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Good food, good people at Atkinson diner
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Owner Lisa Brants
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
The inside of Lisa's Place in Atkinson is filled with hungry customers having breakfast at the counter and in the dining room. The restaurant, inside the former Atkinson Livestock Market, draws tourists and local regulars alike.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Many of the customers at Lisa's Place in Atkinson have been coming for so long they have their own coffee mugs. Each morning customers enter the restaurant and find their personal mug on the wall.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti

ATKINSON — The folks turn out at Lisa's Place on U.S. Highway 6.

From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, farmers, truckers, local townspeople, a mixture of young and old come together for a hot breakfast or lunch.

They sit at the two horseshoe counters or at the tables, some in conversation as forks and spoons dig into food.

Elmer Hudders, of Atkinson, and his wife of 67 years, Doris, have been eating at the restaurant for the 45 years it has been open.

Formerly known as the Branding Iron and the Cattle Club, Lisa's Place brings friends, neighbors and strangers together for a little socializing as much as for the food.

"You usually know what they want," said owner Lisa Brants. "His (Mr. Hudders') is one egg and toast. Hers (Mrs. Hudders') is usually a half-order biscuit and gravy really hot."

Mr. Hudder, a retired farmer who once worked next door when it was the Chicago-Atkinson Livestock Market, added that he also indulges himself with the hot beef and mashed potatoes and gravy at the lunch counter.

"We don't have to drive too far," said Mr. Hudders, wearing his bib overalls. "It gives us something to keep from getting cabin fever."

Ms. Brants opened the business four years ago in January. Prior to that she worked here for 15 years under prior ownership. When the restaurant opened in 1965, the year the livestock market opened, cattlemen and hog farmers were regular customers.

A cattle ring next door is no longer in use, a reminder of days past.

More than 100 coffee cups hang from the wall near one of the horseshoe counters. Ms. Brants said she and the waitresses can place each cup with its owner when they come in. An informal coffee club of sorts gives the place a down-home feel, she said.

Sitting nearby the Hudderses are Beverly Nelson and her 11-year-old son, Seth. The boy ordered biscuits and gravy and a glass of chocolate milk.

"What do you say?" his mother asked.

"Please," the boy said promptly.

Afterward, he paid the bill and said he also eats breakfast here with his dad and his grandma. His favorites are biscuits and gravy and the homemade cinnamon rolls.

"Yeah, they're really good," Seth said.

He helps his dad in the fields of their rural Atkinson farm and comes by Lisa's Place for breakfast or lunch. Seth proudly said he owns his own tractor, an Oliver 770.

"It needs to be restored," he said solemnly. "We've got the front wheels, but the front rims aren't good."

Seth walks out with his mother, and others fill the stools, a steady flow of customers and food.

Homemade pies, breads, gravies, rolls, soups — it's a nice place for families to come for a bite, or several, Ms. Brants said. "We sell a lot of hot beef."

A popular breakfast is known as "The Nest."

"It's a half order of biscuits and gravy with two eggs on top," Ms. Brants said. "And hash browns on top of that."

Ms. Brants said people come from all over to eat at her restaurant.

"We all like to go to the table and find out where the people are from," Ms. Brants said. "We always tell everybody we treat them like family."

Many of the customers and the employees have nicknames. Ms. Brants' sister, Rhonda Bohms, banters back and forth with the regulars. "One of the older gentlemen that comes in here calls her 'Fiesty,'" Ms. Brants said.

Nearby Annawan resident Rachel Prater and her sons, Elijah, 4, and Brendan, 19 months, just had a big breakfast themselves.

"They get so excited," Ms. Prater said with a laugh. "Every time we drive by, he's (Elijah) like, 'We eat there!'"

"And, I say, 'Yes we do.'"

At the counter, regular Gene DeDecker, of Atkinson, is dressed in a camouflage coat. He's speaking to a man eating a plate full of biscuits and gravy about deer hunting. Ms. Brants' mother, Shirley Roselieb, is busing tables. She'll come in a day or two a week to wash dishes and get the local scuttlebutt.

"If anyone leaves unhappy, it's not because we didn't try," Ms. Roselieb said.

Atkinson resident Jim Sorenson arrives for his daily breakfast. He was a former owner of the stockyard, coming down from Chicago in 1968 to live here and eventually buy the stockyard in 1976.

"This place was built by a bunch of investors, farmers mostly, called the Midwest Market," Mr. Sorenson said. "It was built in '65. It was sold to the Chicago stockyards in 1968. This restaurant was built by Midwest Market.

"When the Chicago stockyards bought this, they called it the Chicago-Atkinson Livestock Market."

Mr. Sorenson, who co-owned the stockyard with Atkinson resident Bill Rednour, emphasized the size of the livestock market when it was in its prime.

"The most hogs we ever had here was 4,620 on one day," he said. "They were sold in the auction ring. We used to sell cattle, too, for slaughter."

Cattle are still sold here, but the emphasis is on the food for Mr. Sorenson.

"I've never had a bad meal here," said the former stockyard owner. "This is a nice restaurant, a good restaurant. If you're looking for hoity-toity, this isn't the place.

"If you're looking for good food, this is it."










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(More History)