What the Hell Was Going on With This Portland Pizzeria From the 1950s?

For a few months in 1957, Francine’s Pizza Jungle served pies topped with frog legs, noodles and pickled herring—and possibly invented Hawaiian pizza.

You think pineapple pizza is polarizing? What about pizza topped with pork and beans? IMAGE: Janine/Wiki Commons.

In the last few years, Portland has evolved into one of the country's pizza meccas.

Sure, our anointment as "the world's greatest pizza city" in 2018 caused New Yorkers to plotz, and debates persist over whether there's any particular style we can truly call our own. But for sheer diversity, not many places can compete.

Related: Even New Yorkers Are Obsessed With Portland's Pizza Scene.

But that's a relatively recent development—ask local dining historians and many will point to the arrival of Apizza Scholls in 2005 as the launching point of Portland's pizza renaissance.

In 1957, options were a lot more limited. One ambitious pizzeria, however, apparently tried to single-handedly broaden the city's palate, in ways that could either be considered progressive or an utter abomination.

Last week, Portland game designer Neven Mrgan shared an ad on Twitter for a restaurant called Francine's Pizza Jungle from the Feb. 7, 1957, edition of The Oregonian. Located at 500 NW 21st Ave., it boasted of being "1st in Pizzas From Around the World"—and based on the menu, that effectively meant "taking the culinary stereotypes of various countries and dumping them on a pie."

Now, some of those items actually read as ahead of their time. The "American Pizza" is effectively a variant of the cheeseburger pizza Papa John's started hawking in 2014, and which you can get elsewhere in Portland right now. Most significantly, the "Hawaiian Pizza" used pineapple as a topping five years before the Canadian chef that's credited with inventing the practice—though to be fair, he made the wise decision to pair it with ham rather than papaya.

But frog legs? Pickled herring? Corned beef hash? Friggin' pork and beans? This being the 1950s, some of the dishes are borderline problematic for reasons that go beyond taste profiles: The "Chinese Pizza" is topped with noodles, because of course it is.

Not much else is known about Francine's Pizza Jungle. As XOXO founder Andy Baio points out, the concept was short-lived: Eight months after its first ad ran, the space was converted into Moreno's Mexico, which boasted of being "the first and only restaurant in Portland to limit its food service exclusively to authentic Mexican food." (Many other restaurants have come and gone at the corner of Northwest 21st and Glisan—it's currently occupied by Chinese restaurant Kung Pow.)

A restaurant called Mayan Jungle existed in the spot for six years prior, in that time undergoing a number of changes in both ownership and concept, which suggests the final iteration was a desperate bid to save a dying business. An Oregonian article from 1954—about the restaurant's struggle to obtain a liquor license—identifies the owner of Mayan Jungle as Marjorie June DeVault, whose husband, Herman DeVault, also operated bars and restaurants in Portland. But both have since passed on.

So, who was Francine? Is there anyone who's still alive that actually ate there or passed the memory down to their kids? If you have any other information about Francine's Pizza Jungle, please let us know.

Meanwhile, we'll be over here making the signature Jungle Pizza with cocktail fruit, applesauce and chopped nuts. What else is there to do on a smoke-choked Sunday afternoon?

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