Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fat Ronnie's

Before Ron moved to Wichita and became an electrician, he was in the food business. He managed several fast food restaurants over the years and eventually decided to open his own place.

From 1973 until Christmas 1976, Ron owned and operated a restaurant in Topeka, KS called Fat Ronnie's. He used to close between Christmas and New Year's, and in 1976 decided that he'd had enough. He sold Mexican, Subs, smoked meats, BBQ, deep fried mushrooms (says he had the first deep fried mushrooms in the state - and they were awesome), and fried onion rings.

The sign was a life-sized replica of himself. His body outline was drawn on plexi-glass and a sign was made from that. His motto was, "If you like the food, tell a friend. If you don't, tell Fat Ronnie." People would write notes on the white butcher paper wrappers (and napkins) telling Ron how much they loved his food. He was a BBQ master! He had a bunch of different condiments that he made - hot mustards, BBQ sauces, Italian dressing - and people clamored for more. The condiments were "self-serve" and were displayed on a 55-gallon barrel in the lobby. The bulk of his business was between midnight and 4:00 AM. When the bars would close, the bar patrons would be hungry and they'd make their way to Fat Ronnie's to have some good food. (I guess you could say that Ron actually had "fourth meal" before Taco Bell did.)

Ron's got so many funny stories to tell about his restaurant. One of them involves a microwave. He'd never used one before and had no idea that over-done bread would get hard as a rock after a few minutes of being out of the microwave. He'd fix up a sub, plop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes - they'd come out and be really hot and soft. By the time the customer got condiments, drinks, etc. the sandwich would be hard as a rock - crispy. It didn't take too many Subs for him to learn how to work it.

There are many recipe sites on the Internet that list what they think is Ron's mushroom recipe and his onion ring recipe. It's quite interesting to read them because Ron's recipe for deep fried mushrooms went something like this... Clean and slice mushrooms. Prepare "fish fry" mix according to instructions on bag. Dump mushrooms into fish fry mix and thoroughly coat. Deep fry until done. Enjoy.

Onion rings? Same recipe - just substitute onions for mushrooms.

The key to the quality of his product was that he always had his frying fat at the right temperature, kept it clean, didn't allow the fat to get old.

The sites do have one thing right... He did serve his onion rings and his mushrooms in a brown paper bag, and he always gave his customers "more" for their money than the competition.

If you do a "Google" search on "Fat Ronnie's Mushroom Recipe" you will get links to several recipe sites. Ron is very flattered to have "his" recipes on the 'net with credit for them going to him. I guess the recipes are actually re-creating the ingredients in the fish fry mix. It was made by General Mills and is probably the same stuff that Long John Silver's uses.

Pretty cool stuff for him.

1 comment:

SkippyMom said...

I LOVE THIS! What an awesome name for a restaurant...and having worked in them before I can bet that Ron was an awesome boss - but dang that is hard work owning a restaurant - I am sure everyone was sad when he closed.

You crack me up with the recipe - it is ::this:: simple heehee. Now I want some onion rings and shrooms. YUM And you are sooooooo right about the oil. Keep it fresh. :D

Give the sweet man a hug for me . Love ya toots!