Dairy Barn, photo by Krisitne JacobsonDairy Barn, photo by Krisitne Jacobson

The Dairy Barn

The Dairy Barn
Kathy Steinhauser

Hwy 183
Alma, NE
(308) 928-2572

HOURS:
Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Nostalgia, Delicious Food & Ice Cream Make Alma’s Dairy Barn a Popular Summer Stop

A ringing cow bell on the door of the Dairy Barn in Alma signals another hungry guest seeking a hearty meal or a sweet treat.

It could be a fisherman coming in to cool off with a soft-serve ice cream cone after a day on Harlan County Lake, a local resident stopping in for a quick lunch, or a trucker taking a break as he travels down Highway 183. Sometimes, it’s large groups of diners — families on their way home from camping, ball teams and groups of teen-agers.

And, every once in a while, it’s someone stopping by to revisit the place where they first earned a paycheck or first tasted a crunch cone.

Dairy Barn Crunch Cone, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Dairy Barn Crunch Cone, photo by Kristine Jacobson

“I’m proud of this place,” owner Katherina (Kathy) Steinhauser said. “It’s my home. I love seeing kids smile when they get their ice cream cones.”

Walking through the door of the Dairy Barn is like stepping back in time. Old-fashioned “ice cream” chairs and vintage décor add charm to the cozy indoor dining room. A framed faded map of Disney’s Epcot hangs on the brown paneled walls. The map packs so much nostalgia that customers have tried to purchase it.

Dairy Barn, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Dairy Barn, photo by Kristine Jacobson

But, it’s even more nostalgic to eat outside and order from the outdoor walk-up window that workers slide open when orders are ready.

Dairy Barn Outdoor Seating, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Dairy Barn Outdoor Seating, photo by Kristine Jacobson

The Dairy Barn is so old-fashioned that you won’t find it on Facebook or the World Wide Web.

Yet, Kathy said 2017 is the Dairy Barn’s busiest year so far in the 10 years she and her husband, Cliff, have owned the business. She’s not sure how people hear about the Dairy Barn.

Cliff & Kathy, photo courtesy The Dairy Barn
Cliff & Kathy, photo courtesy The Dairy Barn

Maybe it’s word of mouth.

One summer, a Colorado couple stopped by and ordered the Big Kahuna sandwich, a grilled chicken breast topped with ham, Swiss cheese, grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce. They raved about the sandwich to their Colorado friends, who later traveled to the Dairy Barn just to get a taste of the Big Kahuna.

Big Kahuna, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Big Kahuna, photo by Kristine Jacobson

Maybe it’s the nostalgia.

“We’ve got grandmas coming in who said they worked here,” Kathy said. “People will just come in here and reminisce about this being their first job.”

Devin Making a Flurry, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Kathy’s son Kevin making a flurry, photo by Kristine Jacobson

Or, maybe visitors know that the Dairy Barn flavors are only available for a limited time. The restaurant is open mid-April through Labor Day. That’s when Kathy has enough help to keep it open and when there are large crowds from nearby Harlan County Lake.

Kathy said she and Cliff purchased the Dairy Barn from Marge Bantam 10 years ago because they wanted a place for their five teen-agers to work. They also own the Arrow Lodge across the highway from the Dairy Barn.

“Our kids needed a part-time job,” Kathy said. “Cliff just came over and talked to Marge to see if she wanted to sell it.”

She happened to say yes.

The Dairy Barn, photo by Kristine Jacobson
The Dairy Barn, photo by Kristine Jacobson

This summer, three of their five children are still in college and came home to work for the summer, along with other Alma teens and some adults.

Once the teens go back to school, help is limited. A few years ago, Kathy and Cliff decided to offer homemade pizza as a menu item. “Katz” pizza became wildly popular, but they soon realized it was too labor intensive to serve along with the other menu items. So, they stopped serving pizza in the summer but now open up three days a week during the winter (Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays) to sell carry-out pizza in 22 combinations ranging from Hawaiian and Alfredo Delight to Polish Dog and Reuben. The crust is made from scratch at Sehnert’s Bakery in McCook.

Kathy’s dad was in the Air Force, and she lived much of her childhood in Germany. But, her family also lived in Japan and other countries, giving Kathy the chance to experience the flavors of many cultures.  That may explain her desire to try preparing new foods and experiment with menu items.

For the past two summers, Kathy has offered a “Burger of the Week,” which is only available for that one week. Two of the burgers were so popular that they have earned a spot on the permanent menu: The Trucker, an Angus burger topped with bacon, grilled onions, lettuce, Pepper Jack cheese and BB sauce drizzled over smoked pork; and the Challenger, a ½-pound Angus burger topped with jalapenos, bacon, Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo and mustard. All burgers are served on a Brioche bun.

Challenger, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Challenger, photo by Kristine Jacobson

Other popular menu items are Cliff’s smoked pork sandwich, which is topped with a grilled onion and served with coleslaw, and the smoked brisket sandwich, which is topped with horsey sauce and Kathy’s German coleslaw on sourdough bread.

The menu is also kid friendly with good ol’ hamburgers, chicken strips, grilled cheese sandwiches and soda pop.

Dairy Barn Dr. Pepper, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Dairy Barn Dr. Pepper, photo by Kristine Jacobson

And, visitors with a sweet tooth will find unique and nostalgic combinations at the Dairy Barn. A root-beer float with soft-serve ice cream and bottled root beer hits the spot on a warm summer day. Or, there’s the popular banana split or the old- fashioned crunch cone, which is an ice cream cone topped with special toppings made of crushed peanut brittle and sprinkles. Shakes and malts mixed with candy or fruit toppings are also popular sweet treats.

Root Beer Float, photo by Kristine Jacobson
Root Beer Float, photo by Kristine Jacobson

As was said earlier, don’t go looking for the Dairy Barn on Facebook, Twitter or the Internet. Just search the old-fashioned way by picking up the phone and calling Kathy or her staff at (308) 928-2572 or by getting in the car and driving to Alma.

The Dairy Barn Highway 183, photo by Krisitne Jacobson
The Dairy Barn Highway 183, photo by Krisitne Jacobson

More Foodies

Also while in Alma, be sure to check out another Rural Foodie treasure at Between the Slices in downtown Alma.


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Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson is a writer, mom of three, farmer’s wife and unlikely promoter of rural Nebraska. In high school, she was the girl who couldn’t wait to move to the big city and escape her small hometown in rural Nebraska. She pursued her dream and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned a degree in journalism. After college, she married her high school sweetheart and a few years later found herself back in her small rural hometown. She now embraces the simplicity of life without crowds and traffic. She’s found great friends and lots of opportunities to make an impact in her small town. When she’s not writing or working for clients in her business (KRJPR), she can be seen on a bleacher somewhere watching her children participate in sports, or she can be found reading a book, biking, walking, camping or enjoying nature, scrapbooking or planning a trip somewhere. Her daughter calls her a “pictionarian,” or one who likes to take pictures, and “trippish,” meaning she likes to travel.

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