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Gillies steeped with tradition, boasts award-winning recipes – Tricks and Tips

Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for oyster mushroom tacos

JAKE PUTMAN

Downtown boasts a bar whose name needs no introduction. Gillies. Students who make the trek south of the railroad tracks might recognize the bar for its renowned drinks, affordable meals and welcoming atmosphere.

The bar is open weekdays from 7-1 a.m. Kylie Epp, the owner, runs Gillies with the same work ethic she learned from her grandfather, Gillie Vasquez, who opened it in 1994.

“This was my grandpa’s bar. He bought it when I was thirteen years old,” said Epp. “My grandpa was the hardest worker that I know, and the greatest guy I’ve ever known in my entire life. He loved this place, he worked 7 a.m. and sometimes had to be here till 1 a.m.” 

“I just want to make him proud. I think he would be proud of this place and what it has become. We actually have a lot of family that works here. Kaylee behind the bar is my cousin and is her granddaughter as well.”

Gillies is a bar steeped in tradition from the regulars who became a part of the Gillies family to the recipes coming out of the kitchen or poured in a glass. It’s a hard building to miss with a retro Pabst Blue Ribbon mural painted outside that steals your attention as you drive by. 

The aesthetic inside and outside gives way to the vibes of a classic bar with familiar faces from the pool table to the counter. On Sundays, Gillies shines with mimosa specials, breakfast burritos, BELT (bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato) sandwiches and, best of all, five-dollar Bloody Marys. 

This isn’t any old Bloody Mary, but the one item on the menu that every patron drools over. This is the number one voted Bloody Mary in the state of Nebraska, created with the very same recipe used by Epp’s grandfather. It’s garnished with cheese, bacon, pickle, olives and pickled egg. 

Jesse Gilliand, a Gillies customer, regards the place as his favorite bar.

“I’ve lived in Kearney my whole life and this is my favorite bar hands down,” Gilliand said. “For the price, the food is really good with big proportions and they have the best Bloody Marys in the state.”

Kalea Olson is a bartender at Gillies, and she is also a granddaughter of former owner, Gillie Vasquez.

“My favorite thing is obviously the alcohol,” Olson said. “My favorite drink is Margaritas. We make some pretty good margs here.”

Kylie Epp is proud to be “South Side” and is making strides to empower her community.

“I’m vice president of the Old Town Association now,” Epp said. “Our goal is to involve the community and do maybe a block party in the future down here on the south side and involve all the bars.