Dining With Denise Neil

Strong City’s Ad Astra Food and Drink will reopen with (mostly) new owners

Ad Astra in Strong City will reopen, likely before Thanksgiving.
Ad Astra in Strong City will reopen, likely before Thanksgiving. File photo

Ad Astra Food and Drink, the popular Flint Hills restaurant that closed in August, will re-open by Thanksgiving with mostly new ownership.

A partnership of three couples is taking the restaurant over, and one of them is an original partner.

Gwen Shirkey, who opened Ad Astra with Amanda Hague three years ago, is partnering with Brian Obermeyer plus Kris and Pat Larkin, who own the Lark Inn Guest Houses in the Flint Hills, and with Catherine and John Campbell, who live in California but have family ties in the Flint Hills.

Shirkey, a part-owner, stepped away to focus on her job with the Nature Conservancy, leaving Hague and her husband in charge of the day-to-day operations of the restaurant in Strong City, a town near Cottonwood Falls with a population of less than 500.

When she found out in August that Hague planned to close the restaurant, Shirkey said, she had a decision to make.

“I was thinking of every option,” she said. “We could sell it, but that would be hard without it operating. In these discussions with people in the community, where we were seeking out buyers of the business, I was heavily encouraged to get back in and to manage it as an owner-partner operator.”

The couples are meeting regularly to chart a new direction for the restaurant, Shirkey said. They have a staff in place and are working on the menu, which will include some of the restaurant’s already popular dishes mixed with some new recipes. The approach will be “locally friendly, globally influenced,” she said.

At first, Ad Astra will be open Fridays through Saturdays, just like before, though the owners have plans to eventually expand the hours, she said.

The new owners will settle on an opening date soon and hope to have a pre-opening celebration. They also will honor gift cards that have not expired.

Under Hague, Ad Astra developed a devoted following around the state. But the restaurant got too successful too quickly, Hague said when she closed it in August, and she felt like they couldn’t keep up.

Stay tuned for updates.

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