How did you get involved in the culinary business?
My father had a bunch of businesses in Eastown when Eastown was in the dump. Like the '60s and '70s, when no one was around. That was a time when my dad opened up Baskin Robbins and Brandywine. Tommy Z. opened up Intersection and Bill Lewis opened up Yesterdog. And later [in 1977], my father opened up this joint, which was Breakfast Just Breakfast.
What was it like back then?
It was a late-night joint. It was open all night for The Intersection.
That was when The Intersection's location was next door, right?
Two down. And that was the big gig, that's where everyone would go in town.
Why specialize in breakfast food?
I only like breakfast, I don't like any of the other stuff. And nobody was doing breakfast. There was no 6:30 to 2:30 joint, now everyone's doing it. ... When you talk about in 2008, when everything was going bad, we grew 16 percent every year, because people love breakfast. Breakfast is not glamorous, but we grow every year.
When did you change it over to Wolfgang's?
Sometime in the early '90s. I wanted to get away from the just breakfast thing. We were a different restaurant, we weren't opened late anymore, we weren't for drunks anymore. I just wanted a clean change.
What made you start incorporating lunch items into the menu?
The customers. If there were seven people here and that seventh person wanted lunch, they would all get lunch. So if we had a little lunch for that person, we wouldn't lose those seven people.
Do you change the menu often?
Yes, we do the Hall of Fame. Usually, we'll put somebody on there that people know. Then they'll come in and laugh at their friends. Richard App is the best one on there because he's an egomaniac.
Got anything in the works for the Hall of Fame?
I think we're going to have a contest [between my wife and I], like a four-on-four.
So there's some friendly competition between you two?
Gigantic competition. Gigantic.
We feature your Hall of Fame item, Victoria Upton, as one of our ultimate comfort food items. What's the story behind those pancakes?
My wife spilled coffee on pancakes one day. And she was so busy waitressing that day that she just ate them. She came home and said, "I need to put coffee on pancakes" and I said, "You have lost your damn mind. That sounds like s***." ... And it was delicious.
How did the Hall of Fame get started?
It was my idea. We pissed a lot of people off, too. ... That first time I did it, I grabbed people who were famous at that time. People thought it was rude.
When did you start it?
That was in the '80s. I had to fight with my parents on that. ... Everything I did freaked them out.
When did the ownership switch from your parents to you?
What is your favorite breakfast?
This is going to sound crazy. My favorite breakfast is canned corned beef hash with poached eggs on top.
Do you have an ideal comfort food item?
I like to go and have a hamburger or a piece of meatloaf, something that my mom would make, not this crazy farm-to-table stuff. ... Customers know what they want. They want beer or they want pizza. My family, we go to Harmony [Brewing Company]. That's comfort food to me, a beer and a little pizza.
For a good comfort food experience, what do you recommend off your menu?
The Missad and The Turner with spinach and a hot cup of coffee.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lindsay Patton-Carson. Photo: Katy Batdorff