Use Miracle Seasoning when
deep frying, grilling, baking & barbequing. Especially tasty
on steamed veggies, buttered rice, homemade or frozen Onion rings
& French fries.
Along with our International
Chef Dan Vasterling from the world famous School of Culinary Arts
Le Cordon Bleu, (see videos).
Spreads His Wings
pontiff of poultry parts,
and after 15 years and 11 different locations,
he's ready to go national.
by R. T. Rybak
Mpls, St. Paul, February 1981
It's 1:30 a.m.
another typical early Sunday morning at Art Song's Wings in south
Minneapolis. The after-bar-closing rush has filled the restaurant.
All 20 seats at the curved yellow counter have been taken and
a surly crowd is clamoring for faster service. Eight customers
stand in the take-out line. Someone at the checkout counter keeps
arguing over a check.
It's a dingy but homey little spot. A row of bamboo curtains separates
the kitchen from the rest of the restaurant. A green lantern hangs
below a yellow light in the center of the room. On the back wall
is a larger-than-life portrait of proprietor Art Song.
No, the restaurant doesn't look like the sort of place of which
food chains are born. But its owner has big ideas.
After IS years as Minneapolis's pontiff of poultry parts, Art
Song is spreading his wings. Backed by David Ramsay, chairman
of Marigold Foods, Song will soon open the first of what he hopes
will become a chain of fast-food restaurants featuring chicken
wings coated with his secret batter. The first restaurant, called
Wings of Song, is scheduled to open in Naples, Fla., this spring.
"'We plan to build brand-new restaurants from the bottom
up," Ramsay said. "Every place Art has been in, from
the Kenesaw Hotel to the place he has now on Nicollet, has been
a real claptrap. But the end product is always delicious. If he
had a bright, nice looking place you couldn't keep people out
It's not that Song is hurting for business. He says 1,000 customers
a week come into the restaurants he owns with Harold (''Shorty")
Prebish and Duane ("Wags") Wagner at 3753 Nicollet Av.
S. and 2401 W. Broadway. He buys over two and one half tons of
wings a week and the restaurant on 38th and Nicollet alone clears
$27,000 a month. And, in addition to his nationwide franchising
scheme, Song plans to open three more restaurants in St. Paul,
near Lake St. and Hiawatha Ave. and in downtown Minneapolis.
The smile that crosses Song's face when he talks about his success
accentuates a tiny row of
wrinkles around his eyes. Tugging at his black goatee, Song, who
is half Yugoslavian, half Siamese, says with delight, "I
think we've got it made." At last.
JUMP RIVER, WIS., 1921: Standing on his uncle's dairy farm, Art
Song spotted his first chicken. But bells didn't go off in his
8-year-old head. "A bird is a bird and a chicken is a chicken,"
he says. "When I looked at that little chicken I had no idea
that we were going to be teammates. I didn't know that those little
animals were going to make me famous ... or vice-versa. "
Although Song's father owned five restaurants in Aberdeen, S.D.,
Song didn't learn the restaurant business from his dad. His parents
were divorced when he was 14, and he moved to Minneapolis with
Song enrolled in the Conservatory of Music in St. Paul and soon
he was drumming for the Thorstein Skarning Band, a Norwegian group
whose contemporaries were Whoopie John's Band and the Six Fat
Dutchmen. He also had an act with fellow conservatory classmate
(the late TV comedienne) Joan Davis, but the act broke' up when
Song, then 16, moved to La Crosse, Wis., a year later with his
think we've got it made," says local chicken wing king
Art Song, who, with the help of his son Rod, left, will
soon be selling his special battered wings all over the
In La Crosse
Song formed a swing band known as Art Song's Jazzavolians. In
1932 they got what appeared to be a break when Song's uncle, Walter
James, then owner of Minneapolis's NankinRestaurant, opened another
restaurant in Chicago. He wanted to start a club on the restaurant's
second floor; the Jazzavolians would play it.
