Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low 48F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%..
Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low 48F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Updated: October 16, 2022 @ 3:41 pm
Any town of sufficient size invariably has a favorite “greasy spoon” diner, frequented by locals and visitors alike. I remember one diner that hung a plaque on the wall that said, “Order what you want. Eat what you get!” That is never the case at Wade’s diner in Oswego, where they always get it right.
Wade’s diner has been an Oswego staple since 1937 when Neal Wade moved a former Pullman rail car down Bridge Street in the middle of the night to a spot near the corner of East Ninth and Bridge streets. Legend has it that Wade pulled off the move in the face of noncooperation at the time by city officials. It stood there proudly for over 70 years, until ravaged by fire in 2015. I actually knew Neal Wade, as he was one of my first clients as a young lawyer. I was also friendly with Neal and Blanche Wade’s daughter Kristina, a contemporary of mine. Kristina died in 2018, survived by her husband, retired Oswego firefighter Rich Wart, and two sons.
In its 85-year history, Wade’s has had three owners. Partner Joe Clark and Maurice “Zippy” Zappala bought the popular diner from Wade in 1983. Zappala himself was a fixture at the diner for 35 years, and he ran the total operation since Clark’s death in 2003. A fire largely destroyed the old Pullman car structure in 2015. A new and expanded structure replaced the Pullman car, but is similar in design.
People say that short-term memory is a valuable asset. Sadly, it is the first to decline with age. Immediately forgetting the name of someone you have just been introduced to is a typical example. So having a robust short-term memory is a valuable asset, especially if you are a waitress at Wade’s diner, whose stock in trade, until recently, has been having waitresses without order pads who remember what each person ordered for breakfast, and delivering the right order to the right person. Tracey Straight, waitress extraordinaire at Wade’s, is one of this vanishing breed. She is the last of a generation of waitresses at Wade’s whose stock in trade has been their amazing short-term memory. Other waitresses like Ann Crisafulli Demm, and Jean and Judy Dale come to mind, but Tracy is the last of the Mohicans when it comes to remembering customer orders, and she is incredible in so doing.
Tracey’s husband Ted Straight is the current short order chef. He is remarkable to watch, flipping multiple hash browns and omelettes while preparing several meals at once to genuine levels of perfection. He succeeded long time cook John Lagoe, who also put on an amazing chef show.
She recently confided that her greatest challenge was once serving a party of 18, memorizing each patron’s order, and carrying it off flawlessly. She is the only waitress of her kind left. Tracy is a star. She confesses that she absolutely loves her job after 20 years, and it is a positive thing for her marriage in that she works side by side everyday with her husband. They seldom, if ever, quarrel.
Wade’s is also known for its home made raisin bread, which is sold fresh daily. Wade’s was sold by Zappala in 2018 to his Godson, Lance Pezzlo, and his wife Sarah. They have continued the good food and excellent quality of service.
What is there to quarrel about at Wade’s, besides getting a seat? The waiting line at peak times like Harborfest has been known to extend around the corner, and even down the street. But when you finally get seated, trust me, it’s worth the wait.
John T. Sullivan Jr. has written and published four books: “Forks in the Road” parts I and II, an autobiography, and most recently a memoir of his younger days as a disc jockey entitled “The Live 25 in Hi-Fi Jive.” He is a former mayor of Oswego (1988-91), trained attorney and former officer for the state Attorney General’s office. Sullivan is now retired. His books are available at the river’s end bookstore, and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Sullivan may be contacted at email@example.com.
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