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 March 20, 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, early customers were greeted with mild weather. The lunchtime crowd saw some wet snow flurries.
“Yeah, so what? It’s snowing, who cares?” one customer said. “It’s opening day at Rudy’s; it’ll take a lot more than a little snow to stop me!”
More than a dozen cars lined up in front of the eatery shortly before its scheduled 10 a.m. opening.
The first patron to place an order this season was Debbie Gilmore.
“This is the first time I’ve been the very first,” she exclaimed. “Usually I come here around lunchtime. I have a busy day. I was out early doing errands.”
Her daughter is usually with her. But this year, she’s in school, she said, adding the youngster would probably be a bit upset over missing open day.
Urban legend holds that if a “tardy” high school student returns with some Rudy’s fare for their teachers, they won’t be marked absent. However, no high schoolers were observed this year.
“We’ve been coming here opening day ever since I can remember. It’s a tradition,” another patron said. “It’s always the same, a fish hot and fries for me and a Texas hot and fries for him. Some times, we splurge and get some clams and mushrooms, too!”
Jayden Perchway-Tyler enjoyed an early lunch with his parents. He had a plateful of French fries with ranch dressing and ketchup to dip them.
After the initial rush of around 20 hungry customers, there was a short lull until close to 11 a.m. Then, the parking lot resembled a hot August night, with vehicles parked out front and stretching along the lakeshore.
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, who unfailingly memorized the orders and cooked each to perfection within minutes.
Opening day is kind of trial run for the summer when things really get busy, they said.
Almost everyone ate their meals inside. Some carried their food in cardboard trays out to their vehicles. Only a couple braved the chilly wind to dine at one of the picnic tables overlooking the waves on Lake Ontario.
“It’s always fun when you get that first group in,” said Jason Livesey, general manager.
“They’re the ones waiting by the doors. What I’m really excited about this morning is the sun’s out!”
This year, they weren’t looking to do “anything special or crazy right off the bat,” he said.
“We take a guess on when the weather is going to stay right. It just kind of worked out that today was the day. I was kind of pleasantly surprised when I woke up this morning and the sun was out. Hope it stays like this the rest of March,” he said.
The restaurant goes through about 30 to 50 cases of its famous Texas hot sauce during the first week they open each year, according Livesey. “It’s one of our traditional favorites,” he explained.
“I’ve been ready to go for two months,” one hungry customer told Oswego County Today. “The weather has been just great this year and then all of a sudden it got cold and snowy again.”
Gilmore agreed. “Opening day at Rudy’s is a tradition, just like Christmas,” she said. “I don’t skip Christmas – and I don’t miss opening day, either.”
Livesey describes the lakeside landmark as a social area and entertainment as well as great food.
“I’m glad to see so many people here today, on opening day. It’s a tradition for so many people to be here on opening day, and the rest of the season as well,” he said. “And we really enjoy it, too. A lot of our friends come back every year. We like seeing them and catching up with them.”
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.
For more information, visit http://rudyshot.com/ or visit them on Facebook.