North Country Food Book page
The establishment known as Wimpys Inn on Ford Street in Ogdensburg, NY goes back a long way. Actually it goes all the way back to 1932. Unfortunately in October 2006 Wimpys Inn closed its doors due to the building that housed this North Country institution being in a state of disrepair beyond what was economically feasible to fix.
Although the secret Wimpy Sauce has been a North Country favorite for over 70 years and several generations, the story of how it came to be is not necessarily well known.
A gentlemen by the name of Ed Peterson who had made his living as a cook on a merchant vessel entered a spaghetti sauce contest. Now anyone who has ever had a Wimpy Burger or a Texas Hot will probably squirm at the thought of Wimpy sauce on spaghetti, but that is in fact how the sauce originated. Mr. Peterson didnt fare well in the contest, however, he did discover that the taste of the spicy sauce slathered over a burger or a hot dog was quite a delight.
He opened his little shop on Ford Street around 1932 and called it Wimpys Inn. My father-in-law George Wells who was a WWII veteran and was running a small grocery in Ogdensburg bought the shop and the recipe around 1950. George was a gregarious soul and as popular as he and his sauce were, he jealously guarded the "secret recipe." To this day there are many many people in the North Country who claim to know the recipe, but today only his daughter (my wife Jenine Wells-Relling) and her brother Scott (who ran the restaurant for a time) really know it. Sorry folks, but we simply cant give it to you here either.
George ran Wimpys for five decades and weathered the onslaught of the fast food industry over the years. There was simply something about that sauce that kept people coming back generation after generation. Jenine took over at the turn of the century and thoroughly enjoyed maintaining her dads legacy. One of my favorite things about owning Wimpys was sitting out front during the Seaway Festival parade. Until George died he would sit out front with me. People would wonder up and share stories of how they had once worked for George, or that working at Wimpys was their first job. They would tell stories of coming in for the lunch break from St. Marys Academy, playing pinball and listening to the juke box. George would sit and enjoy it all and he remembered every single person by name. George was the consummate restaurateur and it was my honor to hang with him and enjoy the nostalgia.
Over the years Wimpys and the famous secret sauce was recognized by several food critics. Most recently the food critic of the Globe and Mail (Canadas version of USA Today) named Wimpys as one of his top ten in an article called New York Hot Dog State of Mind." He fondly remembered the tastes he enjoyed from this humble counter."
Walter J. Relling
North Country Expat Cooking
In the 1930s and early 1940s there was a major exodus from the North Country to Long Island, by people who didn't want to "work on the farm no more." Many of those folks got jobs at State Hospitals. Pilgrim State and Central Islip were key recipients of the farmer folks, and they loved the work ethic that the country people had. Some stayed, some came back home, but some food traditions left their mark no matter where the people went:
Hamburger Stew for 50
In a separate large pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
Serve hot; have Parmesan cheese on tables or sprinkle on each serving.
Note: i vary the vegetables - sometimes i use cabbage, or turnips, or zucchini (in season), bell peppers are very good good too, or mushrooms. Sometimes i also use beans or black-eyed peas to substitute for some of the meat.
Submitted by Yvona Fast, Lake Clear