As I stated in my last post, we were glad that the birding was so awesome at Quivira NWR last evening, because our morning birding on the south drive wasn’t very productive. We repeated the north drive just for fun, and did pick up a few new birds, plus got a great look at black-necked stilt babies (not a very long look, as we didn’t want to upset the parents!)
We drove back to Grand Rapids, KS by way of Ellinwood – a cute little town with wheat sheaths on the lightpoles – where we found Mississippi Kites and Eurasian Collard Doves. We continued on to Liebenthal where we followed the advice of Leo from Mo’s and picked up some Pat’s Beef Jerky.
There was no coffee this morning, so combine with the monotony of the drive from Grand Rapids to Hays, I fell right asleep. I woke up as we were driving into Hays from the south, and it looked like a sleepy little town (coming in from the north, it looks like any other larger town on an Interstate exit – busy with gas stations, convenience stores, fast food and chain restaurants.)
We located Gella’s Diner & Lb. Brewing Company, and things were far from sleepy in there! This place has a clean, fresh look that ranked it as a restaurant fitting for any major U.S. city. The literature described it as “inspired by icons of the Midwest”, with it’s handpainted farm murals, industrial agriculture lighting, open spaces and references to early railroad (one of the most obvious references was a part of the restaurant sectioned off my box-car style sliding doors.
This building, built in 1922, was used by Western Union and Midwest Energy, then closed up for many years until local investors were inspired to create the pub. The brick walls, light wood and use of metal piping and brushed aluminum against black surfaces gave clean lines to the entire place. Even the bathroom sinks were great – gooseneck faucets over flat white marble – the sinks were at least 1.5″ x 1.5″ with a 1″ lip.
“Fesh” is their motto, with as many ingredients as possible homemade and homegrown (mustards, dressing and ice cream all made in house; meats with no preservatives and never frozen, vegetables prepared on site and nothing ever microwaved.) The only contradiction to this were the colorful jars of pickled vegetable products that lined large sections of walls – giving the place beautiful color, although I noticed they were pickled products from Jake & Amos in Lancaster, PA. But the beer and the food were both true to the promises Gella’s makes in their literature (the word “gella” is Volga-German for “don’t you agree?”) Even the menu has fresh clean lines – it is laid out on ledger paper. I wanted one of almost everything – certainly all of the side dishes – and we did taste every beer they had.
I ate a small bowl of their sauerkraut soup, which didn’t have a disappointing flavor, but I did expect more sauerkraut. It had lots of braised pork and smoked ham, and a few vegetables. I also had the Grilled Salmon Salad which featured a large grilled filet of salmon (more than I needed) on mixed greens with a wonderful lemon vinaigrette. D had the Beerwurst sandwich – german-style sausage braised in Amber Ale with caramelized sauerkraut and spicy mustard. It came with a choice of one side, so he had the fries made with garlic, olive oil, basil, sea salt and pepper. Just for fun, we also ordered the french-fried green beans, which were fabulous.
As for the beers, I decided to do a taster glass of their 6 regulars and two seasonals. To match their clean and to-the-point style, all beers are numbered. It appears that if the brewer creates something new, it gets a number that has never been used before (although I never confirmed this.) After each number, the simple name for the beer is written – no fancy, cute names for these beers. They are what they are.
And that is just how they tasted – evrything I had was superb! Each beer was brewed exactly how I expect it should be. For instance, when I order a stout in any brewpub, I expect the quality and flavor I had while drinking a stout at Lb. On my sample platter, there were no surprises – no beers that made me say, “WOW!”, and nothing that disappointed me in any way. D also had two sample glasses and a pint, and his samples did go beyond “just perfect.” First, a Cream Ale that displayed a beautiful dark golden hue and packed flavor into this light beer style (described as “part ale, part lager”.) Second, the Lemon Ale, which had I not known it was beer, I would have asked for ice and free refills. This was tart and sugary just like a perfect glass of summer lemonade. It would have been perfect with my salmon salad.
We had to get a souvenir from our trip to Lb. It was just too good, and they had something we’ve never seen before – a double growler cooler bag. For $14. more, we could have gotten two of their growlers filled with their beer, but I couldn’t see us drinking that much. We had miles to go (and two more pubs to visit that day!) New trip birds on the way to Hays (bringing us to a trip total of 123):
- Ellinwood – Eurasian Collard Dove
- Leibenthal – Northern Harrier