Historically Speaking: Delmonico's Restaurant

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Delmonico's Restaurant of its South 2nd Avenue incarnation after a flood.

Fans of the TV show "Gunsmoke" remember the place to eat in Dodge City was Delmonico's.

There was indeed a Delmonico restaurant, and later hotel, on Front Street in early Dodge. The first business on its site was Morris Collar's clothing store, followed by John Tyler's Tonsorial Parlor, a dry goods store and lastly the Lone Star saloon and restaurant.

In 1885, Lone Star owner Charles Heinz bowed to pressure from the State to close his saloon. Prohibition against alcohol in Kansas had been in effect for five years and it was finally being enforced in Dodge City.

He renamed his Saloon the Delmonico and operated it as a restaurant. Most likely he named it after the famous, longstanding, Delmonico's in New York City.

Heinz' head waiter was an early Dodge City fire chief, Albert Warren. Albert's father was a buffalo hunter, Loren L. Warren, whose claim to fame was how he died in 1874; being scalped near Fort Dodge.

The Delmonico restaurant had good food and was where people congregated, which is why the writers of Gunsmoke made it the place to eat and meet in Dodge.

In December 1885, within months of Delmonico's opening, disaster struck when the second of a series big fires hit central Dodge City destroying Delmonico's. It reopened the next day at a temporary location in a vacant school on the corner of Walnut [Gunsmoke] Street and First Avenue.

It was soon rebuilt in brick at its original location as a hotel and restaurant. They had a grand opening of the hotel Oct. 15, 1886. On the menu were oysters as stew, fried or raw, accompanied by turkey, pork, tongue, corn beef and ham. Salads included shrimp and lobster. A vast array of breads and jellies were offered. The meal was topped off with an extensive choice of desserts and fruits.

As a hotel, Delmonico's hosted Bat Masterson whose name appears on the register in October, 1887.

Delmonico's lasted until at least the 1890s. It is in a photograph taken around 1890 showing it standing on Front Street between F.C. Zimmermann's hardware store and the York-Draper Mercantile Co. The "Delmonico Building" was among those torn down for Urban Renewal in 1970.

The original Delmonico restaurant and hotel has faded into history. But that was not the last of Delmonico's in Dodge City. A restaurant by that name existed in the mid 1960's to mid 1970's at 503 South Second Avenue. The building is gone and the Ashley Furniture Store, stands on its site today.

The latest incarnation of Delmonico's appeared at the current location of Vallarta Mexican Grill at 1301 West Wyatt Earp. It was there for a short time after Peppercorn's Bar closed in 2008.

Perhaps, sooner or later, the name Delmonico's will reappear in Dodge City.