ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Reach, ‘pardner,’ for the door of Buffalo Gulch Ranchhouse in Burns and step into the Old West in all its glory.
Once you’ve purchased a club membership in advance, you have the privileged opportunity to eat surrounded by rustic old wagon wheels, cattle brands seared into the woodwork and highly polished round tables.
“I think if Marshall Dillon and John Wayne would walk in the door, they’d feel comfortable,” said Laurie Mann, who co-owns the restaurant with husband Bill. “We’ve had guys with boots and spurs sitting next to men with suits and ties. And everybody’s comfortable.”
Coming from far and wide, patrons who discover this unique restaurant can order hand-cut steaks or tempting specials, such as generous portions of prime rib and authentic Mexican fare.
Formerly called the Double S Saloon, Buffalo Gulch Ranchhouse opened its doors the middle of last August after the Mann’s purchased and remodeled it with their personal touches of western decor.
The Mann’s named their establishment in honor of property they own in Colorado.
“Buffalo Gulch is actually a body of water that runs through there,” Bill said.
Laurie previously managed Blackeyed Pea restaurants for 17 years in Colorado and Wichita before the couple began looking in 2001 at the Burns’ location.
“The first thing that attracted us was the three nights a week,” Laurie said. “I worked 24/7. So being open three nights a week was really a major attraction.”
Bill has a full-time job with a moving-van business in Wichita, and the couple raises quarter horses on their 11 1/2 acre Rosalia homestead-called Buffalo Gulch Ranch.
Laurie is the chef, and Bill greets customers and tends bar in a building that can seat about 60 people.
“I don’t cook,” Bill said. “I’m just a hired hand when it comes to that.”
Because alcohol is served, Marion County laws dictate that diners must purchase a club membership. This can be done by sending a yearly check for $11 per couple or household along with address and complete birthdate information to Box 44, Burns.
“They have to have a membership purchased 10 days prior to admittance,”Laurie said.
But on the third Sunday of the month-when the doors are open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.-no membership is required, and no alcohol is served.
“And we can do curb delivery to-go service to non members any day we’re open,” Laurie said.
After April 10, the restaurant will be open for summer hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,on the third Sunday of the month.
The regular menu includes two appetizers-boneless chicken fingers or chips and homemade hot or mild salsa.
“Everything on our menu is made from scratch except two of our dressings,” Laurie said.
“That’s the only way to cook and the only way to serve it.”
Among the sandwich offerings is the popular charbroiled 1/2 pound Green Chile Cheeseburger served with ranch fries.
A whole New Mexico green chile is grilled, and the burger is complemented with melted cheese and grilled onions.
Top quality Sterling Silver beef is hand cut by Laurie, except for the T-bone steaks that require a meat saw. Steak choices also include a rib-eye or sirloin, and all steaks are served with a dinner salad, side dish and potato.
Menu entrees include chicken-fried steak, fried shrimp, pork chops, country-style pork ribs and grilled salmon.
“The grilled salmon is unbelievable, unbelievable,” Bill said.
And the country pork ribs are excellent, too, Laurie said.
“There’s just a lot of meat on the bone.”
Desserts are described on the menu as Grandma Edna’s baked pies and cakes, and Aunt Ginny’s one-bite specialties-enough to curb the craving.
Laurie acknowledged the three cooks in her life who influenced her culinary skills-her mom, her Grandma Edna and her Aunt Ginny.
“Grandma Edna, she could cook and bake,” Laurie said. “When I’d come home from school or on a birthday, there was always something freshly baked.”
One of Laurie’s pies is a particular favorite of Bill, who is a self-professed coconut-cream-pie aficionado.
“I developed this coconut crust,” Laurie said. “When my husband looked at me and said, ‘It’s the best pie you’ve ever made in your life,’ I knew I struck gold.”
In addition to the regular menu items, the Manns offer off-the-menu specialties.
Thursday night is billed as favorite dishes, such as pot roast, barbecue chicken or brisket.
Mexican Night occurs every Friday, and the special includes chips, salsa, beans and rice. One of the items that might be offered on Fridays is the popular Gulch-I-Rito.
“Bill designed the layering of this burrito, and it’s been a hit,” Laurie said.
It includes beef and beans, smothered in cheese and homemade green-chile sauce served with rice and beans.
“It’s awesome,” Laurie said. “We’ve done it three times, and it’s always sold out.”
Laurie was willing to pass along the recipe for another Mexican treat, which she described as a Mexican pie sometimes filled with meat, pumpkin or squash.
1/2 C. butter
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. sifted flour
1 C. fruit preserves of your choice
1/3 C. mixed cinnamon and sugar
Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth, beat in flour. Shape dough into a ball, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Roll out thin (1/4 inch) and cut with a 3-or 4-inch cookie cutter. Fill circles with 1 teaspoon of your choice of fruit preserves. Fold over circles and press edges together, sealing edges.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in pre-heated 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll each in cinnamon-sugar mixture and serve.
“This is an easy version that is simple and easy to start with,” Laurie said.
Saturday’s standout is the prime-rib dinner that comes in an 8-ounce portion or a 10-ounce cut.
The daily operations of the restaurant include a staff of six employees.
“They’re an outstanding crew,” Laurie said. “We’re really lucky. They’re not just employees, they’re leaders in the community-like the postmaster, city clerk and manager of this branch of the bank.
The Manns are equally enthusiastic about the activities in the Burns community they have joined as business owners.
An empty lot next to them is on the drawing board as a city park in the future-a nice draw for the restaurant patrons.
The Manns plan to expand on a patio off the back of their restaurant, offer musical entertainment out there at certain times of the year, put in horseshoe pits and add handicapped access.
And the couple is actively participating in a Burns Pride Committee cookbook, titled “The Women of Buffalo Gulch,”containing about 150 recipes.
“I foresee this community as being a nice destination for people who want to get out and go for a drive and do something,” Bill said.
“They can stop in, and we’ll feed them. They can tour the town and enjoy whatever’s going on. It’s really a neat community.”