Dee Alvarez’s family said they hope the restaurant their mother and father began in 1970 will continue in the future.
Dee Alvarez, who opened Al’s Café in Lost Springs with her husband, Manuel, in 1970, died Saturday at Herington Municipal Hospital after tripping over a rubber mat and falling at the café.
The café, originally housed in a former country school that seated 35 people, served American food in its early days. Alvarez then added Mexican food on weekends.
Before long, Mexican cuisine was the mainstay of the business, bringing customers so dedicated, they would stand hours outside waiting for an available table.
A larger building opened at the same address in 1996 seated 75.
“We were going to have a big 50-year celebration around her birthday this year,” her daughter Theresa Morrical said. “I just told her a couple weeks ago we were planning it. I told her, ‘You choose the weekend and we’ll do it big for you, Mom.’ ”
Her six children grew up working in the café along with their parents. Dee’s husband, Manuel, also worked alongside her until he died in 1975.
The café was a way of life for the family.
“Since they had it we all took turns doing dishes, waitressing, cooking,” daughter Theresa Morrical said.
Even when they were little, the children pitched in.
“We would stand on pop cases to reach the sink and wash the dishes,” said daughter Diana Smith.
As grandchildren and great-grandchildren came along, they also learned to help.
Right now the future of the café is uncertain, Morrical said.
“Everything’s at a standstill right now,” she said.
“We’re hoping and praying to carry on the legacy, but you know, it’s whatever God has planned,” Smith said.
Morrical said she’d encouraged her mother to retire and let someone else take over at the restaurant, but Alvarez said they’d have to carry her out of the café.
“She was walking and there was a mat on the concrete floor and she tripped on it and fell,” her daughter said. “We think she had internal injuries.”
Al’s Café was once named a “best place to eat” and was featured in a Kansas travel magazine.
Dee met her husband when he was in the Air Force stationed in Nevada. The young airman came to the gift shop where Dee worked to buy a Christmas gift for his mother.
“He found the best gift of a lifetime,” Morrical said.
Daughter Audrey Alvarez helped run the restaurant.
“Her food was so good because she loved what she did,” daughter Audrey Alvarez said. “Everything she did, she did with love.”