Wilson, Kansas' Czech Capital, emphasizes family recipes and old-fashioned charm

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
Kyle, Nathan and Kevin Bontrager sit with Christian Weston, all of Hutchinson, as they enjoy their iced tea at Grandma's Soda Shop and Diner in Wilson.

WILSON — Although Brittany Butler says she follows a recipe, she mostly cooks by feel — the way her grandmother taught her.

"We measure to a certain point," she said. "She (her grandmother) was more of the type that said 'Oh that looks or it smells good.'"

Butler enjoys baking bierocks and kolaches, making ice cream floats and more at Grandma's Soda Shop and Diner in Wilson - a town known as the Czech Capital of Kansas. 

Butler's great-grandmother was half Czech. Her recipes were handed down through the family. Butler's grandparents started Grandma's Diner in 2012, hoping to bring back a bit of the traditional cuisine and customs.

"They wanted to show people the old-fashioned way," Butler said.

Brittany Butler makes an ice cream float at Grandma's Soda Shop and Diner in Wilson.

They bought the old post office, which was built in 1917, kept the mail slots and tin ceiling, brought in an old soda bar and made sure there were no televisions present. They also decided to use tried and true ingredients, making their own pizza, waffle cones and Czech delicacies.

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The kolaches come in cherry, apricot, peach, poppyseed, cheese and prune.

"It's all family recipes," Butler said. "I bake every day."

The ice cream bar at Grandma's Soda Shop and Diner.

Dallas Vopat, 19, who works at the restaurant, said he enjoys both the customers and the ability to make pizzas and ice cream floats. 

"It's a real positive environment," he said. "I love it."

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The learning curve is tough though, as Vopat must make a variety of drinks, including a black, brown and white cow. The black cow contains root beer and both chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The brown one has both the chocolate and vanilla ice cream, but it uses cola. As for the white cow - that one is a shake - containing milk and vanilla ice cream. 

"There's also the Wilson egg cream," Butler said.

A home-made black cherry float made to order at Grandma's Soda Shop and Diner in Wilson.

This century-old drink is a mixture of chocolate soda and milk.

That day, four men from Hutchinson decided to go with the homemade iced tea to wash down with their pizza.

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"We were told their pizza was really good," said Christian Weston. "We got the supreme."

The restaurant is also the keeper of the old Wilson water tower and jail. This cylindrical limestone building is out back and was built in 1907.