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Long-time West Salem restaurateur Annette Day returned to her roots and opened up Route 99 Bar & Grill in Brooks.

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Veteran regional restaurateur Annette Day, who grew up on the Lake Labish-area Haslebacher farm, opened Route 99 bar and grill in Brooks this past August.
Before she even began putting the steps in motion for her new Brooks endeavor, local restaurateur Annette Day had a name for it.

"I woke up one morning at 2 a.m. and it came to me," Day said of her "Route 99" establishment. "It just came to me, sort of a spin on Route 66; 99 is just 66 upside down."

Drink and dine at Route 99: with her spin on the Nat King Cole Trio ditty "(Get your kicks on) Route 66," Day took the first step toward a dream that was developing more subliminally.

Day is no stranger to the region's restaurant scene. A class of 1977 McNary High School graduate, she spent nearly a quarter of a century running Annette's Westgate Cafe, which she founded in the mid-1990s. Before that, she owned and operated Creekside Deli in Keizer for a decade.

Although Westgate still bears her name, she sold the establishment in May of 2017. Located at the site of the former Iggy's Bar & Grill, Route 99 is closer to home for Day, and in many ways closer to her heart.

Day grew up on a family farm in the Lake Labish area, the Haslebacher Farm, which earned distinction as an Oregon Century Farm back in 2017, roughly around the same time, Westgate Cafe was changing hands.

Day decided to move back closer to the home of her youth, in large part to be closer to her family. She bought a small, manageable spread in the area where she has a pasture, a small garden, and a place where her grandkids can visit from the city to get a taste of country life.

She bought a tractor. She got a dog. She tended chores.

Then one day a former employee pointed out to her that the site that housed Iggy's, which closed following a fire in July of 2018, was up for lease.

She agreed to take a look, and she had a conversation with building owner Adam Wittenberg. She thought it would be an ideal spot for a family restaurant. Indeed, her kin had historically supped at the site where previous establishments prior to Iggy's, served area folks.

There was still some trepidation.

"I was just starting to wind down," Day said.

Thirty-five plus years in the restaurant business requires some time to wind down. But it is also fodder for ideas.

"Being from this area, I know that this (family restaurant) is exactly what Brooks needed," she said.

Wittenberg agreed.

He approached Day to see what factors needed to be set in place to make it happen.

Once ripened the idea flourished quickly. Before long the contractors were spotted at work on the southwest corner of Highway 99 and Brooklake Road, and curiosity was brewing.

Route 99 opened in August, and the parking lot and seating areas populated quickly.

Day said this endeavor will be different than her previous ones. Four weeks after opening she continues to get a pulse on it.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Veteran regional restaurateur Annette Day, who grew up on the Lake Labish-area Haslebacher farm, opened Route 99 bar and grill in Brooks this past August. The smoker situated in the establishment's al fresco area serves up some of the most popular menu items, so far.

"This is turning out to be more of a meat-and-potatoes place," she said. "We use the smoker every day, and the brisket on the smoker is the best selling item on our menu, right now."

A walkthrough reveals a brighter atmosphere, even in the lounge, than what memories of Iggy's evokes. There is also an alfresco area out back to the west, where the smoker is situated, and the current seating is spaced expansively, in accordance with the COVID-19 distancing protocol.

Within that protocol, there are no bar stools. But when distancing measures abate, patrons will enjoy a glossed wooden bar top adorned by vintage coins and other quaint artifacts plucked from Brooks of yore.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Veteran regional restaurateur Annette Day stands before the bar of her recently opened Route 99 bar and grill in Brooks. Day, who owned and operated Annette's Westgate Cafe in West Salem and Creekside Deli in Keizer, grew up in the Lake Labish area.

For Day, it's back to the restaurant business, but it is also a coming home.

"It's been fun being here. I've met so many people I know or who know who I am," she mused. "They have been so supportive and (receptive to) making this a local hangout for them."

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Old coins and artifacts from the Brooks area adorn the glossy top bar at Route 99, which opened in late August.

If you go

What: Route 99

Where: 9015 Portland Road (Highway 99E), Brooks, Oregon

Phone: 503-983-9090

Web: Facebook www.facebook.com/route99.brooks; @route99.brooks


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