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DeRusha Eats: Wally’s Roast Beef

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — The jukebox in the corner of Wally’s Roast Beef is loaded with oldies, including the 1969 classic, “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher.

It’s appropriate, since Wally’s first started serving their legendary roast beef in Bloomington in 1969.

“We’re somewhat of a Bloomington institution here. We’re in our 45th year now,” said Jeff Sagal, owner of Wally’s.

Wally Erickson opened at 90th and Penn in 1969. His roast beef sandwich became a legend, with lines frequently going in front of his small restaurant. Jeff Sagal took over the business 10 years ago and moved the place 10 blocks north from a strip mall to an office tower.

“We have an exclusive on the beef. It’s brought into the state just for us. We roast it overnight medium medium rare with Wally’s secret seasoning,” said Sagal.

The office tower provides ample parking and a large lobby when the lines start to grow. Wally’s is only open for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

“It’s mostly loyal customers. The people in the building have just added to our customer base,” said Sagal.

The beef itself is shrouded in secrecy. Other restaurant owners have tried to crack the code.

“He literally went into the dumpster to try to find out what our beef was, what the cut is, where we get it,” said Sagal. He said he takes the labels off the boxes, to make sure no one gets a hold of his secrets.

The beef slow roasts at 250 degrees for a couple hours, then holds overnight so it just melts in your mouth. All Sagal does is put a small amount of “Wally’s Seasoning” on the roast.

“You’re a nice guy, Jason, but I’m not telling you what’s in the seasoning, either,” said Sagal.

Each bun is toasted, each roast gets hand-carved and served on the spot.

One roast provides enough beef for about 70 sandwiches. At a busy lunch, Sagal said Wally’s will go through 10 roasts, or 700 sandwiches.

“Even when we have a line, with four or five cashiers, you never wait longer than five minutes,” he said.

You can understand why in 45 years, Wally’s hasn’t changed a thing and the beat goes on.

“We’re very fortunate, to serve a roast beef sandwich that tastes exactly the same as it did in 1969,” said Sagal.

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