Creator of Chicken Fried Bacon Dies at 68

By: Nicole Morten Email
By: Nicole Morten Email

It doesn't matter where you live...

“Two guys drove all the way from Chicago, we’re talking 16 hours straight to come here just to eat and then only to turn right back around and drive back home," said Shanna Sodolak Thursday morning.

Or where you’re from...

"We're from Polacios, Texas,” said Gary Gafernick.

Everyone has to try it once.

“It was delicious!” said one College Station resident. “We had to come here because everyone kept saying, ‘You’ve got to try it, you’ve got to try it,’ so here we are."

“People hear about chicken fried bacon and they're like huh? But when they eat it, they're like ‘Wow!’ “explained Curtis Sodolak.

"On the Travel Channel I saw it several times, and I said, 'We're going to stop in this place in Snook, Texas, and try the chicken fried bacon,' ” said Gafernick.

Thirty years ago Frank Sodolak borrowed $500 and took his idea to home plate.

"What did he say? You're not going to hit the ball if you never swing the bat," explained Sodolak’s son, Steven. “So, he just kept hitting and kept hitting.”

Sodolak's grown kids will say their father hit a grand slam and admit they never imagined life the way it is today.

“No you don't think it would be this big, look at the restaurant, it's a hole in the wall right here in Snook Texas,” explained Steven. “He was happy as hell doing it. He enjoyed it.”

"I got a phone call from Maxim magazine one day and they asked if they could feature my dad in the magazine," said Curtis.

"I recently got a call from the Discovery Channel, and I was just like, 'Really?' Is this real?' " said Shanna Sodolak. "He's been featured on the Travel Channel already and it really put us on the map."

Before "Chicken Fried Bacon" was born

While he's more notoriously known as the mastermind behind the nationally famous Chicken Fried Bacon -- Frank Sodolak has a story.

“I remember when we were little, we used to go up to Kroger’s on Texas Avenue once a month and I swear all those checkers thought all we ate was frozen pizza and cereal,” said Steven. “We’d go there, get 30 boxes of cereal, 60 frozen pizzas, and then we’d go to the thrift store and get those cheap day-old breads and then we'd throw them in the freezer. We came up poor, but we came out good. You know, through all of the hard times, we learned that when you’re down on your luck and you don’t have two nickels to rub together, life pushes you, all you do is just plant your feet down and push back.”

Before getting into the restaurant business, Frank Sodolak worked various jobs to make ends meat for his family of seven. In the early 70s Sodolak worked at Kay Woolen's. “He tried to do promotions for Kay Woolen’s and he would fly over town and drop money in the air. People would be gathered around town wondering who the heck was throwing money out of a plane,” said Steven.

His stint at Kay Woolen's ended, and then Sodolak got a job working at the discount retailer, Weiner's Stores, Inc., but Steven admits, that job was short-lived.

“He lost his job at Weiner’s and so finally my mother said, 'Why don’t we do something on our own?' and so they bought Country Inn in Somerville because it had the living quarters. So in ‘77 we moved down to Somerville. Later on, life hit a rough spot and we had to get out of the restaurant business, and he ended up doing plumbing. I remember many a cold winters and he would take us under the houses and try to keep us warm.”

That was a turning point, the Sodolak’s say, when their lives would forever change.

“He ended up borrowing $200 and then ended up borrowing $400 more and took that $500 and put a few groceries in and then we got back into the restaurant business and we’re sure as hell we did," said Steven.

Frank Sodolak's final days

Family members say Frank’s health declined during his battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; he died last week at only 68-years-old.

"If I could be half the man he was, I'd be great," said neighbor Delbert Faust. "He was one hell of a man, and a family man too."

“He was an incredible man," said Curtis Solodak. "He was such a hard worker, and I learned what work ethic truly was. That's what me and Shanna want to do is keep his customers happy, the way my dad did."

“We got to talk to him and see him before his passing," said Steven. "I went to his house and I was sitting there and I just wanted to see him one more time and I sat there and waited by his side and Delbert’s brother [neighbor] ended up showing up at the house to check the tank for propane and so I went outside to talk to him," he added. "But by the time I went back inside his house he never woke back up to where I could have that one last conversation."

Frank leaves behind fives kids and more than a dozen grandkids.

"He left us a mini-empire, and we have to keep it going, and that's my promise to him, and who knows, maybe one day, I'll pass it on to my kids," said Curtis.

Using the tools and the memories his father left behind -- the Sodolak kids will continue carrying out their father's legacy -- filled with food from the soul -- that keeps customers coming back for more.

Frank Sodolak’s memorial Service will be Monday, May 14, 2012, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Bryan, TX.


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