Restaurant to celebrate 65 years
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Al's Chickenette has gone through a lot of changes in the past three-and-a-half years, during which the oldest restaurant in Hays has endured a lot of ups and downs.
But Al's will celebrate its 65th anniversary today on a high note.
The restaurant, which opened April 23, 1949, at 701 Vine, still is open after surviving two closings since November 2010.
Gary Reiman and Caroline VonLintel are just the fourth owners of the business that has been serving fried chicken to customers for parts of eight decades.
While today is the restaurant's official birthday, the big party is scheduled for Sunday.
There will be a cherry pie eating contest, a raffle, a bouncy house for children and even a car show.
Anyone interested in participating in the pie eating contest or the car show are advised to contact Reiman or VonLintel at Al's at (785) 625-7414 or on the Al's Chickenette Facebook page.
VonLintel said business has picked up since reopening the restaurant in September. Part of that she believes is consistency -- the restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week -- and partly because of the freshness of the food.
"We make everything fresh every day," she said. "We open our kitchen at 6 a.m. and make noodles and mashed potatoes, cut our own fries to order.
"Our freezer is the size of half a refrigerator. The only things we freeze are corn and green beans, and in the summer, those will be fresh, too."
Al's continues to add more menu items such as chicken salad with yogurt and chicken tacos.
"We're trying to grow with the times," VonLintel said. "People are more health conscious, so we're having more salads and (chicken) wraps. Fried chicken is comfort food, but sometimes people want something different."
The restaurant, with just its second owner, closed its doors -- presumably for good -- in November 2010.
Trisha St. Peter bought the business and reopened it in May 2011. Less than two years later, Al's closed again.
Reiman and VonLintel bought the restaurant last spring and kept the same name -- and the same family tradition.
Lacey Ward, VonLintel's daughter, is the manager, and one of her specialties is homemade pot pies on Wednesdays.
"Al's has supported a lot of families over the years," VonLintel said. "This is exciting. Al's just about didn't have a 65th birthday."