CULT FOOD - NORTH STAR STEAKHOUSE
By TRICIA PETERSON
Even then, legislators and lawmakers from the state capital would frequent the steakhouse, and not just for the tasty food. A lot of the appeal back then was the fact that the owner was bootlegging—everyone knew it but did nothing about it.
Sitting in a booth, is like being transported back in time because of the mini jukeboxes with oldies tunes and dim lighting. The menu is the same as it was in 1942 and the service is personable and quick.
Jeffrey Schell, co-owner of North Star, says that many of their “cult” followers mention past servers David Benson, Charles Johnson and Bill Mitchell who were well-known for waiting on large groups and not writing down any orders, but getting them right every time. He says that almost daily people mention these long-time employees who kept regulars coming back. Head Cook David Childs has worked at North Star since 1979.
While catfish, shrimp and a baked potato have found their way onto the menu, the primary dish that customers come for, the steaks, have remained the same. The building is much the same as well, even after the flood in 1951. The only major change occurred in 1972 when they added a lounge area where people can have drinks or appetizers.
“We keep it simple and we figure we do it right and people keep coming back,” Schell said. “It’s my job to throw a party every night, and we’re going to have a good time and treat you right.”
Schell said there are generations of families who frequently come to the steakhouse to eat dinner. He remembers them from years ago when he just worked for North Star and didn’t own it yet.
Jenny Torrence, small business owner in Topeka, has been going to the North Star since she was a child. She says she can’t remember the last birthday she or someone in her family has had that they didn’t eat at North Star.
“It’s tradition. It’s fun because you get a steak on your birthday every year,” Torrence said. “Also, [I love] that it’s unique, the food’s amazing and they always know who you are.” This is one tradition Torrence plans to continue.
“It’s off the beaten path. It’s like a little secret,” Torrence said. “To me, it’s just a part of my life. I don’t know life without North Star.”