HOXIE — Something out of the ordinary.
When Emily Campbell decided to pursue her dream of owning her own restaurant, she knew that’s what she wanted to bring to her small hometown.
She, her husband Doug, and front of house manager Carloff Wiltner have been working for almost two years to do just that. The Elephant Bar and Bistro is slated to open sometime in July.
The name itself is unexpected, and Campbell said it’s a nod to her lifelong motto.
“If you’ve heard the phrase, ‘An elephant always remembers,’ it’s the animal that always remembers the watering holes and leads other animals to food and water,” she said. “The second thing is my dad, when I would get stressed out, he would tell me to eat the elephant one bite at a time. So that’s kind of been my life motto.
“Then, it’s just something big and out of the ordinary. That’s kind of our tagline: Something out of the ordinary.”
“I like how it sounds,” Wiltner said. “Tonight I will go to The Elephant. It just sounds great.”
Walking through the door of 732 Main Street in Hoxie, it suddenly doesn’t feel like you’re in small-town Kansas anymore. Soft jazz music plays in the background, and the historical building has been renovated with modern, industrial chic inspiration. The decor and interior look were inspired largely by one of Campbell’s favorite restaurants, Chef’s Club in New York City.
The original brick walls have been exposed, and a large bar area was constructed using partly reclaimed materials. The long, wooden bartop is actually a bowling lane from the community’s former bowling alley, Campbell said.
Wiltner, a native of Berlin, also made the dining tables out of the wooden floor from a loft apartment that was torn out during reconstruction. A smaller loft was built in its place to increase dining capacity, and a lighted outdoor patio also was created for seasonal use.
Campbell is a Hoxie native, but has traveled extensively and attended culinary school in Seattle. Campbell and Wiltner say they hope to bring international influence home to Hoxie. Wiltner is an experienced bartender, and the bar will feature a unique cocktail menu, as well as his favorite German beer on tap and liquers that aren’t available elsewhere.
“We’re trying to get people to venture out a little and I think they’re ready to,” Campbell said. “We don’t have a lot of variety in this area for food.”
The menu is still being finalized, but will be created to offer something for everybody, she said, with an emphasis on modern French-American cuisine.
“All the menu items are named after where I was inspired. We have ahi tuna on the menu and that’s from when my husband and I were in Hawaii and just fell in love with it,” she said. “We have locally raised bison on the menu; our dry-age steaks are out of Bogue, Kansas, and they’re just amazing. Everything on the menu has a story. Everything in this building kind of has a story behind it. There’s a lot of history in this building.”
It was a jewelry store before the Campbells purchased the building in 2016, but the history dates back much farther. A mural on the back wall of the upstairs loft is made of a black-and-white photograph from 1936, showing a group of people lined up outside a store in downtown Hoxie. The Elephant building is pictured in the background.
As much as possible, Campbell also is sourcing local, farm fresh produce, including the locally raised bison and steak meat. She also has started an indoor herb garden and hopes to someday do most of the cooking with fresh herbs and spices.
“We’re just very community focused,” she said. “We think it’s important to support the community and the community will support you back.”
The Elephant also will offer a full espresso bar and have a grab-and-go deli for quick lunch options and pastry treats. The owners hope the restaurant will become a regional destination, and will strive to be a place that meets everyone’s needs, Campbell said.
“We want to create the best of all worlds,” she said. “I tell people, you know, you can walk in here in your muddy cowboy boots and get a burger. Or you can walk in here in your black dress and get a nice steak. We just want to appease everybody.”