Song and the others in the group took jobs in the downstairs restaurant
as they awaited the club's opening, watching with excitement the
room's elaborate redecoration. But for reasons never explained
to Song, James decided not to open the club and, except for an
occasional game of Mah-Jongg played by the employees, the upstairs
room sat unused. Downstairs a disappointed Song continued learning
the restaurant business.
When Prohibition ended, Song became a bartender in the Chicago
restaurant and, for the next 12 years, he poured drinks for the
likes of Billie Holiday and Jack Dempsey.
He moved back to Minneapolis in 1945 when he was asked to help
start a bar called the Huckster on the third floor of Harry's
Cafe. Among the regulars at the Huckster was TV pitchman Mel Jass.
"It was just a little place with only about 10 or 12 stools,"
Jass says. "But the stools were always full and people would
be standing two deep. Just about everybody in the print or electronic
media went there, whether they admitted it or not.
"We called it 'Art's Bar,'" Jass continues. "Art
was the best bartender I ever knew. He knew everyone on a first-name
basis. You could come into the bar after not having been there
for six months and he would still remember your drink. He would
drive people home, help them with their bills, find their runaway
kids. He was a high-class man. "
While at the Huckster, Song made his first venture into the restaurant
business. In 1948 he and his wife, Juan-ita, opened Art Song's
Hoe Hek Cafe on 60th and Lyndale Ave. S. The special batter Song
had invented for his Oriental dishes began drawing large crowds.
But a year and a halflater the restaurant burned down.
Song stayed at the Huckster until 1953 when he was hired to work
at Michael's Restaurant. There he joined Bruce Tanaka, his old
bartending mate at the Huckster, and the two began to develop
an act, tossing bottles, eggs and snide comments into the air.
They moved on to the White House in 1959 and the Park Terrace
(now the Classic Motor Company) in 1960, and their crowds followed.
But still aspiring to restaurant ownership, Song left Tanaka in
1965 to open Art Song's Tea Room in Hopkins. The restaurant, located
in the building now occupied by Jack Yee's, offered full-course,
sit-down dinners including live lobster.
"I loved having a place of my own," Song says. "All
my friends were there and all sorts of important people came from
all over to eat there." But Song found it difficult to make
a profit at an expensive restaurant that didn't have a liquor
license so he closed the Tea Room in 1970 and soon afterward opened
Wing Dings of Song in the Kenesaw Hotel at 14th and Nicollet.
Instead of full-course meals this time though, Song now focused
on chicken wings, which had been served only as an appetizer at
the Tea Room. Bathed in his secret batter, his wings became so
popular that Song sold over three tons of them in his first month
Song's wings were indeed taking off; but his business dealings
were not. From 1970 to 1976 a string of bad investments and defaulting
partners kept him bouncing from the Kenesaw to Brenner's (now
William's Pub) to a place at 7th and Hennepin to an outlet in
Othello's bar at 9th and Hennepin. Finally in 1976 his son Rod
convinced him to go to a ranch in Montana. Art Song's Wings disappeared
from the local scene.
"Rod said he loved the country so he convinced me to come
out," Song says. "We spent two years there and I did
love it. But we got lonesome. This is our home and we wanted to
come back and open some restaurants."
So Song and his wife returned to Minnesota in 1979 and opened
a large place in Mankato's Viking Inn. Mankato State University
students and faculty crowded the place during the school year
but business sputtered during the summer so, after several months,
that restaurant closed too.
Back in Minneapolis, though, Song had already entered into a controversial
agreement with Joseph Van Asch involving the operation of a restaurant
at 2415 Hennepin Ave. As Song tells the story, the two men agreed
that Van Asch would run a traditional restaurant during the day
while Song would sell his wings at night. Profits allegedly would
be evenly split.
