interior to make the restaurant even more inviting for birthday parties. The parties are booked solid throughout the summer, but drop off during the cool and rainy months.

"As long as we keep our food and service up where it should be and keep people happy, we have room to grow," Derr said.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.