Archive for Thursday, May 9, 2002

Restaurants serve up varied fare

May 9, 2002

Tonganoxie has slowly built up a variety of restaurants. With eight eateries in the city and pizza available at convenience stores, Tonganoxie has a few types of food to choose from.

And Basehor, which has two restaurants, is on the radar scope of Sonic Drive-In.

Kelley's Grill

Traffic entering Basehor from the south can catch a glimpse of Kelley's Grill.

The restaurant has changed hands and its genre since Bill Buchholz became owner in 1996.

Kelley's was primarily a bar before Bill and his wife, Diane, took the helm. Now, it has become more of a family restaurant than a grill and bar.

Buchholz changed gears six years ago after being in the produce business for roughly 30 years.

"I just wanted to get out of the corporate world," Buchholz said.

The restaurant has a sports feel to it, as many wall hangings pertain to some sort of athletics. Kelley's also offers karaoke from time to time. Buchholz said the restaurant is a place for people to meet, such as church groups and school groups.

Kelley's and Doc and Brutie's Pizza are the only eateries in Basehor, but it's possible Sonic Drive-In will move into the area. And as far as Buchholz is concerned, competition would be good for the community.

"There's always going to be competition," he said. "But competition's good for you. It keeps you on your toes."

Buchholz plans to give Kelley's a facelift this summer, as the inside walls will be painted and new carpet will be installed.

Mo's Pizza

The name might have changed, but ownership hasn't for a restaurant in Tonganoxie.

Emmett Wetta opened Gambino's Pizza on Fourth Street after graduating in 1989 from Benedictine College in Atchison. The restaurant started as carryout and delivery only at 113 E. Fourth. The restaurant later moved to its current location at1208 Front.

But Gambino's wasn't limited to Tonganoxie, as Eudora, Bonner Springs and St. Mary also had Gambino's restaurants, making the chain a mainstay in smaller cities.

"It's a small-town franchise," Wetta said. "The overhead is great when you get started because you're in smaller towns rather than going to Lawrence and competing against 50 different people."

Emmett Wetta's brother Mo basically established Gambino's and had worked with Pizza Hut and Godfather's for 20 years.

"He taught me everything I know," Emmett Wetta said.

Nearly four years ago, Mo died. A new co-owner who Emmett Wetta worked with had lawsuits pending in federal court, so Wetta distanced himself from the name. He sold the restaurants in Bonner Springs and Eudora, and kept the Tonganoxie and St. Mary locations.

That's when the restaurant changed names.

Wetta named the stores after his brother, and Mo's Pizza was established.

The change didn't come with much advertisement, and Wetta thought things slowed down at that point.

"It's kind of a hard line to follow, but we were growing as a Gambino's," Wetta said. "But with the name change it set us back a little bit.

"I think people thought it had different owners."

Things were going well until tragedy hit America in September.

"We started to rebound and then 9/11 happened," Wetta said. "The bottom fell out and now it's starting to come back again."

Also on the menu

Basehor and Tonganoxie offer other restaurants as well.

Along with Kelley's, Basehor has one other restaurant, and it's within walking distance. Doc and Brutie's Pizza is just north of Kelley's on the west side of a shopping center. The restaurant provides residents with dine-in, carryout, delivery and a daily lunch buffet.

In Tonganoxie, eight restaurants are offered, ranging from a 1950s atmosphere at Lil' Mom and Pop Shop, 628 E. Fourth St., to Badd Jack's Southwest Restaurant, 416 E. Fourth St., which offers Mexican food with a hint of New Mexico. Lil' Mom and Pop Shop offers a variety of short-order items, along with ice cream favorites such as banana splits, sundaes, malts and shakes.

Tonganoxie also has franchise restaurants. Mr. Goodcents, 1208 Front St., offers subs and pasta. The Lenexa-based restaurant is the first to open in a city of this size. Since the Tonganoxie site opened nearly five years ago, De Soto and Baldwin City have also opened Mr. Goodcents restaurants. The larger national chain, Sonic Drive-In, is at 550 N. Star Court, just north of U.S. Highway 24-40.

From groceries to steaks, Matt Bichelmeyer has provided food in Tonganoxie for some time at 427 E. Fourth St. Previously, Bichelmeyer's Steakhouse was a grocery store, but owner Matt Bichelmeyer transformed the store into a restaurant a little more than two years ago. Bichelmeyer's features steaks and also offers music occasionally. Fourth Street Caf400 E. Fourth St., provides Tonganoxie with a small-town gathering spot for breakfast and lunch.

Finally, some towns have a barbecue joint, and Daniel's BBQ, at Third Street and 24-40 Highway, is Tonganoxie's version. The restaurant also smokes meats for customers on request.

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