Abilene, Kan.’s iconic Brookville Hotel restaurant recently reopened softly under new ownership and a new name: Legacy Kansas.
Customers can still order the original restaurant’s “world-famous” family-style fried chicken dinners and sides including coleslaw, biscuits & gravy, mashed potatoes, and creamed corn, but now they can also order a highly marbled country fried steak from the new owners' century-old Munson Angus Farms.
Chicken dinners at the Brookville Hotel became legendary as cattle traveled along the Chisholm Trail, which after the Civil War connected Texas ranches to Kansas City railheads. The restaurant moved to its current location in 1999 after the owners replicated the original façade and dining rooms. After it closed in 2020, the Munson family spent a year negotiating its purchase from fourth-generation owners Mark and Connie Martin.
Today, retired Kansas State University professor Deanna Munson is the majority owner. She and her husband Chuck own more than 90% of the business and he still oversees their farm, which specializes in premium Angus beef. Their son David is a third owner who manages marketing and public relations.
The Munsons had previous restaurant experience from operating their Munson’s Prime Restaurant in Junction City, Kan., which burned down last year, seven years after it opened. They learned a lot from that experience.
“We did not take a phased approach with [opening] Munson’s Prime,” Deanna Munson said. “Instead, everybody came that first month, because they knew about Munson’s beef. It was a disaster. There is no way we would have opened another restaurant if Brookville wasn’t available. It’s the only thing that made us even consider a new restaurant.”
This time, the family’s phased roll-out began in July with reservations only, and an average per-person check of $23.
“[This phased rollout is] creating sanity,” Munson said. “We’re getting very positive responses to our food quality and service for the number of staff that we’re able to hire.”
The Munsons have also received valuable input from one of Deanna’s previous KSU colleagues, Mary Molt, who, in addition to teaching food production management, also runs dining operations at the university.
Molt gave the Munsons a copy of her book, Food for 50, published by Pearson Education, which is about cooking for large groups. She also provided input on kitchen layout to accommodate efficient preparation of both the fried chicken and steaks, and helped in recipe development too.
The previous restaurant had a huge, very well put-together kitchen, Deanna Munson said. But the new owners have added a convection oven and a custom-made wood-burning grill, and a new ice cream maker will soon turn out Deanna’s grandmother’s recipe.
The 17,000-square-foot Legacy Kansas will eventually accommodate 225 guests including high-top bar seating and a full bar.
As Legacy Kansas evolves, more award-winning beef will appear on the menu, including grilled steaks priced around $35 to $40, and half-pound burgers with fries for around $12.
“Right now, we process the whole animal, while cutting steaks and brisket and grinding the rest into burger meat,” Deanna Munson said. “We will use [our beef] in a more effective way as things progress, with smoked brisket and other cuts for special events and group gatherings.”