2005-11-18 / Community

Weiss’ Restaurant In Broad Channel – Not Forgotten By Former Customers

A Wave remembrance
By Howard Schwach

An old photograph of Weiss’ Restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel, circa 1940’s. The outdoor counter served a variety of fast food, including burgers, hot dogs and clams. The dining room is at the right of the picture.An old photograph of Weiss’ Restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel, circa 1940’s. The outdoor counter served a variety of fast food, including burgers, hot dogs and clams. The dining room is at the right of the picture. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, I worked at a teacher in Brooklyn while my wife, Susan, worked for a Rockaway dentist. On Tuesday night, she worked late and on those nights we treated ourselves to the best meal in a local restaurant by going to Weiss Restaurant in Broad Channel.

To most of the restaurant’s customers, Weiss was one of the first fast-food joints – a place to stop and get some hamburgers, frankfurters, French fries and perhaps some raw clams from the famous clam bar.

For us, however, and hundreds of others, the real jewel was the inside restaurant where the joys of “Thumbits” awaited us each Tuesday .

You can still get Thumbits, usually called sliced steak or steak bits, at many restaurants, including not a few in Rockaway, but it is not the same.

The dining room at Weiss, located at the southern end of the building (right about where the Broad Channel Library stands today) was an old, wood-paneled room that was most often crowded, but not on Tuesday night. In fact, my memory of those nights is that my wife and I sat at a table in one corner of the vast room while her boss and his wife sat alone in an opposite corner. Often, we were the only customers in the place.

I remember the waiter as a nice man named Sy, who I remember as middle-aged, but who was probably much younger than I am today.

And, while a look at the restaurant’s menu today shows that the Thumbits came with “Beefsteak Sauce and Saratoga Chips,” in reality it was much more.

The sauce, which we call “Sy Sauce” still today in honor of the waiter who served it, was heavenly, spicy and smooth at the same time.

We continually asked Sy for the recipe and were told that it was a “secret family recipe.” For years, my wife worked to replicate the formula at home, finally succeeding a number of years ago and making it one of our family recipes.

People invited to a meal at our home often ask is “Sy Sauce” is going to be on the menu. The meat was thinly-sliced and served on white toast, topped with the sauce.

The “Saratoga Chips” were thinly-sliced potatoes, flat circles of perfectly fried delicious vegetable. Even today, forty years later, I still salivate when I think of the meal.

Served for two, it came with lettuce hearts for $8.95.

If I remember right, as a new teacher (I had just come out of the Navy), I was earning about $8,300 a year, so the $8.95 was probably significant, but we managed to splurge when it came to a dinner at Weiss.

While there were many other specialties of the house, such as Boiled Live Maine Lobster, stuffed with crab mean or clams and served with French fries ($7.50), a Mixed Sea Food Grill that included fried oysters, soft shell crab, fried clams, shrimp and scallops ($4.50) and Filet Mignon with onion rings and a vegetable ($5.95), I don remember eating anything other than Thumbits in the dining room.

The outside restaurant was another case. We often stopped at Weiss on the way out of Rockaway to “the city” at large for a couple of hamburgers smothered in fried onions or some clams on the half-shell.

Meyer Weiss opened his restaurant in Broad Channel in 1930, at the beginning of what was to be called The Great Depression. He had to close the eatery for a while during World War II because there were no supplies and very few people were driving places without a good purpose because things such as tires and gasoline were scarce. It was not the time for a drive-by restaurant.

He reopened the restaurant late in the 1943 summer season and remained open seven-day-a-week, 24-hours-a-day. In 1949, Weiss added a 200-foot service counter for the outdoor restaurant and seats in the dining room so that it could seat 750 people.

Some of those who talk about the outdoor restaurant say that their favorite was chow mein on a hamburger bun, but I don’t remember ever having that particular delicacy.

For many years, Weiss was nearly as famous in its own right at Nathan’s in Coney Island.

The restaurant closed its doors for good in the mid-1970’s the victim of changing times and changing tastes.

The restaurant, however, is sadly missed.If there is anybody out there who would like to share their experiences about Weiss’ Restaurant with us, please send us an email or a fax and we would be glad to share those remembrances with our readers.

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