OSWEGO TOWN, NY – Rudy’s welcomed back dozens of its closest friends on Wednesday.
Even though the calendar says the vernal equinox won’t take place until Sunday evening, local residents know better. Spring returns when the historic little restaurant nestled on the shore of Lake Ontario at The Loop throws open its doors.
This year, customers were greeted with mild weather, albeit a tad rainy.
Cars usually begin lining up in front of the eatery more than 90 minutes before its scheduled 10 a.m. opening.
However, this year the first patrons didn’t actually arrive until 10:02 a.m.
Don and Bev Alton were somewhat surprised when they walked through the door and found they were the first customers for the new season.
“Wow, this is the first time we’ve been first,” she exclaimed.
Within a matter of moments the parking lot resembled a hot August night, rather than a chilly and damp March morning.
Patrons, hungry to shake off the winter doldrums with some summer fare, placed their orders of French fries, fish, Texas hots and other items as the counter staff shouted the orders back to the cooks.
The restaurant goes through about 30 to 50 cases of its famous Texas hot sauce during the first week they open each year.
Most ate their meals inside while others carried their food in cardboard trays out to their vehicles. The pesky morning drizzle apparently was enough to dissuade people from dining outside at one of the picnic table overlooking the snowcapped icebergs remaining on Lake Ontario.
“I usually get the Blue Plate,” Bev Alton said. “Probably some mushrooms and ice tea, too.”
“I’m going to get a fish hot and a Texas hot and a chocolate milk,” her husband said, adding, “My sister-in-law is always trying to beat us here.”
“This is the earliest we’ve ever been here,” Bev said.
“Well, neither one of us is working anymore,” Don pointed out. “We’ve been here a couple of times checking to see if they were open yet.”
Jason Livesey, general manager, said he was glad to see so many people on opening day.
“It’s our 65th year. We’re excited. The weather has worked out in our favor. I was a little nervous a few weeks ago when it kept snowing,” he said.
“Starting last week, so many of our customers anticipate when we’re going to open, and I would say yesterday alone we must have taken about 100 phone calls from people asking ‘is it true you are opening tomorrow?’ It is a spring time tradition to be here opening day,” he continued.
He describes the lakeside landmark as a social area and entertainment as well as great food. Not much has been changed for the new season, he added.
“It’s a great place to come and meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while or make new friends,” he said. “We are going to do something to celebrate our 65th birthday.”
There are some new items that will appear on the menu during the season.
“We have a couple of things that I’m particularly excited about. One is a soft-shell crab sandwich. It’s a great sandwich; I think the people here are really going to like that,” he said. “And, we’ll be offering a few more spicy things. The next thing that I want to get in is lobster rolls. We won’t start those until probably about May.”
Rudy’s was opened in 1946 by Marie and Rudy Gadziala. It began as an open-air stand, later expanding and adding indoor seating.
Rudy’s second cousin, Brad Livesey with his wife, Carol (Jason’s parents), bought the restaurant when Gadziala died in 1976.
Brad and Carol began working at Rudy’s in 1960; Brad died in July of 2005.
Jason credits the success of the business to its staff and many loyal customers, in Oswego County and beyond.
“Most of all our staff is back this year. Some are part-time,” he noted. “We’re not really changing much this year. I love seeing all the people coming in and seeing all the friends they haven’t seen since last summer. Since the first week of November, I have been ready to come back here. As they say, if it’s not broken – don’t fix it.”