A veteran crew greets customers in a brand-new restaurant with a theme from old North Platte. Capones celebrated its grand opening on Labor Day.
The name plays on Little Chicago days of the city in the 1930s, when the rumor mill said that if the FBI put too much heat on Chicago mobster Al Capone, he would catch a train to North Platte and hide out in the brothels, bars, and casinos.
When things cooled down and Capone felt it was safe, he’d ride a train back to Chicago.
It’s not certain that Capone really hid out in North Platte, but it’s thought that his henchman Al Hastings was often here to coordinate bootlegging and other activities.
Those criminal days of North Platte generally ended in the 1950s, when a concerted effort was made to clean up the town, but these days, the stories are intriguing and colorful.
Capones restaurant is the creation of Daniel Neff, a North Platte entrepreneur who started in the business in 2011 when he bought the restaurant at Rodeo Rd and Willow in 2011 and named it the Lincoln Highway Diner.
Neff’s menus and quality food attracted a considerable following, leading him to take over the restaurant a North Platte Regional Airport / Lee Bird Field, also named the Lincoln Highway Diner.
The two Highway Diners paid tribute to another intriguing bit of the city’s history. The first highway to cross the entire country – the Lincoln Highway – ran right through town on what is now Fourth St., with a job north on Jeffers, and head west again on Rodeo Road.
The Lincoln Highway later became U.S. Highway 30.
Like the improvements that came to the highway, and North Platte’s sordid past, Neff is changing too.
Capones features the same menus and the same staff, as before in a brand-new setting, with a large kitchen, outdoor patio and full bar. The restaurant can seat about 100 people, and the bar, 60. The outdoor patio, which still awaits a shipment of furniture, holds even more.
The place is situated near the string of hotels on Halligan Drive, hotels that are often near capacity during the summer, thanks to North Platte’s location midway between Omaha and Denver.
Capones big kitchen and food prep area is capable of handling a large crowd smoothly.
Capones is across the street from the Peg Leg — a craft beer brewery that Neff owns. So, the restaurant will provide food to Peg Leg customers, and Peg Leg beer will be served in Capones bar.
The Capones bar will also serve several other craft beers, including Pals and Kinkaider, as well as crafted liquor from Brickway distillery in Omaha, as well as all the conventional brands.
Food at Capones will be made from scratch and include pizza with original sauce and crust.
Neff started planning the restaurant about 18 months ago and construction took about nine months. The project is financed by Western Nebraska Bank of North Platte. More than a dozen North Platte area contractors contributed to the construction.
The Lincoln Highway Diners are closed now. Neff said he will miss providing a restaurant for the north side of town; however, the demands of parenthood have convinced him to consolidate his efforts so he can spend more time with his family.
He is intent on finding a new owner to operate the north side restaurant. He said the building is well used but 100% functional. He is cleaning it up and hopes to find a buyer who will continue to operate it as a restaurant.
Mostly he is thankful to the people of North Platte and their good wishes, and to his staff that makes it all possible.
Capones will keep the majority of the current menu and begin to add additional options as it grows, such as seafood, more steak options and appetizers, we also will continue to serve all-day breakfast. It will be open seven days a week. The main dining area will be open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. and the bar menu will be served till 10 p.m.
On the back of the Capones menu, there is more of the story of North Platte’s wild days, assembled by city library researcher Kaycee Anderson.
And, the restaurant will carry on another fine tradition of Neff’s establishments – closing during major holidays so families can be together.
The address is 2520 Halligan Drive, just east of the Tru Hotel.
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