The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Dudes Celebrates 65 Years Of Familiar Faces

 

November 17, 2017

Forrest Hershberger

Chamber Ambassadors congratulated the Gorman family for 65 years operating Dude's Steakhouse & Brandin' Iron Bar recently. The business was started in 1952 by Deward & Florence Jelinek. It is now in the fourth and the fifth generations.

On the west edge of Sidney is a brick building with two shared identities, three really inside one location. It is a place where comfort food is redundant because the family is introducing the newest generation to consistent food the community is comfortable with.

It is an enterprise that started as a liquor store, then a bar and liquor store, before evolving into a restaurant, bar and dance hall.

In its early days, Dudes lived the example of "farm to table," except it was a restaurant table. Some of the dishes served in the early days were from animals raised on Dude's ranch. That all changed when federal regulations required additional oversight and costs.

The Gorman family is celebrating 65 years of serving meals to Sidney residents and travelers through Cheyenne County. The landmark started when "Dude" Jelinek and Pete Sittner bought a liquor store in Sidney in 1947. By 1952, Jelinek opened a bar and liquor store at its current location of 2126 Illinois St. In 1962, Jelinek acquired the other half of the building and remodeled it to retrofit a restaurant. Three years later, the dance hall was opened. The dance hall could accommodate up to 400 people when it opened. The maximum now is about 250. At its opening, the dance hall featured live bands and was open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Days have changed to Friday with live DJ service and sometimes live music.

Dudes is one of those locations that quickly becomes like the television bar: "Where everybody knows your name." It is a place where high school sweethearts become husband and wife who extend the Dude's legacy... twice. Patty and Larry Gorman were knew each other from school, then their son Joey married his high school sweetheart Sarah who also worked at the restaurant.

Deward "Dude" Jelinek married Florence, then was sent to Pearl Harbor as part of the U.S. Navy. She went to work at the Sioux Army Depot. He is pictured with other sailors placing wreaths on tombstones of the Pearl Harbor attack victims. When his time with the Navy was completed, he returned to work at Dudes.

When he returned, he and his wife had changed so much, they almost didn't recognize each other; they knew each other, but they looked different than when they parted.

There are now children witnessing how the restaurant is managed with the potential of a fifth generation stepping into the legacy.

"We've always taken pride in taking care of the community, consistent food," said Joseph "Joey" Gorman, grandson of the original partner in the Dude's name.

The country theme started with the grandparents as ranchers and the country theme of the community.

Some of the artwork is reflective of the ranch work, and cheap art that became widely recognized throughout the artwork. As a customer enters the restaurant side of the building, there is a wide painting of life in the early days using specific brush strokes that later caught the attention of art critics. The piece hanging in Dudes was done in exchange for a modest two bottles of bourbon.

The family thinks back through their years in the business with a kind of gleam in their eyes, even the younger generations know of people who have met their spouses there, some who have popped the question in the bar or dining room. What has stayed the same is the focus on quality food and quality service.

"We added a lot, but we never changed," said Patty Gorman, daughter of the original owner.

Customer service has been an important facet of Dudes from the beginning, Patty Gorman said. She recalls seeing cars stop at the street outside of the door and the waitresses directed to meet guests at the door. She said her parents wanted everyone to feel important when they came to Dudes. Jelinek was also known as the kind of man who would sit down with customers he had never met and just start talking,

Joey Gorman stressed that with all of the hard work and dedication needed to maintain a business for 65 years, the success is a result of the sweat and dedication of Dude's staff.

"It takes a team," he said.

Dude's Steakhouse & Brandin' Iron Bar is open 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday for breakfast, serves lunch 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed for lunch in the summer, and dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The bar is open 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and the dance hall is open 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays.

 

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