Business heats up at revived Igloo eatery

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter




History: First opened in 1948. Remodeled in 2002.

New owners: Jorge and Andrea Estrada.

Location: 3128 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver.

Menu: Burgers, fries and shakes.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A blast from the local dining industry's past, the Igloo Restaurant, is making a comeback under new owners, who are bringing back menu items that date back to the 65-year-old diner's 1940s-era origins.

Burgers, french fries and milkshakes are the restaurant's main offerings once again, said Jorge Estrada, who with his wife, Andrea Estrada, purchased the business in October. The venue is at 3128 E. Evergreen Blvd. across from the Washington School for the Deaf and next door to Harney Elementary School. The business was most recently owned by Evergreen Eatery Inc. of Vancouver, which closed the restaurant in late August, due to faltering sales.

Jorge Estrada, a seasoned local restaurant owner, does not expect similar problems under his management. He recently sold the El Presidente Mexican Restaurant, which he operated for 20 years in downtown Vancouver. Estrada said his business strategy for the Igloo was to eliminate rarely ordered menu items such as spaghetti and deli sandwiches that can create expense overages. He plans to keep the menu simple, fresh and local and maintain lower overhead expenses with shorter hours of operation and a smaller staff. The Estradas are operating the restaurant with the help of one part-time employee.

Business is "better than we anticipated so far," Jorge Estrada said.

The Igloo's business hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, four hours a day less than the previous owner's daily hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. . Estrada said the venue still gets a brisk lunchtime crowd that comes mainly from the nearby grade school and deaf school and from the International Air and Hospitality Academy just a few blocks away.

The restaurant's most popular burger is a piled-high cheeseburger, the All American. It sells for $5.95 and comes with fries.

"We do one trick and we do it well," Estrada said.

The new owners also brought back the Igloo Restaurant's 48 signature milkshakes, serving one flavor at a time as a weekly special to keep supply costs down.

"I pick one flavor and feature it for the week," Estrada said.

For example, the restaurant served a candy cane milkshake this month. Other flavors include nostalgic recipes such as Larry's Licorice Milkshake, named after a previous owner of the Igloo. The milkshakes come in two sizes and sell for $2.75 and $3.25.

Estrada said his restaurant's local suppliers include Jake's Meat Market in Vancouver and Portland French Bakery.

The building that houses the Igloo Restaurant is owned by Vancouver-based Keys Limited Partnership. It received a complete makeover in 2002 that included stainless steel exterior siding and '50s diner-style booths and counter stools on the inside. The restaurant seats about 30 people.