The Oregonian didn't do justice to Max Birnbach in his obituary, which ran on March 19. Mr. Birnbach is best remembered in Portland for buying Rose's Restaurant -- the original one on NW 23rd Avenue, from which calories dripped like cake frosting -- in 1968 from its founder, Rose Naftalin, and running it until 1992 when he sold it and the two other Rose's locations that he'd opened in the meantime.
Mr. Birnbach's life story went far beyond the impossibly outsize pastrami sandwiches and towering cake slices that made Rose's famous. He was born in Vienna in 1912. As a young man he was sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis after they overran Austria. He escaped to Switzerland and made his way to the United States. He entered the restaurant business and rose to become the restaurant manager of the Benson Hotel, leaving it in 1968 to buy and run Rose's. His was a remarkable story suitable for a movie, such as this one, called "In Vienna They Put You in Jail: The Max Birnbach Story."
He was spry and active well into his nineties. A few months ago I spotted him lunching in a quiet corner of the Benson's London Grill restaurant. I think he skipped dessert.