A lot has changed in 20 years since Danny Herman bought and renovated the Golden Q.
But not his gratitude for the people who helped make the bar and grill a success and an icon in downtown Hays.
“I never thought I’d own this for 20 years,” said Herman this week in advance of a Hays Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting on Friday to mark the big anniversary. The low-key Herman doesn’t offer too many clues to the secret of the Q’s success, other than “You gotta have faith in yourself.”
The Q, 809 Ash, Hays, is known for its ice cold beer, Q burgers and its customers of all ages who keep coming back, even when they move out of town. And that’s been Herman’s dream all along.
“Even when college is in session, there are all ages here,” said Nancy Duffy-Auer, Hays, a regular customer and a chamber ambassador who attended. “It’s not just for college kids.”
April and Justin Brack had driven from Plainville for their son Vincent’s play practice for the Hays Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The King and I.” They like the family atmosphere.
“We come when we’re in town,” said April. “It’s just something everybody in the family likes. You don’t feel weird bringing your kids in here.”
Many of Herman’s regular customers came on Friday. Some were there for the ribbon cutting and to support Herman, although with a lot of good-natured teasing.
“Thank you for taking a lot of my money over the years,” said Doug Minson, WaKeeney, a longtime customer and friend.
Some were there to just eat and drink as usual.
“We’re just a couple guys who like to have a drink and a burger,” said Jesse DeClue, Hays, who can remember the Q when it was half the size and had a checkered floor. He sat at a table with Hal Rogers, Hays.
“The Q is my favorite burger in the world,” said Rogers. You can get it however you want, he said.
“My favorite is the Southwest, with no bun,” Rogers said, because he watches what he eats. “If I wasn’t watching my carbs I’d look like someone who needs to watch their carbs. That’s why I like the 69 cent wings on Wednesday. There aren’t any carbs if you eat the dry rub.”
Herman still likes to work in the kitchen on the Q’s main grill, cooking burgers to show his staff how it’s done. His favorite is the Q’s no-frills cheeseburger, which is $4.49.
On Friday, Adam Napell, Hays, was trying the Kanay Burger for the first time, a patty topped with an onion ring, jalapeno and cheddar cheese.
“It’s pretty damn tasty. It’s good,” Napell said, confessing he can’t claim to be a regular but that he gets to the Q “whenever I can. Three kids doesn’t allow me to get out much.”
Right now the Q can cook 40 burgers at a time on its grill, taking 10 minutes to cook each of the fresh 6 ounce patties, none of which are frozen or pre-formed, said Jessica Schwab, Herman’s girlfriend.
There’s a grill expansion planned to handle an expected jump in demand when the Q adds food delivery service sometime in the near future, Herman said.
One of the biggest draws at the Q is the really cold beer on tap — 29 degrees when it hits the chilled glass.
Herman always had wanted really cold beer, and in the early days tried to keep bottles on ice to chill it. Then in 2006 he met the owner of Twin Peaks in Dallas who showed him the Blizzard Beer System, which maintains beer at an icy 29 degrees.
As a bartender draws a glass on tap, beer is pulled from the keg and instantly chilled as it moves through the Blizzard’s chiller. The Q’s tap beer is served in chilled glasses. A big red digital readout near the bar displays the beer’s temperature.
David Koenigsaecker, Hays, is one of the Q’s regulars, and likes to sit at the bar with other longtime customers. “It is family here,” he said.
The Q was founded in 1960, and Herman bought it when he was 35. The building at the northwest corner of Eighth and Ash streets was much smaller then, and it had snooker tables. Now there are 22 flat screen TVs, a big variety of food on the menu, and five pool tables with regular tournaments.
Herman learned to cook at home, and started in the food business at an early age helping out at his dad’s donut shop in Hays, Daylight Donuts. Later he owned Daylight Pastries with his brother, Galen Herman.
“It’s been a journey,” Herman said of the Q. “It’s been interesting and it’s afforded me a good life. Everyone has treated me well over the years.”