Purchase photos

Cafe owner hopes to strike gold

9/23/2013

By KALEY CONNER

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

GORHAM -- A family tradition. The slogan underneath the sign for Dilene Reinhardt's new restaurant says it all.

Schmitty's Cafe, 133 Market, opened Sept. 14 to a large crowd. The menu features homemade burgers and fries, a wide array of appetizers, daily lunch and weekend specials, such as ribeye steaks, German food and catfish.

"I want it to be a fun atmosphere," Reinhardt said. "I want it to be someplace where you can come in with a suit and tie, or you can come in with jeans and sweats."

The new venture is a homecoming of sorts for Reinhardt, who is a native of Gorham and still lives in the small Russell County town. She had been cooking at a restaurant in Galatia and eventually decided to pursue a business of her own. She also works as a nurse with Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas in Hays.

The cafe is named for her family -- her maiden name is Schmitt. In fact, Reinhardt's new business is located just down the street from the storefront that once housed her grandmother's cafe, which bore the same name.

And her mother, Colene Schmitt, spent several years cooking in the building that now houses Schmitty's when it was a cafe owned by a community development group.

A love for the restaurant business -- and a few of the recipes -- have been handed down through the generations, she said.

"We don't measure anything. We're those kind of cooks," Reinhardt said. "I can tell you what's in it, but don't ask me how much because I couldn't tell you. I always just did it to my tasting."

Reinhardt particularly is known for her homemade french fries, kettle chips with cheese sauce and the large portions she serves.

"They're impressed with the size of portions, and that we're doing the steaks," she said. "And they like we're open as late as we are."

The restaurant is open until 11 p.m. weeknights and until midnight Friday and Saturday. She also plans to offer a fried chicken lunch one Sunday a month.

Reinhardt runs the restaurant with the help of two employees -- and many of her relatives. Her two teenage daughters work as part-time waitresses.

The building, which has housed several eateries through the years, is decorated in bright yellow and blue -- a tribute to the Gorham High School Oilers. The school district was consolidated with Russell in 1989. Reinhardt graduated in 1988.

While she didn't have to do much updating, she did decorate one wall herself. Several of her high school cheerleading, band and sports outfits adorn the wall, along with other mementos from her high school years.

"People realize how important it is to have a cafe," she said. "If the school is gone, and the cafe is gone, there's really nothing left."

She hopes her restaurant will become a social hub for the community. While she will not officially be open most Sundays, she will be around some weekends to give locals a place to socialize or watch a big game.

"If my car is here Sunday and the open sign is on, they can come in for beer, and I'll have my fryers on for fried foods," she said. "If they want to sit in here and watch a ball game on TV, we can sit around and have appetizers and beer.

"They can play cards on Sunday, get together and visit, have coffee -- whatever."