The Rainbow Cafe

By Angus Grant

Lake Area Shopping Guide - July/August 1979

Then...

Its a lovely Saturday night in early June.

TIME: 1 A M. in the morning.
YEAR: Anytime in the forties.
PLACE: The Rainbow Cafe landmark and gathering place for all ages and groups.

The line outside is getting longer, and the hostess is busily seating groups of worn-out but happy youngsters arriving from their various Senior Proms, while Papa Christ Legeros is chatting amicably with a local man and his wife, or perhaps an out-of-town celebrity come to sample the Rainbow quality for the first time or refresh their memory from the last.

This was the Rainbow of yesteryear which had catered to every Governor of the State of Minnesota since 1930, as well as all the U of M football teams, theirs being an annual affair looked forward to by the players and their wives or sweet hearts. In fad Fred Hovde, U of M football player and later president of Purdue University, met his wife at the Rainbow.

Had you known who they were you might have noticed Hubert and Muriel Humphrey or perhaps Jim Arness of "Gunsmoke" fame.

When famed entertainers Ted Lewis, Martha Raye, the Andrews Sisters, and Paulette Goddard (Mrs Charles Chaplin) were in town, they could be seen as could Sophie Tucker, "last of the Red Hot Mamas." maybe even Clara Dow, the original "It" girl.

Later generation Rainbow customers could have eyed such figures as Sir Tyrone Guibrie, actors George Grizzard and George Maharis, Frank Langella-- newest portrayer of Dracula; Peter, Paul & Mary of musical fame; Now Vice President and Mrs. Mondale, as well as our newest Senators Boswitz and Durenberger.

From the world of religion Patriarch Athenagoras I came as did Pastor Rueben Youngdahl of Mount Olives Lutheran Church. The renowned polio fighter Sister Kenny was there frequently as were Gina Bachauer famed concert pianist, and now U.S. Circuit Court Judge Luther Youngdahl.

The Rainbow grew from a small 1919 coffee shop started by Christ Legeros, after he dropped some dishes during a Milwaukee bus boy stint, and "lit out of town to Minneapolis." Eleven years later he and brother John had commandeered the entire northwestern corner of Lake & Hennepin, and by 1941 they were an "eating entity" in the Twin Cities.

Rainbow Cafe Postcard

The second generation Legeros legacy begun to take shape after World War II in the persons of George & John, together with Conn who opted to build and operate a "car wash" in the rear of the restaurant, while his brothers were being groomed to eventually take over for Christ and John.

George, who was used to "sitting on a keg of dynamite" having attended the U of Chicago where the atomic bomb was developed, found that exposure useful in dealing with some of the new-era problems confronting restaurateurs after World War II. He and brother John knew that no major changes were in order, but added such touches as a continuing Art Show, and some minimal remodeling together with their friendly and personal touch.

Late night television changed people’s habits and finally dictated the elimination of the all-night hours, but almost everything else that the Rainbow had to offer remained in effect. Finally in early ‘79 after resisting many offers for the business and the property, all three brothers agreed that maybe someone else should have a chance to further the cause of Lake and Hennepin progress, and they made way for the new owners, Norm Ackerberg and Rob Sabes.


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