Further, this post isn’t about finger steaks at all, really, though I will say that the Wikipedia page for finger steaks (of course there is one) credits Milo Bybee as the first to say he invented finger steaks. He worked for the Torch Cafe in Boise starting in 1946. He claimed he invented them while working as a butcher for the Forest Service in McCall and brought the recipe to the Torch. Others claim it was Willie Schrier, the owner of the Torch from 1953 to 1958, who invented finger steaks. Either way the Torch seems to have been where they got famous.
In fact, the first mention of finger steaks in Boise was an ad for the Torch in the Idaho Statesman in August of 1956. And that brings us to the point of this blog. Finger steaks, recall, are just the side dish in this one.
I wanted to call your attention to a series of Personal Services ads in the Statesman that started in May of 1957 and ended in October 1958. The ads seemed to be the brainchild of Willie Schrier. The first one to appear in the Personals read:
“ADVICE TO THE LOVELORN. . .Dear Dr. Willie: ‘I love a chorus girl…buy her jewels and ermine…she still says no.” Puzzled. Dear Puzzled: ‘Chorus girls don’t want diamonds and ermine any more…They just want one of my delectable Finger Steaks.’ Dr. Willie…The Torch Café…1828 Main.”
Another personal read, “Dear Dr. Willie: ‘My boy friend has small biceps. What should he do? Agnes.’ Dear Agnes: ‘Wash his head with kerosene. That’ll kill them. Then bring him to the Torch Café, 1826 Main, and a diet of Finger Steaks will build him up.’”
Soon, a neighboring restaurant got into the act: “DEAR WILLIE—The best way to improve your atmosphere at The Torch, 1826 Main, is to remove Willie. Signed, Vince and Ed, The Royal, 1112 Main.”
In the same Personals section, Willie ‘replied.’ “SHORTAGE—The Torch, 1826 Main, is serving so many Finger Steaks that the meat suppliers are trying to breed beef that will develop double tenderloins.”
In November 1957, this pairing appeared: “PEOPLE were up in the air over the Royal’s Smokqueed Ribs long before the Russians thought of Sputnik. Ed & Vince. The Royal, 1112 Main.”
“IT’S OBVIOUS that Ed & Vince at the ROYAL are related. Vince Aguirre is Grave… and Ed Graves wishes he could Aquirre the customers my FINGER STEAKS are winning over to the TORCH! Dr. Willie Schrier, PhD. The Torch, 18th & Main.”
This good-natured jabbing went on for a couple of years between the guys at the Royal and The Torch, until Willie Schrier started the Stagecoach Inn in Garden City. That just changed the venue.
In September 1959 came this pairing in the Personals: “ATTENTION DISC JOCKERYS: Did you know that the song called “Mack The Knife” was written about a Boise man? He is the guy in the Royal’s kitchen who slices the steaks so thin you can read a newspaper through them. At the Stagecoach Inn our steaks are so thick we have to put cushions on the chairs so the customer can see over the top of them. Signed, Willie Schrier.”
“GAMBLERS ATTENTION: It is NOT true that Willie’s Stagecoach Inn has revived slot machines in Garden City. The only gamble you take when you go there is whether or not your stomach will ever be the same again after eating one of his meals. Of course, there’s not even that gamble at The Royal. Signed, Ed and Vince.”
One more pair from December 1959: “SMART ROYAL customers aren’t buying snow tires this year. Since they can’t eat those tough Royal steaks, they’re tying them onto their regular tires. I hear they’re the best non-skid steaks sold. Signed, Willie Schrier.”
“WE HEAR FOLKS are getting leery of Willie’s holiday egg nog. Seems the eggs he used are so old one customer spotted a newly hatched chick swimming in the nog. Even worse the chick had the hiccups. Signed, Ed and Vince.”
The jibing continued until about 1971 when the Personals ads stopped. Willie’s humor continued to be on display for years on the sign out in front of the Stagecoach. He was often the butt of the joke on those.
One such posting read, “CLEAN UP GARDEN CITY—WILLIE GET OUT OF TOWN.” Unfortunately, the sign went up just about the same time Willie Nelson was about to perform at the Western Idaho Fair. Nelson’s people were not amused. They asked that the sign be taken down. It was. Then Willie Nelson showed up at the Stagecoach Inn to meet the other Willie. He was out of town at the time. Nelson left him a couple of tickets to his show. That’s when employees of the restaurant put up letters reading: “WILLIE, WHEN YOU LEAVE, TAKE WILLIE WITH YOU.”
Schrier passed the Stagecoach Inn on to his daughters when he retired. It was in the family for 50 years. Today it operates under new ownership. Willie Schrier passed away in 1996.