WaKEENEY — The Western Kansas Saloon & Grill, 121 N. Main, has been serving customers in one capacity or another since 1925.
Originally the Keraus Hardware Store, the building has functioned as a barbershop, pool hall and even a community gym for a time throughout the years.
In 1998, the building was purchased and restored by Larry and Jean Hixson.
Luong Quach, manager of the Western Kansas Saloon & Grill, and Kenny Quan, owner, took over the building in 2000.
“We just thought we needed a restaurant in town,” said Quan, whose family has lived in WaKeeney since 1966.
While the restaurant is now celebrated for its exceptional food, remnants of the building’s history can be seen throughout.
Original tin ceilings and hardwood floors adorn the dining room, and the original freight elevator is in the kitchen.
Quach pointed to a patched hole in the floor, which once was used to alert gamblers police had arrived.
“They used to gamble downstairs,” Quan said. “They would drop a coin through that hole to let them know when the law was coming.”
“Now we have it closed for safety,” Quach said.
Six large paintings, created by local artist Madeline Musick and commissioned by the WaKeeney Art Council, depict scenes of rural Kansas life including a buffalo herd, an Indian village, a windmill, a cattle drive, a pioneer woman and four cowboys who have striking resemblances to some WaKeeney locals having a drink at the saloon.
Another notable fixture is the Christmas tree that stands at the front of the restaurant year-round.
“Since we’re the Christmas City of the High Plains, that stays up all year,” Quan said.
In fact, the design and construction of the city’s metal Christmas decorations took place in the building in the early 1950s.
Now, the restaurant is known for its steaks, seafood, pastas, desserts and friendly service.
Don Smith, who has worked as a cook there for seven years, said the owners are great to work for.
“They’re not bosses; they are like family,” Smith said.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 5 to 8 p.m. Sundays.