Wolffy’s Hamburgers, a 1950s style restaurant and a legacy in the Gonzaga community, permanently closed its doors on Jan. 16.
Owned by the Davis family, Wolffy’s got its start in 1988 when Bob Davis Jr. decided to open a diner on the corner of Monroe Street and Francis Avenue. Davis went all in with remote jukeboxes lining the walls and carhops who served sizzling burgers right to the customer’s window.
Over the years, the family moved from the original location to the corner of Sharp Avenue and Hamilton Street. Its close proximity to the school, nostalgic theme and affordable prices made it a quick favorite among GU students, and while it no longer offered carhop service, the quality kept people coming for over 30 years.
“To be honest with you, there really isn’t any secret, there’s just doing everything right,” Davis said.
Being close to the school created a different atmosphere in the restaurant, Davis said. With only 17 barstools, Friday and Saturday nights at Wolffy’s meant standing room only. Davis said it became the hot spot for postgame fuel, late-night snacks and, back when they served breakfast, deep fried French toast. Davis specifically remembers watching the GU basketball team duck through the door every season for some burgers.
“It kind of felt like one of those little Gonzaga traditions,” sophomore Rod Gonzalez said. “It could be tenting, it could be going to a basketball game, but in this case, it’s just having a burger and a really good milkshake.”
For Gonzalez, the diner was a piece of home. Being a Southern California native meant not only was he far from home in Spokane, but also far from the nearest In-N-Out Burger. When Gonzalez came to tour GU, a family friend brought him straight to Wolffy’s.
“My friend said, ‘OK, In-N-Out is good, but Wolffy’s, Wolffy’s is on another level.’” Gonzalez said. “And I will personally attest it meets that claim. I will 180% say that.”
Another thing that attracted people to Wolffy’s was the sense of family. Not only was it family-run, but the size of the actual space meant only three to five employees could work at a time.
Dominic MacIsaac, a sophomore at GU, worked as a server at Wolffy’s and said the atmosphere was fast paced but personal.
“My co-workers and I were such a tight knit group,” MacIsaac said. “You really got to see the personalities of the few people you worked with.”
He said it really differed from a normal serving job because there wasn’t anywhere to hide. With the grill open and sitting about 5 feet away from the customer, MacIsaac was always right in the center of action. For Davis, however, that fostered a unique sense of connection.
“With 17 barstools and an open grill, you get to know everyone,” he said.
Davis said he believes it’s one of the things that added to the quality. It minimized wait time for food and meant the customer could see exactly what they were getting. All the cooks had to do was turn around and hot food was set down right in front of customers.
This closure is not the end of Wolffy’s, to the delight of many in the GU community. Davis’ son and daughter-in-law continue to run Wolffy’s Breakfast Burgers and Brew in Airway Heights, but the red stools, checkered floors and neon will be sorely missed. As for Davis, 54 years in the business has taken its toll.
“I’m supposed to be retiring,” Davis said, but laughed because he also said there’s really no retiring in the restaurant world. “I’m probably going to lay low for a while, I think I need to rest up a bit. You never want to give up your dreams, but sometimes you have to adjust your dreams to fit your age.”
From the bacon cheeseburger revelers to the chili cheese fry lovers, Davis thanks everyone for loving Wolffy’s enough to give it 33 years.
“It’s been a good life, a hard life,” Davis said. “Any type of business where you put your heart and soul into it and work seven days a week is a lot of work. But it’s been good to us over the years. We raised a couple of really nice kids and it’s been a really good life.”