Happy Chef Umpire in Ryan, Iowa

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This roadside attraction is a home run. It’s big. It’s fiberglass. It’s repurposed. And it’s wonderful. Meet the Happy Chef Umpire in Ryan, Iowa.

Happy Chef was a restaurant chain founded in 1963. It was then that the Frederick Brothers, — Sal, Bob, Bill and Tom — opened the first location on US HWY 169 in Mankato, Minnesota. The diner chain grew and, at one time, there were 56 Happy Chef locations across 7 states.

Happy Chef was most known for two things: delicious diner fare and the giant fiberglass Happy Chef that greeted customers out front. Promoted as the “world’s largest talking chef” these 18-foot tall statues wore chefs hats, held a spoon high in the air. And would tell jokes on demand at the push of a button.

Sadly, only one of these fiberglass giants remains at an actual Happy Chef location, the original spot, today. But, not-so-sadly, a handful of the Happy Chef mascots have survived and thrived, being painted and repurposed in a variety of ways.

And that brings us back to Ryan, Iowa’s giant umpire, a repurposed Happy Chef who retired from his former life in Cedar Rapids to watch over a softball field, traded his chef hat for a wire face mask, and dropped his wooden spoon to push out his thumb in a gesture that can only mean, “you’re out!” 

But while he might be “out” at his former restaurant career, his new career just might be a grand slam.

Looking for more of the best Iowa roadside attractions? Check out Iowa 80: The World’s Largest Truckstop and Albert the Bull.

Happy Chef Umpire

Address: 480 Main St, Ryan, IA 52330
Cost: Free to See

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Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination with roadside attractions started early. Today, Val has visited over 300 roadside attractions across 31 states and is constantly on the lookout for the next BIG thing!

Val also blogs about her life, travels, and cats on her personal blog, Choosing Figs.

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