If You’ve Been to the Echo Sometime in the Last 40 Years, You’ve Probably Met This Waitress

Since Bonnie Ruggles started working at The Echo in Hyde Park in 1974, she’s survived four owners, a fire, and countless refills. We chatted with her, post-shift, to plumb the secrets of her longevity.
Bonnie Ruggles at The Echo
Bonnie Ruggles at The Echo

Photograph by Anna Knott

Have you always been a waitress here?
I started out as a dishwasher. Then I worked on the grill and the steam table, and I also worked carryout. When we had the big blizzard in 1978, I was a cashier then, and only two waitresses made it in. The owner said, Today, you’re a waitress. I was always afraid I’d dump stuff all over everybody. Shortly after, I started waitressing all the time.

Have you ever dumped stuff on someone?
A couple times. Nothing severe.

I assume a lot of your memories happened in this place.
The major things in my life have been here. I met my husband here. He was a dishwasher. We’ve been married 35 years now. He quit a long time ago—24/7 is not a good thing.

When did you get a menu special named after you?
Maybe 10 years ago? The Bonnie’s Bounty [two eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, and a biscuit with gravy] is actually a small version of what my family has for our brunches on the big holidays.

You get a lot of regulars—are you able to remember all of their names?
I try to, but I’ve never been real good at names. I’m better at remembering what you order. There are a lot of people I’ve known for 20 years—I don’t know their names, but I know what they eat.

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