Well today I spent the day in Woodsen county KS. Sitting on the eastern edge of the Flinthills, it has a mix of farmland covered with corn and beans as well as rolling tallgrass prairie. Yates Center is the county seat and the largest (by far) town in Woodsen county (it has about 1500 people) and is usually where I eat dinner when working that area.
Well the place I normally eat was "wall to wall", so I left to go find another place. While driving around the town square, I noticed a sign that said "Frannies, down home cooking". So I thought what the heck and stopped. I walked through the door where there was a large staircase disappearing around a corner on the second floor.
The menu was on a makeshift easel and today's special was beef and noodles. I continued up the stairs, around a corner and up another short flight of stairs. Here was a long hall and no apparent dining area, but I could hear people so I continued on. As I passed the first double doors with glass I noticed a large room of an old opera theater, still complete with a low stage at the far end.
Continuing on down the hall I finally found the door and entered into a small, maybe 10X10 room with two small tables, kitchen sink, stove, oven, an island full of pies, big bowl of vegetables, pot of mashed potatoes and a stewer of home made noodles. To my immediate left was the cash register, completely open to all who walked up. I almost turned around thinking I had entered the kitchen then realized I was in "Frannies". Through an adjourning door, I notice 6 more small tables, each surrounded by people eating.
A lady behind the island of food asked me, "You eating?"
"Yes ma'am," was my reply and she grabbed a plate from a stack of plates, then asked, "you want your beef and noodles on the side or over the potatoes?"
"Which ever is best" was my response.
She grabbed a spoonful of mashed potatoes and then took a ladle of home made noodles with large chunks beef floating around and poured all over the top. Reaching next to the bowl of carrots and peas, she dumped a big spoonful on the side of the plate then topped that off with a slice of buttered bread.
"Coffee or tea?", was her last question to which I responded "tea". With that, she handed me my meal and I begin to look for a place to sit. Walking through the door into the second room, I noticed a vacant chair at a table partially surrounded by the locals.
"Mind if I sit here?"
"Sure go ahead", they uttered between bites, conversation and sips of Frannies tea. I listened only half heartedly as they discussed business, family and vacation plans. My mind was racing back 100 years in time as I looked up at the gas light hanging from the ceiling, the high arched windows and the wooden floors.
I took my fork and grabbed a heaping helping of the mashed potato mix. One bite and I was hooked. Seasoned perfectly, each mouthful literally melted in my mouth followed closely with a bite of the vegetable mix and a sip of Frannies tea. Wonderful food, which seemed to disappear too quickly, even though very generous in portions.
There was no waitress, it was "help yourself" if you wanted more tea. Want some pie? Get your own and clean your own table when you're done.
As I got up to leave, I did eye the generous portions of home made pies, but decided to decline. I handed my plate and tea glass to the older lady washing dishes behind the small island. "You Fanny" I asked.
"Have been since ever I could remember" was her reply.
"How much do I owe you?" I asked
"You have pie?" she asked.
"Nope. But I did want it." I told her truthfully.
"Well we don't charge for wanting." was her retort, "One dollar and just stick it in the cash register. Make change if you need it."
"What keeps people from taking more than they should?" I asked
"You can trust people around here." she replied, never looking up from her dishwashing.
"My first time here" I said as I put my money in the cash register. "But it won't be my last. That was a good meal."
"You should have tried the pie." I heard her say as I walked out the door, "That's my best cooking."
And do you know what, I'll just bet she's right!