But after three months, Song says, Van Asch paid him only a small
amount of money and refused to show him the books. So Song left,
found his way down the street and opened yet another restaurant
(his ninth) in part of the old South of the Border restaurant
at Lake and Hennepin. That burned in September 1979, about the
time Song closed the Mankato shop, so he, Shorty and Wags moved
on to 38th and Nicollet. Shortly after that, they opened the Broadway
(Van Asch continued to advertise that his restaurant sold "Art
Song's Chicken Wings" even after Song left. Van Asch's lawyer
contends that Song agreed to let his name be used. Song denies
that and is suing Van Asch for $187,000. The case is now being
considered in Hennepin County District Court. Meanwhile, Van Asch
has also left the Hennepin AveSpread His . business and is running
a restaurant in the Holiday Motor Motel, 812 Lilac Dr., Golden
Siamese hot dogs, won ton chips, curried rice: Song's menu has
expanded over the years. But wings remain the featured item. The
chicken parts come into his restaurants five mornings a week,
are battered and then dumped into large plastic tubs which are
stored in a freezer. They are then deep fried and served hot,
usually in brown paper tubs decorated with drawings of chickens.
The wings, which leave a conspicuous pool of grease at the bottom
of a tub, have a sweet aftertaste. Song won't disclose the secret
of his batter, but he says a key is that the wings are kept very
cold and are thoroughly dried before battering.
Song now gets all the chicken from the Armour plant in St. Paul,
but he's afraid that as his business expands he will no longer
be able to get enough wings. And if that happens, he may start
to use legs and thighs. But never breasts.
"I have never been able to get the seasoning to go inside
the chicken," Song says. "But if I had breasts which
have so much meat, every bite would not have the seasoning. Every
bite would not be exciting.
my wings every bite should have a little love in it."
- October 1981
"We're sitting on a
million dollar product," according to Ken Pendleton, partner
of ASW INTERNATIONAL INC., a special chicken enterprise. "If
marketed correctly, it could be bigger than Kentucky Fried Chicken."
This was Entrepreneur's
introduction to the new idea in chicken takeout restaurants, specially
seasoned chicken wings, a proven success in Minneapolis and now
ready to expand operations across the country.
Based on a
secret recipe, the chicken wings are a creation of Art Song, a
Well known personality restaurateur in Minneapolis. Song opened
this first restaurant in 1965 serving expensive full course dinners.
In 1970, he closed it was impossible to make a profit in an expensive
eatery without a liquor license.
and 1976, Art opened a string of small places, this time featuring
his specialty chicken wings. However, bad business investments
and defaulting partners caused Art to close. He left the restaurant
business to join his son Rod in Montana. After two years, a bored
Art Song came back to Minneapolis to try again.
This time Song
and two old friends, Shorty Prebish and Wags Wagner, opened a
tiny place on the south side of Minneapolis. Not more than 600
square feet, the Nicollet Street Restaurant has 12 stools around
a yellow bar, and from day one has been a success. With a 90 percent
takeout business, they feature chicken wings, egg rolls, curried
rice and a special sauce. In less than a year and a half, Nicollet
Street was feeding more than 1,000 customers a week, grossing
$34,000 a month. Art Song's wings had taken off.
Art and his
son Rod decided to open a larger place with a much larger sit
down capacity on North Broadway. Even though they are able to
accommodate 100 people in each sitting, they are still doing an
85 percent takeout business. Broadway's expenses are much higher
than Nicollet Street but it's managing to gross $22,000 a month.
Chicken wings are the main event here too.
What's so special
about these wings? Everyone agreed it's the seasoning. Art's wings
are battered with his seasonings and dumped into large plastic
tubs, which are then stored in a freezer. The wings are deep fried
and served hot in brown paper containers decorated with drawings
of chickens. Art won't reveal his secret, but the important part
is that the wings are kept cold and thoroughly dried before battering.
The seasoning goes through to the meat it's not just the covering
that tastes great.
