It’s official: Harry & Lloyd’s is the best restaurant around.
Thousands of votes cast were cast at emporiyumks.com throughout the month of April and the competition was too close to call for several weeks. But, when EmporiYUM Restaurant Month voting closed at midnight Thursday, the bar and grill, which has locations in Americus and Emporia, had edged out Amanda’s Bakery & Cafe, Bobby D’s BBQ, Bruff’s Bar and Grill, Chi em Eats, Do-B’s, 1801 at the Emporia Country Club, Gambino’s, Golden Wok, Gourmet To Go and Catering, Grand Central Hotel and Grill, Ichiban, Mi Chavelita Mexican Grill and Planet Sub by a little more than 40 votes.
Harry & Lloyd’s owner Mike Phillips said he was honored to have been selected as the top restaurant in the area. He said it was like getting an award from family.
“At Harry & Lloyd’s we love to think of our community as our family and we are extremely grateful for this award,” he said. “Thank you so much to everyone that has voted for us and supported us. This is huge and means the world to us; thank you again.”
Manager Ashley Kopecky was also excited about Friday’s surprise announcement, saying EmporiYUM was a chance to bring in some new customers as well as some familiar faces.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people come in that have never tried it before, and we’ve had people come in who have been to Americus who just wanted to come in and see what’s it’s like here.”
Kopecky said the Emporia located opened just last year and many people have been surprised to find out they serve food all day. She said the menu was “different” which a lot of people find interesting.
“We have a fried taco that has pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cole slaw, which is kind of different for a taco,” she said. “Pizzas — people say we have one of the best pizzas. We do have barbecue pulled pork pizza. We do have things that other people don’t have in town. We’re unique.”
For those who aren’t quite ready to dine-in, Kopecky said Harry & Lloyd’s offers curbside and carryout options as well.
She and the rest of the Harry & Lloyd’s staff were thankful for people stopping in and trying out what they have to offer.
“We want to thank those who voted for us, those who came in and tried us for the first time,” Kopecky said. “We definitely want people to know we are not just a bar — we serve food as well. We have a patio outside and we are renovating it soon, so we’ll have a new patio soon. We also have a safe-ride bus, so we’ll pick you up and bring you here on the weekends and take you home.”
Also announced Friday was the lucky winner of the EmporiYUM passport contest: Steve Willhite of Emporia will receive a $25 gift certificate to every participating EmporiYUM restaurant.
“It just feels absolutely wonderful,” Willhite said. “I’m excited.”
Willhite’s winning entry, stamped at 1801 at the Emporia Country Club, was picked out of more than 1,000 stamped Passport pages Friday morning. Although he had been to every other participating restaurant before, his trip to 1801 was his first.
“The 1801 at the Country Club is definitely one I hadn’t tried, and all of the other restaurants I have patronized in the past,” Willhite said. “Of course, that slowed down drastically during COVID, but I’m glad to get that rolling again now that COVID is subsiding to some degree.”
Willhite said EmporiYUM served as a good incentive for him to get out and visit local restaurants last month.
“The ice was broken a little bit with the COVID thing already, but this was just an opportunity to support the local folks and, of course, also an opportunity to win something,” he said.
In concluding the month of excitement, Gazette Advertising Manager Montana Cushing said she hoped the lasting impact of the contest would be the continued support of locally owned establishments throughout the year.
“This has been a blast and we would like to thank the community for participating in the second annual EmporiYUM Restaurant Month,” Cushing said. “We would also like to thank our presenting sponsors US Foods, Flint Hills Beverage, the Emporia Chamber and Ignite Emporia, Professional Printing and The Emporia Gazette. With out all of you, none of this would have been possible.”
Cushing said this year was especially important to support local businesses and restaurants because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected everyone and our local restaurants were hit really hard last year, so I feel like whether it was dine-in, delivery or carryout, this was a great way to get people into the doors,” she said. “And just because Restaurant Month is over doesn’t mean we should stop supporting our local restaurants. We have some amazing places to eat here in the Flint Hills, so go ahead and give them a try.”