Hays Landmark Reopened
Al’s Chickenette has reopened under new management. Last weekend, the restaurant had a “soft opening” to stress test the staff and work out any necessary kinks. The restaurant, which has been a staple of Hays since 1949, closed last spring.
Caroline von Lintel, co-owner of Al’s with Gary Reiman (who owns multiple Wendy’s restaurants), told Hays Post the goal was not to simply reopen the restaurant, but to also to get people to fall back in love with it. While Reiman’s expertise is the kitchen and the food quality, von Lintel said her background in interior design (as well as her family’s artistic vision) was applied to the layout of the restaurant.
Her son designed the new logo, and her daughter hand-crafted the many sculptures and mason jar lighting fixtures seen along the walls. One notable piece she created is the large fabricated chicken on the south side of the store, which von Lintel explained was recycled from family parts.
“She left and went down to her grandpa’s ranch in Russell Springs and when she came back she’d taken the windmill that had fallen down and made the feathers. She was contemplating what she was going to do for the eye, and her dad and grandma brought her these really old cast-iron skillets. So the eye is made out of cast-iron skillets, and the pupil of the eye is the turn signal from a vintage Indian motorcycle.”
Some of the changes the owners have made to the restaurant include:
- All food is prepared daily and fresh, not frozen or from a can
- Updated HVAC system
- Adding a bakery inside the store
- Update to the original recipe (no longer fried in 100% lard)
- Use of 4 pound birds (to avoid small pieces and disappointed guests)
- All food brought in from in-state sources/farms when possible (including corn, beans and chicken)
- All staff work together instead of having designated jobs
- Wait staff working as a team to deliver food to all tables, not just their sections
- Many aesthetic changes
von Lintel added that regardless of how people remember it, there’s enough of the old Al’s along with some modernization that everyone will be able to enjoy the restaurant.
“I want everyone to come out, I want them to fall back in love with Al’s again. It’s a feel-good place. It’s here, it’s back. Everyone thought we were going to lose it, but we’re resurrecting it and bringing it back. I think we’re doing as good, if not a better job than what was done in the past. We’re going to put our best foot forward. It’s not ours, it’s everybody’s Al’s.”