By Ken and Angie Locke
We had heard of Brunin’s Cafe from some long-time friends. Once again, I used the computer to get an approximate location and a phone number, which I dutifully called to check on hours and payment options.
The Brunin Family Cafe is located at 320 N. Main St., in Andale. I know they open early, but called them to check business hours at 316-444-2699. They accept credit cards and cash, and, although I did not ask about personal checks, they probably accept them if you seem like nice people.
Ronald and Theresia Brunin really had no interest in any recognition as the force behind Brunin’s Cafe in Andale. They are the kind of couple that is happiest when working hard, pleasing people, and staying out of the limelight. If our breakfast this morning was any indication, they could raise an army of loyal, well-fed followers if they wanted to.
We had a fun drive to Andale, 19 miles this time, listening to favorite tunes on our daughter’s iPod on the way. Our spirits were high, but we love that buzz when we reach escape velocity from the suburbs in search of small town America. We like to drive around the towns where we end up, and today was no exception.
Christmas decorations were plentiful, but the funniest was the electrician mannequin, dressed in a worker’s jumpsuit complete with name patch, trapped in the Christmas lights hung from the gutter, with the ladder blown sideways underneath him. We almost pulled over just to meet those homeowners and share a laugh with them.
Finally, Andale tour complete, we pulled up to Brunin’s Family Cafe. We were starving! But, then again, we always are by the time we get out of the house, on the road, and to our destination – it’s our own little exquisite torture. Upon entry, we immediately warmed up, from the furnace and the interior, decorated in western-style paneling and both serious and humorous cowboy art.
As a child, my father had framed dozens of Russell and Remington pictures in much the same style as found in the café.
Big smiles greeted us from all the people in the café, both workers and eaters. Once again, we had stumbled into the perfection of a small town, where everyone is a friend by default and the story is evident but understated.
Our booth was a classic café booth, framed by what Angie says were “persimmon-colored cotton Priscilla curtains,” and completed with the two-sided menu clad in leatherette bound plastic. A full range of breakfast foods were listed on one side of the menu, combined into meals for hearty appetites and a la carte items, with a bunch of different sandwich and burger options on the other side.
They feature daily specials along with an array of mouthwatering desserts too. Our only problem was which side to order from (or canceling afternoon plans so we could stay long enough to have breakfast AND lunch).
We asked the cook, who turned out to be Ronald Brunin himself, for his suggestions from the menu. He recommended the “Starvin’ Marvin,” an omelet with everything in it, plus hash browns, gravy and your choice of bacon, sausage, or ham. Right below it on the menu was the “Starvin’ Harvin,” a variation of the first, but named after a regular customer who ordered his food custom. I ordered the cook’s other recommendation, the “Okie Omelet,” named after a guy who used to be from Oklahoma and came in every day. We had missed Okie Joe, because he was an early riser and it was already nearly noon when we got there. The coffee arrived in the hoped-for ceramic mug, only found in cafes where refills are free and diners stay for a while.
Have you ever seen those school buses with the mysterious Renwick District on them? I had, but until this day had never known that they are from the Andale area. This was the first trip for our sixth grade daughter, but she got her love of food from me, so was game for the trip. She did not, however, know what to order – the cinnamon roll or the biscuits and gravy. Of course, as all veteran café-goers know, the right answer to her questions is BOTH (“And we’ll help you finish it if you get full” – said her selfless parents). Our waitress, from a nearby town, asked us if we were “travelin’ through.” Which we loved, because that implied she knew most everyone else who came in, which implied it was a popular local anchor, which implied it was great food, which was our goal. They were happy to make our daughter’s order specifically for her – gravy on the side. Of course, this makes no sense to ME, but only because there is no such thing as too much gravy.
Angie and Ken Locke caught up with Santa Claus at the Andale Public Library.
As we finished the cinnamon roll (crunchy on the bottom, super soft above, melted butter drizzled between the swirls of roll), we overheard a conversation about Santa coming to the library at 1 p.m. Since it was nearly that time, we asked the woman speaking about her comment, apologizing for eavesdropping at the same time. She turned out to be the librarian, and the library turned out to be two doors down on the same street. Normally closed, the librarian was reopening for Santa’s visit.
We are learning that no café visit is complete without a stop at the town’s library, and today was no exception. We found some books on their sale rack – seven this time. The picture we took with Santa turned out to be timeless and nostalgic, reminding us of our childhood visits to Santa. Nevertheless, the Christmas spirit rang truest for us when we watched the little girl, a local resident, perch on his lap with her ponytails bouncing, her face glowing, and her legs gently kicking in little tiny Uggs.