A friend wanted to meet for lunch recently at Stoysich House of Sausage — a store that is well-known in my city, but I’ve never actually been inside. I didn’t even know they served meals there.
I met him there and stepped back into the 1950s.
The guys behind the meat counter were wearing soda jerk hats that looked like something out of Happy Days. The walls were lined with memorabilia from bygone eras — photos of the local high school teams, a Hollywood Diner poster, an oriental fan, a flag that salutes the troops at Iwo Jima, a tattered and torn black and white photo of a man who is wearing a bow tie, under which said, “Re-elect Mayor James J. Dworak.” He was the mayor of my city from 1961-1965. For the record, he only served one term.
Below all the memorabilia is four shelves (they have seen their better days) worth of books—mostly cookbooks or books about food, such as “Tastes of Asia,” “The Bread of Life Diet,” “Round the World Cookery,” and “Easy Entertaining.”
Sandwiched between all of this history, you’ll find a small sausage and bratwurst roll cage like you see in gas stations but are always too afraid to sample from out of fear that the brats have been rolling inside that thing since last Tuesday.
That wasn’t the case with this place. When my friend and I got there, they only had two brats left and they weren’t adding any more. We snagged them, along with two small bags of chips apiece, and a can of pop. I looked around, trying to figure out where to pay.
“You pay when you’re done,” my friend said.
You are on the honor system there, which in this day and age when department stores have heartburn medicine under lock and key, was pretty incredible.
After lunch, we went up to pay and the man behind the register asked what we had.
“I had one sausage, two small bags of chips and one pop.”
The clerk rang it up. “That’ll be $3.60.”
It sort of felt like I ordered off the dollar menu at a fast-food place but when I thought about it, the experience was so much better. Where else can you step back in time, have the total trust of a merchant, and pay such a cheap price?
As we were about to leave, I noticed how unhurried I felt. I’d been so focused on the memorabilia and talking to my buddy about it that I hadn’t once thought about what I needed to get done that afternoon.
I tend to be a chain guy because I know what I’m going to get and I don’t like surprises when it comes to food. But this experience made me want to sample the many other non-chain restaurants and cafes in the area — at least every once in a while.