Rudy's Place: good comfort food at a reasonable price

Regular travelers of 34th Avenue West on Magnolia have probably noticed some remodeling going on at the corner of Emerson, where the Magnolia Ristorante used to be. The refurbishing has been completed and the eatery has been reopened as Rudy's Place.

Because I pass that corner four or five times daily, I've kept an interested eye on the location. When Rudy's Place initially opened, they had crowds out the door. This bears some more investigation, I thought, because a good close-by restaurant is always a benefit to the neighborhood.

That's how I met Rudy Finne (sounds like Phinney), 57, the jovial, husky, white-bearded namesake of the place. Finne was born in Ballard and then "moved all the way to Magnolia." He went to Ballard High School and Shoreline Community College, finishing his formal education at Western Washington in Bellingham.

He's been in the food service industry since 1964, when he started at the Golden Tides at Shilshole as a dishwasher. Eventually he worked his way up the ladder until he was the head cook by the time he left.

Finne opened Sorry Charlie's in Lower Queen Anne and ran it from 1972 until 1976, when he turned it over to other members of his family; they ran it until its closing two years ago.

Finne has been married to his wife, Jo Linda, for 20 years. He has two grown sons, Rudy Jr., 35, and Ronnie, 31.

Rudy is also a longshoreman and has been since 1979; he considers that his main job. "That's how I can support a restaurant," he says with a chuckle.

The other principals in the business are Rudy's brother, John, who is also a longshoreman, and fellow Magnolians Monte Condon and brother Bill Condon, both truck drivers.

"Being a Magnolia resident," Finne told me, "I've been very aware of the other places that have occupied this building. I've eaten in all of them. We're going to do better.

"We were completely surprised by our initial success," he went on. "We closed the second day in order to get things right rather than present a menu with many of the offerings unavailable."

So how do they measure up?

"One of the things we're very aware of is the price of eating out," Finne remarked. "We have a special over-under 60-10 menu for seniors over 60 and juniors under 10. This menu features reduced portions at reduced prices. In addition to that, we offer a 'Sunset Special,' kind of an early-bird dinner, from 2:30 until 4:30 in the afternoon Tuesday through Friday [Rudy's is closed Mondays]. You get a three-course meal for $5.95 to $6.95, depending on the order."

A most welcome feature is that they're open for breakfast beginning at 6 a.m.; the breakfast menu is available till 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and until 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Besides the usual bacon 'n' eggs with hashbrowns-type breakfast, there are seven variations of eggs benedict and nine variations of omelettes/scrambles.

The breakfast that had me grinning, though, was chicken-fried steak and eggs with a side order of flaky biscuits and country cream gravy with sausage chunks. Admittedly, this isn't an everyday breakfast, but then neither was the breakfast you used to get at Snoqualmie Falls.

When the waiter asked if everything was all right, I couldn't help but remark that the only thing that was missing was the grits. "Maybe we'll have to offer a grits special," Rudy later told me. "You're not the only one who's mentioned it."

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The lunch menu consists of cold deli sandwiches, hot sandwiches you can pick up (such as a Reuben, burger or French dip) and then Rudy's Specials, which include such things as a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy or a tasty Philly cheese steak sandwich (this is definitely a use-both-hands sandwich).

Rudy's Specials also come with a choice of soup or green salad, and the other sandwiches give you a choice of potato salad or coleslaw.

I must remark here that I consider their French fries to be very good. They're a big fry, like a country fry, yet crispy and not soft or mushy. My partner has also commented that, refreshingly, items were not overly salted.

They serve dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. but stay open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The menu features a selection of dinner specials in addition to three steaks, plus the hand-breaded chicken-fried steak. Also offered are seven full-dinner salads, four pasta dishes, plus hot sandwiches and seven hamburger variations.

I had the meatloaf, which included mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, cooked vegetables and a choice of soup or salad. I was very pleased with it. It was tasty comfort food, and on a rainy night it pushed just the right buttons.

Out back is the Condon Room Lounge (remember, the Condon brothers are half owners), a well-stocked bar with Howard Bulson at the piano Friday and Saturday nights. He established a following at Sorry Charlie's before it closed.

Dinner entrees are usually around $10, with the steaks priced a little higher. Lunch and breakfast entrees are under $10. Cocktails, beer and wine may be ordered.

How would I rate Rudy's Place? I liked it and, being close by, I'll go back often. They serve good comfort food in a warm, friendly atmosphere. They welcome families with kids. They're a good neighborhood addition that I hope is around for a long time. Try them out.[[In-content Ad]]