EVERETT — David Barney has left the building, and he left about 50 Barney namesakes behind.
What’s up with that?
Barney’s Pastrami Dip, the quirky deli with the quirky sandwich artist, is cuisine history.
Barney, who ran the place solo, would at times close his eatery for short spells due to illness or injury.
This time, it’s closed for good.
A court-approved eviction notice can be seen on the window at 5130 Evergreen Way, next to Northwest Camera Repair in the small plaza at the 52nd Street SE intersection.
Barney, in his late 70s with fluffy white hair and a mustache, was a one-man pastrami show, steaming the thin pink meat and piling it on buns lathered with mustard, ringing orders with Fox News chiming in the background.
On the walls, dozens of photos of celebrities he renamed Barney with name tags created a universe where Marilyn Monroe was Marilyn Barney, Albert Einstein was Albert Barney, and so on.
The place defined the word dive. The disheveled dining room was a mash of plastic lawn chairs at four tables with plastic tablecloths, plastic salt-and-pepper shakers at the ready. On the counter, a cluster of sticky sauce bottles.
Many customers got the sandwiches to go. Those dining in could listen to Barney break out in fragments of song.
Now the place is silent.
Landlord Seth Brooks wants to know.
“He just kind of left us high and dry about a year ago,” Brooks said. “We gave him a grace period and tried to contact him. And I only got him to answer one of my messages once. It said, ‘I’ll call you Friday.’”
That was in April.
Brooks said he cleaned out the freezer after neighbors complained about the odor of old pastrami. Court records show an eviction order was filed in August. Brooks said he is sorry that he had to take action and that he wants Barney to be able to get his belongings.
“If you reach him, tell him I’d really like to talk to him,” Brooks said. “I had somebody say they’ve seen him in Everett.”
The Daily Herald tried to find Barney. The shop’s phone number has a recorded message as if the place is open. Calls were not returned.
The dining room still looks much the same. Celebrity pics beam from the walls. In front of the high counter, where Barney sliced and spiced, a banner reads, “Tantalizing, mouthwatering, delicious on a hoagie roll, $10.45.”
Customers continue to be hopeful about getting a hoagie.
“They still come to the door looking for him,” Brooks said.
Barney’s had a loyal following. Patrons stepped up to the counter in suits and coveralls.
“For many of us, Barney’s Pastrami Dip will be a revelation housed in a gritty little storefront,” Herald news editor Mark Carlson wrote in a 2009 dining review. “Waiting in line to place my order, I half-expected to see Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts darkening the doorway.”
The pastrami “has the right amount of fat — not too much, not too little,” Carlson wrote. “The moist, fragrant, falling-out-of-the-sandwich pastrami went down well with the pickles.”
Pastrami is one of those you-either-like-it-or-you-don’t foods. It’s big in Chicago and New York City, but not exactly a comfort food in the Pacific Northwest.
As the sole employee, Barney would at times shut down on short notice with no explanation.
A Herald reader concerned about Barney in 2015 asked the paper to please investigate, writing, “I simply want to make sure he is OK.”
Turns out Barney was recovering from a car crash. Other absences were from a fall at home and gout.
Barney’s Pastrami was on the “Good Things Happen Here” T-shirt produced in 2016 by Live in Everett, among icons such as the 20-foot muffler man and Jetty Island.
Barney opened the Everett deli after he retired about 20 years ago from Gai’s bakery in Seattle.
The wall of stars with Barney name tags caught on, covering two walls with the likes of Ashley Judd, Johnny Depp and Hilary Swank.
Only those he admired got a place on the Barney wall of fame.
David Barney’s customers all earned his surname.
“They are all Barneys,” he told The Herald. “They are my family. They are supporting me and helping this dream to be fulfilled. Without them I’d be nowhere.”
If not claimed, what will happen to all those Barney pictures?
“I don’t know if anybody wants them,” Brooks said.
Maybe the memories are fulfilling enough.
A Yelp reviewer wrote: “There were bad days when I worked up the road. Barney always made sure I was going to feel better after lunch. Thanks for all the killer subs my dude Grandpa.”