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Whoever said good things come in small packages could have been thinking of today's hidden gems — one historical, the other gastronomical.
Both suggestions come from Polly Duryea of Humboldt, Neb. She wrote to The World-Herald in response to our request for hidden gems in Nebraska and western Iowa.
Duryea lives between the restored St. John Catholic Church Museum in Table Rock, Neb., and Six Mile Cafe on U.S. Highway 75 outside Dawson, Neb. The two are about 13 miles apart.
The Table Rock Historical Society & Museum dedicated the church, its eighth museum building, on May 25 after a bottom-to-top renovation. The church, built in 1877, closed in 1968 and was donated to the historical society.
Although tiny, the white clapboard church holds the religious history of Table Rock's Catholics, many of them Czech.
A richly colored 1950s mural of Jesus and followers backs the ornately carved and finial-topped wooden high altar, installed in 1918. A gold monstrance to hold consecrated bread, candelabra and tabernacle doors draw the eye to the altar's gold leaf accents.
Religious items from 1877 and later are displayed inside the single-story church. These include some of the original pews built by the first priest assigned to the church, the pump organ that sat in the choir loft, religious vestments, ciborium (a covered cup that holds consecrated bread), chalices and Bibles.
Workers, often volunteers, replaced the original crumbling limestone footings and foundation and the termite-riddled entryway from the 1950s. They also repaired and refurbished the original termite-damaged yellow pine floor and some places in the walls, installed a new roof and doors, repaired the 1920s stained-glass windows and restored the statues.
The historical society opens the church and its seven other buildings by appointment. Call 402-839-4135 to schedule a visit.
Before or after your tour, stop at Six Mile Cafe. It's about 300 yards south of the intersection of Nebraska Highway 4 and U.S. Highway 75. Stephanie Ingram runs the restaurant, which Duryea describes as “hugely popular.”
It's packed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, she said, and the food is excellent, abundant and a good value.
When we visited on a recent Sunday afternoon, only a few tables were available in this clean, family-friendly, wheelchair-accessible cafe. Service is friendly and the staff is knowledgeable.
The outside looks more like a house than a roadside diner or the gas station the building once was.
Because the Sunday specials — roast beef and fried chicken, each with all the trimmings — were sold out, we ordered off the menu. Two of us split the $6.75 chicken fried steak dinner and still had plenty to eat. We could tell it was made from scratch.
Other menu options included burgers, main-dish salads, chicken tenders, hot and cold sandwiches, and more substantial entrees.
Pie, $2.50 a slice, isn't made in-house but it's worth sampling. Think blueberry-gooseberry, lemon meringue, peanut butter-chocolate crunch and a long list of others, including at least one sugar-free offering.
Diners include locals, families, truckers, bikers, Kansans and people driving by, according to Ingram and Duryea.
“This is the best food I've ever eaten. This place should be a landmark,” a diner from Georgia said.
Ingram grew up in Dawson, moved away and returned two years ago in August to open the restaurant.
Her neighbors are glad she did.
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