By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let’s go to a branding in the Flint Hills. The fire is hot and the branding irons are ready – but there are no cattle in sight. These brands are being burned into the walls of a new restaurant in a rural Kansas community.
Shelley and Charlie Davis and sons are owners of The Feedbunk, a new locally-owned restaurant in Yates Center. Shelley explains that her youngest son Lance had the dream of going to culinary school. While still a high schooler, Lance wanted to open a locally-owned restaurant in his hometown. When the city council ended up with a vacant grocery store building downtown, it turned out to be a great location for the restaurant.
The Davis family pitched in to help, and ultimately the restaurant opened on March 19, 2009. It is named The Feedbunk.
“We live in cattle country,” Shelley explained. “All the animals go to the bunk to eat, so it seemed an appropriate name.”
The restaurant’s slogan is “Homestyle Cookin’ like Grandma’s.” In fact, Shelley uses some of her grandmother’s recipes in the cooking. “My son had the opportunity to be around my Grandma a lot,” Shelley said. “She babysat for them and he was around her all the time.”
The restaurant offers a full menu of sandwiches and dinners, plus breakfast. The “little kids and big kids menu” is for those under 12 and over 62. There are daily lunch specials, fried chicken and roast beef on Sunday, homemade Mexican food on Thursday nights, and steak night Friday and Saturday. Some of the entrees have names like the Farm Hand Breakfast, Harvest Crew, and Meat Galore Omelet, in addition to the meals on the lighter side.
“We want to provide a place for families to bring children,” Shelley said. One corner of the restaurant is a play area called the Kids Corral where kids can play until their food arrives.
The restaurant offers affordable prices and hearty portions. One set of tables pushed together is called “the gossip table” or “the never-ending table.” Local farmers and others will come for breakfast and coffee before work, then return for lunch and again for coffee and conversation in the afternoon.
Friends of the Davis’s came up from Georgia to deer hunt, and they love the restaurant. “They inspired our Feedbunk caps in camo and blaze orange designs,” Shelley said.
Shelley worked for K-State Research and Extension but left that office to “devote 110 percent” to the restaurant. Son Lance took business classes at Allen County Community College and is now taking culinary courses at Washburn Tech with hopes of going to advanced culinary school. He returns on weekends to help.
The décor of the place is part of the fun. The walls are decorated with old barn wood. As a reflection of the local culture, ranchers were invited to burn their brands into the wood, and brands dot the walls in hundreds of places.
Then there are the license tags. “Lance was at a garage sale and he bought a bundle of 13 license tags,” Shelley said. “When he put them up on the wall, lots of people got interested.” Then people started volunteering to give them license tags to post.
Today, there are some 84 license tags of various types, styles, and vintages around the restaurant. These have come from coast to coast – literally from Alaska to Florida – plus Washington, D.C. and more. There are even tags from Newfoundland in Canada and the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.
That’s impressive in a rural Kansas community. After all, Yates Center has a population of 1,586 people. Now, that’s rural.
Let’s go to a branding in the Flint Hills. No, there are no cattle in sight, but local folks were invited to burn their brand into the walls of this new restaurant. It’s a fitting way to decorate a restaurant known as The Feedbunk in the heart of cow-calf country. We commend Shelley and Charlie Davis and sons Lance and Levi for making a difference with a locally-owned restaurant that is, well, almost brand new.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.