Lumber Yard Steakhouse brings small-town charm and thick-cut Angus steaks

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
D'Onte Marshall pays for his meal at The Lumber Yard Steakhouse in Zenda.

When Diana Albright and Jeremy Barnes drive to the rural town of Zenda for lunch, they know they are going to get good food.

Once a month, the two drive from Harper to eat at the Lumber Yard Steakhouse. Sometimes they choose a ribeye steak; other times they order an Angus steak.

"Every experience we've had here has been exceptional," Barnes said. "I know we're not going to get disappointed."

Last Friday, Barnes ate the specialty Muleshoe, chicken-fried steak with Texas toast, claiming it was a heart attack waiting to happen. 

The Lumber Yard Steakhouse is housed in the Geo. W. Ultch Lumber Company, which was built on Zenda's Main Street in 1902. 

The Lumber Yard Steakhouse in Zenda.

In the early 1900s, Ultch owned 15 lumberyards in Kansas and one in Missouri. In 1991, two of the hardware store's employees opened the Lumber Yard Steakhouse and Supper Club.       

Ten years ago, local cattleman Mike Molitor bought the restaurant. Being an Angus cattle rancher, he made sure that only Angus steaks were sold and that the steaks were cut on the premises. The restaurant in this town of a little more than 120 residents is a part of the Certified Angus Beef program.  

Zenda was settled during the mid-1880s and named Rochester. According to the town's website, the wife of a Santa Fe train conductor read the novel "The Prisoner of Zenda" and thought Zenda would be a "pretty" name for the up-and-coming town. In 1892, the post office changed its name to Zenda.

Nowadays, Main Street in Zenda consists of a farmers co-op, a small post office and the Lumber Yard Steakhouse, which always has customers.

"We are busy, busy," said manager and chef Bob Pummel. "Because I cut the steaks, they (customers) know it's a good steak, and it's consistent."

Along with top sirloin, bacon-wrapped fillets and bourbon pork loins, The Lumber Yard sells chicken gizzards and mountain oysters. Continually changing things up, the restaurant has new specials each day, from catfish to the specialty Horseshoe. Molitor even introduced a 16-ounce "Doc's Ribeye," named after his father. 

Wall decorations reflect The Lumber Yard Steakhouse's tribute to the building's original business.

Customers come often, enjoying the old lumberyard décor, from painted saw blades to the original wood floor. 

Local farmer Roger Burton said he enjoys meeting his friends and eating good food. Lots of customers come in during their lunch hour from nearby towns.

"The Mississippi boys love the hamburgers and fries," said D'Onte Marshall. "It's great food."

Marshall, who works nearby, often eats at this hometown restaurant with three of his friends. All four grew up in Mississippi and are working at a nearby wind farm.

Along with working as a waitress at The Lumber Yard, Randy Nulik takes care of her own cattle at her small ranch nearby. 

Another waitress, Auzzie Jost, has worked at The Lumber Yard for two years. She said she is amazed at the support the customers showed during the beginning of COVID-19. Along with patrons from Wichita, Hutchinson and Pratt, the restaurant gets reservations from people traveling in from Texas, New Mexico and even North Carolina. 

"The customers are fun," said Jost. "Some of them are like family."

Matthew Giefer, Clayton Molitor and Todd Swindle eat lunch at The Lumber Yard Steakhouse in Zenda.
Auzzie Jost pours a drink at The Lumber Yard Steakhouse in Zenda.
Diana Albright and Jeremy Barnes of Harper dine at The Lumber Yard Steakhouse at least once a month.