The Plainsman Steak House
103 E. 14th St.
Juniata, NE 68955
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 pm
Plainsman Steak House offers lessons in five star service
Rural Foodies log hundreds of miles driving and searching and finding the stand-out home-owned restaurants and chefs in the Nebraska prairies and towns under 10,000. We most often travel the Nebraska byways and highways although we are known to break into our border states of Kansas and South Dakota when we hear a rumor of fine food or craft beer.
Stopping at historical markers and noticing the subtle loveliness of the prairie and the lush colors of autumn in the river valleys adds to the travel experience. We marvel at the variations in landscape – rivers, prairie, ridges and canyons. And always the high drama of Nebraska skies!
We are finding rural Nebraska dining that meets our highest expectations for delicious, fresh, and memorable dishes. Just as important as that, we are noting restaurateurs and their staff delivering sincere welcomes, a positive atmosphere and service that is both personal and efficient. Read on because The Plainsman Steak House in Juniata offers lessons on delivering five star customer service.
The beginning of extraordinary dining
The Plainsman Steakhouse was started in 1975 by Juniata community leaders Colin Wiseman, George Kulhanek, and Jerry Martin in the village of Juniata, Adams County, Nebraska. Ben Pegg and Leah Deisley purchased it in 1995. Pegg and Deisley both grew up in nearby Red Cloud and were classmates.
“Leah and I stepped up to the plate and bought The Plainsman,” Pegg said. “I recognized the opportunity because at the time I was running the Barrel Bar in Juniata, and Leah also was living in Juniata then. I knew Leah was probably the best cook in Adams County because she learned from her mother, who definitely was the most amazing cook with the most delicious recipes in a three-county area.”
Pegg and Deisley built more dining space to seat 200 guests in a variety of comfortable settings — tables for four or more, booths and bar seating. A cheery fireplace area also attracts a circle of diners.
“Leah is the heart and soul of the Plainsman,” said John Edwards, employee and specialist in managing all aspects of The Plainsman Steakhouse. He does a little bit of everything at the Plainsman, including repair, cleaning, catering, greeting customers, waiting and filling in as a cook when needed.
“I will put her culinary artistry against Wolfgang Puck for flavor and eye- appeal,” Pegg adds. “We have customers who call to ask if Leah’s fresh pea salad will be available, and if not, they reserve their table for another day.”
Marinated Nebraska-grown tomatoes appeal to customers too. Leah invented the marinade, and when tomatoes are in season, that salad is a favorite.
Leah speaks humbly of her role in the kitchen yet her eyes sparkle when she describes her soups and salads. The always rotating soup menu includes vegetable beef, chicken noodle, ham and bean — all customer favorites.
“Leah prepares goulash soup, meatball soup, and others, and her soups add to the culinary reputation of The Plainsman,” Edwards adds. “Nearly every day, customers call and ask, what’s the soup today?”
Prime rib buffet draws the weekend crowds
Prime rib on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights draws the crowds, and as Pegg said, “The prime rib buffets on the weekends make the business work for all of us.” Customers drive from Grand Island, Hastings, Blue Hill, Lincoln, Red Cloud and communities in Kansas. They come for quality Nebraska prime rib of beef perfectly roasted to the customer’s desired degree of doneness and accompanied by a variety of freshly made salads and sides including fresh baked breads, soups, salads and vegetables locally sourced in season, and warm welcoming service.
The Plainsman dinner menu also offers a wide selection of fish and seafood – catfish, halibut, orange roughy, and shrimp. Always hand-cut fire broiled steaks are available, and freshly made soups and crunchy green salads too. The most popular salads are Leah’s marinated tomatoes, the sauerkraut salad and the fresh pea salad. Tuesday and Wednesday evening specials are respectively tacos and wings.
The Plainsman Burger build an exceptional dining experience
The opportunity to taste the celebrated Plainsman Burger lured me to the Plainsman for lunch on a spectacular Nebraska autumn day. I heard through our reliable and active grapevine that the Plainsman hamburgers tasted especially delicious and were not to be missed in our travels. I arrived at 11:00 a.m. on a Thursday in time to meet the leadership team and also several wait staff and grill chefs. We introduced ourselves over a cup of coffee and talked about The Plainsman, the menu, favorite food choices on the menu and their legendary service .
Lunch was served, and I was feeling a bit concerned that my expectations may exceed the reality of the experience since, after all, a hamburger is what it is, a hamburger. Then at first taste of the Plainsman Burger, all other hamburgers of my past slipped away. I savored the tender bite of top grade beef, the chew of the meat, and the melt-in-my-mouth flavors of American and Swiss cheese slices and smoky, crisp bacon. I think the key to the taste explosion in my mouth may have been the two moderate size patties of hamburger perfectly broiled. A bun that was soft and squished down to a proper bite. Cheese slices so thin that they were melting as I ate the burger and which carried the rich flavors of the smoky bacon and meaty hamburger into every taste bud in my mouth. I have never before enjoyed a hamburger without catsup and mustard until the Plainsman Burger. Although barbecue sauce is served on the side, I felt so enamored by the flavor and chew of the burger that the barbecue sauce seemed a distraction.
My choice of side with the Plainsman Burger was a fresh cabbage and spinach salad, recently added to the salad menu by Leah. I enjoyed the fresh and mighty crunch of delicately sliced cabbage combined with deep green leaves of baby spinach and served with a mellow, creamy blue cheese dressing. Leah has mastered the combination of ingredients for maximum flavor.
Five star service
The conversation at the table turned to mastering the most problematic aspect of restaurant management, managing wait staff to provide great service. The Plainsman management team pride themselves on the excellent service of The Plainsman wait staff.
“Most of our customers are regulars and become a part of the Plainsman family,” Pegg said. “Our staff know the customers and have developed friendly relationships with them.”
Wait staff and kitchen staff also consider themselves family at The Plainsman, and the employees affectionately nicknamed Leah ” grandma” or “mema” because they report that Ben and Leah take care of them. Help appears in scheduling work hours with employees in mind, attentive listening to concerns and celebrating the accomplishments of each employee.
“Leah and Ben arrange our schedules around family, school, sports and other activities of the employees,” Edwards said.
“Our employees benefit because they acquire excellent work habits and skill in communicating,” Pegg added. “They talk with people of all ages, cultures and economic backgrounds, and their associations often evolve into a network for future employment and schooling. Everyone who works here is part of the team. We take care of our own. No corporate here.”
People come in because they hear about The Plainsman from others
All advertising is word-of-mouth and through the restaurant’s Facebook page. “We also cater events and celebrations in the region,” Edwards said. Regional seed dealers bring customers from Japan, Germany, Russia and parts of the U.S. to meet at The Plainsman to acquire information about the seed products. A dining room separate from the main dining area may be booked for private parties, and at times groups take up all of the restaurant seating.
“Serving quality food in a pleasant dining atmosphere and providing thoughtful service is our best advertising,” Pegg said.
Word’s getting around and The Plainsman has built a steady and solid reputation on good food, great service and friendly relationships. Stop on by and you’ll see why.