Vincent Kosuga was nothing if not an interesting and, at times, contradictory figure. He reportedly always carried a .38 pistol with him for protection, met with at least one pope in his lifetime, and once survived a plane crash in upstate New York that left him in a full-body cast.
Despite his, at times, unethical business practices, he was known as a charitable member of his community and was voted Citizen of the Year in Pine Island in 1987. The honor was given to him by the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, which declared that his success was the perfect example of the American Dream coming true.
Kosuga Opened a Restaurant in His Hometown
In the early 1960s, Kosuga returned to his corner of New York state, Pine Island in Orange County, and opened a restaurant he and his wife named “Ye Jolly Onion Inn.” The restaurant boasted a large and diverse menu and a full bar and also included live music and other special events. Over the decades, the restaurant enjoyed great success even as it passed through two different owners after Kosuga sold it in 1970.
The restaurant closed down in 2008 but was reopened a decade later under new management. To this day, it remains a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, whether it is visited for a casual meal or to celebrate occasions like weddings and graduations.
“The Jolly Onion’s” Star Dish Is Sweet Onion Soup
Though the Kosugas aren’t around anymore, “The Jolly Onion” is still going strong, keeping up the tradition of having a menu centered on European dishes as well as American classics. Favorites include the Amsterdam Bitterballen Croquettes, Bavarian Pretzels, Swedish Meatballs, Jager Schnitzels, Potato Pancakes, and Bacon Wrapped Scallops.
But the most popular menu item is the Sweet Onion Soup. Per the restaurant’s staff, they make around 200 gallons of this soup a week. Apart from the talent of the kitchen staff, the dish owes its reputation to the fact that onions from the region are known to be especially tasty and intense thanks to the rich black soil that characterizes the area.
Kosuga and His Wife Were Popular
The Onion King and his wife were known as generous people in and around the area of Pine Island. They founded the Vincent and Pauline Kosuga Foundation in 1997, through which they made various donations, and which continues to make an impact: as recently as 2020, the foundation made a $100,000 donation to the Warwick Valley Humane Society and nearly $60,000 to the Orange County Mental Health Association.
Pauline Kosuga herself was very involved in her community and church and, among other things, established the Kosuga Scholarship to the Agricultural College at Cornell University. She also received a Citizen of the Year Award from the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, as well as awards from Middletown & Arden Hill Hospital and the Horton Memorial Medical Center.
Pauline Was Nicknamed “Polly”
Pauline "Polly" Kosuga, first known as Pauline Paffenroth, was born on July 18th, 1915, in Pine Island, New York. She met Vincent Kosuga at a young age, and they were married for sixty-four years until Vincent’s passing in 2001. She died in 2009 at the age of ninety-four. "He was charming when he wanted to be," Pauline said of her husband after his death and described him as her longtime partner and her best friend.
Though Vincent made his name and fortune in Chicago, she always asserted that his heart was in Pine Island. She was a farmer, like her husband, and co-owner of “Ye Jolly Onion Inn,” where the pair operated throughout the 1960s.