The restaurants were designed to look like mid-17th century English inns, both on the inside and outside. The wait staff even wore period outfits.
Wichita’s Steak and Ale opened in 1970, and the city loved it. The restaurant was a special occasion go-to for years, and if you ever peruse a Facebook group dedicated to discussing Wichita’s past, you’ll quickly come across mentions of Steak and Ale.
Wichita isn’t the only city that remembers the restaurant with nostalgic passion. In its franchisee packet, Legendary Brands highlights a Facebook page it created called Steak and Ale’s Comeback that has nearly 50,000 followers.
Whatever became of Wichita’s Steak and Ale?
It remained in operation from 1970 to 2000, when it suddenly closed. A manager at the time said that the restaurant’s lease was up, and because the pending Kellogg expansion would eventually swallow the property, the company decided not to renew.
A couple of other restaurants operated briefly in the space, including the short-lived Chowder House Seafood and Lounge, which opened in November of 2000, and Mexican restaurant El Rodeo, which took over the space in 2001 but moved out two years later when the building was targeted for demolition.
In 2008, when the former owners of the Steak and Ale chain declared bankruptcy, the last of the remaining restaurants in the United States were shut down.
But the love is still alive. On the page for the popular Facebook Group “If you grew up in Wichita, KS, then you remember…,” posts about the Steak and Ale pop up all the time and quickly draw dozens of comments from people who once worked there, remember dining there with their parents as kids or who got engaged there.
A post about the restaurant that just went up last month posed the question, “Anyone remember the Steak and Ale?” It got 334 likes and drew 67 comments.
“I always felt so fancy when we went there,” said one person who responded.
“We would go there on the day we were paid,” said another.
“My sister’s rehearsal dinner was there.”
“Went there after prom in ’74.”
“It was our romantic date and anniversary place.”
“They had the coldest, tastiest salad bar.”
“Miss that place.”
So what say ye, Wichita business folks?
Mangiamele says that anyone interested in becoming a Steak and Ale franchisee or investor should visit www.bennigans.com or www.legendaryrestaurantbrands.com.