ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Every Wednesday afternoon, Carolyn Anderson fries 30 pounds of hamburger in preparation for the popular Mexican Night at Coneburg Inn in Peabody.
“On each Wednesday night we also feature a special,” Anderson said.
“It might be something off the Mexican menu, or it might be homemade chicken enchiladas, chicken enchilada casserole, stacked burritos, chili relenos or chili releno balls.”
Carolyn and husband Ron have owned the restaurant and bar for 10 months, having purchased it from the former owner who owned it for 21 years.
“We open at noon, and every night the kitchen closes at 9:45-that’s bar time, and our clocks run 5 minutes fast,” Carolyn said.
“But we’re open until 11 p.m. for drinks,” six days a week and closed on Sundays, she said.
Coneburg Inn is divided into two sections, both sharing a sit-down bar. The left side of the restaurant, for members only, has a wooden-trellis entrance that invites customers into a seating area warmed by a big fireplace in the winter. Membership fees are $10 plus tax, per year, and the private club can stay open until 2 a.m.
“Marion County is a dry county so you have to be a member of a club to go in and drink liquor or six-point beer,” Carolyn said.
“People don’t realize that the membership fee goes for us to buy our license. So we don’t profit from it because our license for the private club is $1,000 a year. And then we have to get a beer license from the city for the three-point two side, and that’s around $200 a year.”
The right side of the restaurant is for non-members and boasts two pool tables in the middle of the floor. Members are welcome to use this side also. The total seating capacity of the restaurant is about 66.
“Our customers come from all over Marion County,” Carolyn said.
“Since we’ve been advertising, I think we’ve been reaching more people because they’re coming from Goessel, Inman, Whitewater, Potwin, Lehigh, Lincolnville, Lost Springs, Marion and Hillsboro, and a lot of the farmers and ranchers come in here too,” Carolyn said.
Ron said he is very proud of the quality of the food they prepare daily.
“The majority of our food is prepared on site, roughly about 99 percent of the food isn’t pre-made, we make it,” Ron said.
“Our chicken fry steaks, our pork tenders, we bread them ourselves. We home-cook our food, and the portions are large.”
Two menus always available are a child’s menu and a regular menu.
Of the eight items featured on the child’s menu, prices range from $3.95 for chicken strips with french fries to $1 for a salad.
An extensive regular menu begins with appetizers such as hot cheese balls, fried mushrooms, poppers, mini corn dogs, chicken wings and chips and salsa, and prices range from $1 to $3.95.
Dinners are served with a salad bar, vegetable, choice of potato and texas toast or dinner roll.
“On the dinner menu the chicken fried steak is the favorite ($6.50), and then the steaks like the 8 ounce filet ($7.40), the 8 ounce sirloin ($6.95), and the cheeseburger steak ($6.95) goes over real well,” Carolyn said.
The pork tender at $6.60 is available as a dinner, and it’s as popular as the chicken fry, Ron said.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people cut the pork tender in half because it’s so big, eat half and take the other half home,” he said.
Basket’s served with french fries and texas toast are also listed on the menu from the typical chicken strip basket at $5.20 to the out-of-the ordinary liver or gizzards basket for $5.20.
Of the sandwich menu choices, the hamburger and cheeseburger are always a favorite, Carolyn said.
Hamburgers, weighing in at one-third pound, start at $2.25 and range up to a bacon cheeseburger at $2.95. Other items rounding out the selection are fish sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, chicken fry steak sandwiches, grilled cheese, B.L.T.s, enchiladas and pork tender sandwiches.
Friday and Saturday night specials, bringing customers back time after time, are such delicious items as lasagna, spaghetti, prime rib, beef and noodles, lamb fries, mountain oysters and meat loaf.
“Monday through Thursday we have the regular salad bar, but on Friday and Saturday we put out different things like dill pickle spears, cherry peppers, bread and butter pickles, pickled okra, plus I make one or two homemade salads,” Carolyn said.
The Anderson’s were regular customers prior to purchasing the restaurant on Feb. 21 of this year.
Ron previously worked at Hay and Forage.
“I wanted to go in business, I was looking for a change, and I like Coneburg-we came here a lot,” Ron said.
Carolyn’s former job was at the post office in Wichita. She and Ron celebrated their second wedding anniversary Nov. 12 and have two children from Carolyn’s previous marriage.
“We lived in Newton for awhile, and we’d come over once or twice a month, and then we moved to Peabody in April of 1999, and we were regulars,” Carolyn said.
“I think Ron just fell in love with this place the first time he walked in and decided he was going to own it some day,” she said.
Carolyn’s culinary background was fostered by a love of cooking and various experiences putting together meals for large crowds.
“In junior high school and high school it seems like I was always the head of any food committee,” Carolyn said.
“I love to cook for the family. I was the dietary supervisor over at the nursing home in Marion in 1973, and I also helped at the Eagle’s Club in Newton. That’s where I met Ron.”
Many of Carolyn’s recipes, such as her vinegar and noodle recipe, come from her grandmother.
Although Anderson loves to bake, she said they do not have desserts on the menu, and Ron doesn’t eat sweets.
“I like to eat, and I like to like what I eat,” he said.
Carolyn does try to put a dessert-type salad on the weekend salad bar to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
“I’m the day cook, and the full-time night cook comes in at 4 p.m., but if he needs help, I help him in the kitchen,” Carolyn said.
A day-time waitress works Monday through Friday, and the other waitresses come in on a part-time basis when needed.
Due to the popularity and number of customers on Wednesday’s Mexican Night, three waitresses help Carolyn and Ron serve the crowds.
Although the couple puts a Christmas village on the large mantle piece in December, they said they try to be sensitive to the loneliness some people experience around the holidays, and consequently they keep their decorations low-key.
Accommodating large parties and groups is not a problem at Coneburg Inn.
“We’ve had a wedding rehearsal dinner in here, a birthday party and a 50th Wedding anniversary,” Carolyn said.
A rehearsal dinner was held at the inn one Friday night in the past, Ron said.
“The next day they got married, and they were having a reception in their back yard, and mother nature broke loose,” he said
“So I called them up, and I said: ‘Just bring all the stuff up here. Bring your cake and your punch in, and have the reception here.'”
People come here because it’s clean, has good food and reasonable prices, Carolyn said.
“There’s people that are always in once a week, and we’ve got certain regulars for lunch and certain regulars for dinner,” she said.
Del Eden of Peabody said he and his wife eat at the Coneburg Inn about twice a month.
“They have a nice salad bar that’s well stocked and a variety of steaks, and their prices are very reasonable,” Eden said.
“When we stop in, they stop by the table and make sure everything’s going well.
“On Saturday nights they have specials that they rotate like lemon chicken, pork chops or prime rib, which I like. They try to make it interesting.”
Happy customers like the Edens are what make the Andersons feel good about their restaurant.
“And it’s the every day compliments we get-it’s just every day knowing you’re doing everything you can to make a pleasant time for your customers,” Ron said.