A 24 piece
bucket of chicken wings costs $10.75 to take out; a half bucket
costs $5.75. Art uses only wings because the small-size pieces
allow the seasoning to go through to the meat. Art plans to open
two more in Minneapolis. He would then start using legs and thighs
because his batter process wouldn't work on the larger pieces.
part owner of ASW International Inc., spoke about their future
plans. Businessman David Ramsey, president of Marigold Foods,
has exclusive rights to the process and product in Florida. He
is starting to build the first of 10 chicken wing restaurants.
Gilly's the famous tavern with a mechanical bull in Ft. Worth,
Texas, is planning to serve chicken wings and wants the exclusive
rights in Texas.
that they are now in the process of putting together a distributorship
agreement. The details were not revealed because they are still
in the planning stage.
are in for the first year of both restaurants. On Broadway it
was a break even; although the gross was high, the expenses were
also high. Nicollet Street grossed $350,000. Overhead here is
minimal, so the net profit was close to $80,000.
The 69 year
old Song is half Yugoslavian, half Siamese. His eyes crease into
smiles when he talks about the past year and the success. He says,
"I think we've finally made it." Art Song's wings have
spread and he's ready to fly.
the chicken wing successes so far have been admirable, we don't
believe the market is half as big as that of regular fired-chicken
takeout shops. A thorough market analysis is necessary to define
an area not sufficiently covered by existing chicken stores.
by Scott Venne
Hello old friend,
It's really nice to see you once again.
My name is Scott Venne.
Most of my life I have been involved in bringing ideas to market,
Some have been successful, some have not. But when you get involved
in bringing new ideas to market and enjoying the sweet smell of
success it gets into your blood.
To be honest with you I
had decided years ago that I was done. All those years on the
road living like a gypsy in motel rooms, doing the trade shows,
setting up demos for buyers from Manhattan to LA and countless
hours during the day cold calling.
So I decide to get out of
the rat race, Sold all personal and business assets and moved
from the Twin Cities to Wahkon, Minnesota on Mille Lacs Lake to
eliminate the rat race stress.
I met some wonderful folks
spending time at the lake.
A typical evening would
include a campfires, music, barbeques and endless stories of days
That was the scene one particular
evening but a bit more intense, the fire was more like a bon fire
compared to your basic campfire, the music was live with musicians
that had gotten together on a yearly basis to jam. A crowd of
folks much larger then most evenings having a good ole time sharing
Not only was the barbequing
happening there was this dude playing bongos that was cooking
up a huge batch of chicken wings. The folks were excited as could
be when that first batch was ready and I witnessed a frenzy of
partiers munch the first batch of about 25 pounds of wings in
about 30 minutes. I was lucky enough to get my taste buds to enjoy
a couple of them. Yum Yum I said to myself as the folks all begged
for another batch from the bongo player.
Believe me people, this
particular group of lake partiers were dialed in. Laughing and
dancing till the sun came up.
I had no choice but to go
back the next day an introduce myself to the bongo playing, chicken
wing dude. After our brief introduction I learned his name was
Rodney and he invited me to go fishing with him on Mille Lacs.
He was sharp, new what time of the day and where the bass were
biting as well as the walleyes in the evening.
After a few brews and catching
our limit I turned our conversation towards the wings and learned
that was the son of Art Song, (Rodney Song), At that time I had
never heard of Art Song. He told me a bit of family history. When
he told me that his ingredient he used on the wings was patented
I, having this thing in my blood for marketing decided to do a
The first hit I got from
google was a testimonial from someone claiming to have remembering
Art's wings being the best they ever had and have never found
that taste again. My reaction, Impressive.
As I read the past article's
written by various newspapers and magazines which I have posted
on our website I decided to get involved.
Rodney and I have spent
the past year putting together a program to complete Art's dream
of sharing his seasoning with the world through the Restaurant
My suggestion to you folks
that are interested in increasing profits in your Restaurant operation
jump on the band wagon and enjoy the ride by checking out our
website at miracleseasoning.com.
That being said, It's without
a doubt that I and my new found friend Rodney Song will be headed
on the road together to visit all of you who get involved. You'll
know it's us when we introduce ourselves with: Hello old friend,
It's really nice to see you once again.