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Rudy’s Lakeside

Rudy’s Lakeside is just one of those places you fall in love with. Maybe it’s the look, an unpretentious white-with-red-accents building, lying comfortably along the shore of Lake Ontario. Maybe it’s the “oh my gosh they have that, too!” menu: yes, it’s a “fried food palace,” where you can get all those delightful treats you don’t want to cook at home but love to eat. Maybe it’s the memories conjured up as you watch a couple of kids with their parents wading in the water on the stony shore, the kids learning to skip those stones. Whatever it is, the minute I drove up I was smiling, and so were the many customers lounging in outdoor seating, studying the extensive overhead menu, carrying a tray filled with scrumptious-looking fish, burgers, hot dogs, and more out to their family and friends nearby.

Rudy’s is now in its 73rd summer —and third generation of family owners— of being a highlight of a visit to Lake Ontario, and for the people of Oswego. Opened by Rudy Gadziala and his wife, Marie, in 1946, the business passed to the current owner’s parents, Brad and Carol Livesey, and is now owned and operated by Jason Livesey. If you’d not been to Rudy’s Lakeside since the 50’s, you would probably recognize it, as Livesey tells us he has tried to maintain the style, while upgrading and improving the restaurant. “New rest rooms, updated counters and outdoor seating,” said Livesey, “and we’ve gone from festival-style service to line service, to move people through more quickly, and help them get exactly what they want. Oh, and this is the first year we’re taking credit cards, along with a reward system for frequent visitors. But we wanted to keep the original style of Rudy’s.”

The idea behind Rudy’s is simple: good, fresh food (local wherever possible), well-prepared, served with a smile and enjoyed with an unbeatable view. The emphasis, of course, is on fish.

“Our haddock is never frozen,” Livesey stresses. “We’re about the only ones in the area who can say that. And our beef is locally sourced, and pounded here, fresh, in the restaurant every day. Hoffman hots, and our special Texas Hot Sauce.” This sauce, it turns out, is Marie Gadiala’s secret recipe, who thought it wasn’t a hit til it was taken off the menu – and customers started asking for it. Now, diners can have anything and everything with or without it, as well as customize their orders to include a number of toppings and special requests so their fish, fries, burger, fried vegetables —or salads, sandwiches, chicken or mac’n’cheese— are just the way they like them.

Good, fresh food and local whenever possible.

Livesey trots out some fun facts: per week, Rudy’s will serve 350 pounds of hot dogs, 2,000 pounds of fish, 40 gallons of tartar sauce, 60-90 gallons of ketchup, 2,000 pounds of french fries, and the restaurant will serve 1,000 people a day, as many as 1,500 on a nice summer weekend day. And the people who consume all that food can also enjoy gull watching (but not feeding!), the “flash” of sunset over the horizon, a pet-friendly park across the road, meeting friends, and simply relaxing and enjoying the waterfront.

Another key piece of the Rudy’s story is its deep ties to Oswego. Livesey explains that initially, he wasn’t sure he would join the business. Like his own father, who worked for Grumman downstate before moving to Oswego in 1962, Livesey initially left the community and lived in Boston and San Francisco, attending culinary school, before returning and entering the business. “As I got more involved in the business, and the community, I was really surprised to learn how deeply my dad, mom, and Rudy’s were rooted in the community,” he says. “My father was involved in getting the volunteer fire department started, he joined every club and organization, and Rudy’s was very involved in anything to do with kids and their activities. And my mom was also a big part of starting what ultimately became the Harbor Fest.”

“Small business is the heart of any community,” Livesey continues. “If our community thrives, we do, and vice versa. So we take a big interest in things that make Oswego fun and a good place to be.” Rudy’s sponsors Little League; the “Tour de Loop,” a yearly bike race; hockey leagues; and many other civic and recreational activities.

A challenge for Rudy’s, and all the other homes and businesses along Lake Ontario this year —and for the last couple of years­— has been the higher than normal water levels, and heavy winter storms. “It’s important for the town, county, and state to all work together to do what we can to keep the lakeside an attraction, and the businesses along it able to keep going,” Livesey explains. With 1600 feet of waterfront, Livesey says he would like to extend his season so that customers could enjoy the food and the view year round, but recognizes that it will require the efforts of more than just one lakeside business to make that happen.

With good reason, Livesey is proud of Rudy’s, and proud of being deeply connected to Oswego. “We’re part of Oswego,” he says, referring both to his family, and to the business. “We enjoy bringing a service to people that they like, one that they say is part of their memories of summer on the lake. And we do that as well as we possibly can. As my dad used to say, I cook fish. But I’m the best fish cook you know.”

Season: From the Wednesday closest to St. Patrick’s Day in March
to Columbus Day Monday in October

SUMMER (Memorial Day to Labor Day): Please call if coming out close to closing time

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.