Paying a visit to the Pioneers Inn

Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 10:06 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you are traveling along Highway 136 at Gilead in Thayer County, you might consider stopping in, going downtown, and having a great meal.

The Pioneers Inn is a popular place to eat. It’s been around for quite some time. In fact owner Karen Keilwitz has been running it for 34 years now. “On Sundays we have broasted chicken,” Keilwitz said. “On Thursday nights we have a hamburger night which draws in about 100 people. We usually do about 100 burgers, plus we do steaks and other stuff on Thursday nights, that’s a good draw.”

The Pioneers Inn is open seven days a week, but on Wednesdays they close at 2 p.m. The staff here put in long hours to make the meals memorable. Customers come from all over. “We get people from Omaha, we get people from Lincoln, we get people from Deshler, Alexandria, Chester, Hubbell, Byron, Fairbury, and Hebron,” Keilwitz said.

What’s the secret to this restaurant’s popularity? “I think it’s just an old-fashioned place, and I think people just kind of like that, plus there’s the atmosphere.” That atmosphere is created in part by the unique building where the owners of the Pioneers Inn welcome guests. “It was built to house and feed the railroad workers,” Keilwitz said. “It was built in 1887. They used to have rooms upstairs. There used to be steps on the outside, and there would be a doorway up there and they would house and feed the railroad workers when it first opened. It was a general store for a while, and they gave haircuts, and even had mail delivery in here.”

We’re told that even citizenship classes were conducted upstairs in this old historic building. “Now it’s more of a restaurant than anything, and people like the service, they like the food, they like the company and they like seeing their friends,” Keilwitz said. “It’s right along highway 136, and it draws a lot of people.”

The building is made out of limestone. “The first half that was originally built was made out of limestone. I think there was a quarry, I want to say, close to Alexandria, where they got most of the limestone,” Keilwitz said.

About 10 years ago, Karen thought about closing down the Pioneers Inn because it was just getting too old. But the community came together, to keep that from happening. They even held a fundraiser to keep the doors open. So, the Pioneers Inn continues to serve people, and the customers keep coming back. It’s not clear what the future holds for the business. But for now, owners are just hoping to continue serving down home quality. “We’re just going to keep going, try to get people in and serve good food, and our motto is not to let anyone go out of here hungry, if they do then it’s their own fault,” Keilwitz said.

So if you are looking for a road trip, you might consider a trip down Heritage Highway 136, and a visit to Gilead, where you won’t go away hungry.

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