Red Horse Anniversary

Ken Bromfield, co-owner of the Red Horse Steakhouse, prepares a plate for a customer Tuesday evening at the restaurant, which has been in operation for 50 years.

Ken Bromfield would like to clear up one of the urban legends of Frederick County.

Bromfield, co-owner of the Red Horse Steakhouse, has heard time and again about people stealing the red statue of a horse that stands bolted down in the restaurant’s parking lot along West Patrick Street.

The horse was “stolen” once as part of a planned prank by students of Middletown High School, said Bromfield, who started at the restaurant a few months after it opened in January 1968.

And another time, Bromfield got a call from an off-duty police officer who said he was driving behind a pickup truck with a horse statue in the back, and asked Bromfield if the restaurant’s statue was missing.

Bromfield said it was, and the officer promptly pulled over the truck’s teenage driver and returned the horse to its perch.

Every high school in the county claims that its class was the one that originally stole the horse, Bromfield said.

“It only happened twice, once was a pre-arranged prank, and once with a juvenile delinquent,” he said, sitting behind a cluttered desk in the venerable restaurant’s back office.

The Red Horse is still going strong in its 50th year, even as much about the restaurant industry has changed.

“When we first opened up, dining was an art form,” Bromfield said.

On weekends, men wore coats and ties and women wore cocktail dresses, and it wasn’t unusual for people to stay two or three hours for a meal.

Seemingly everyone smoked, and many diners would have a drink or two before dinner, and perhaps a bottle of wine with dinner.

When Bromfield first came to the restaurant, the kitchen had two large deep-fat fryers, and people ordered pretty much all their seafood fried.

With the exception of some shrimp and maybe some onion rings, “I hardly sell fried anything in this day and age,” he said.

Co-owner Roy Bromfield said people seem to be more savvy about their food, an influence he credits to the Food Network and other cable shows.

“They’re becoming a little sharper,” he said.

Along with the dining room upstairs, what’s now a banquet and reception hall downstairs used to be the restaurant’s Golden Horseshoe Lounge, where live bands and DJs performed from the lounge’s opening in 1974 through the mid-1990s.

While the dining room was better ventilated, the lounge would often have a foot or two of haze from the lingering smoke, Roy Bromfield said.

Upstairs, the restaurant’s staff of waiters, many of whom were black, became renowned for their ability to remember orders without writing them down.

Some longtime customers would rearrange their seats after placing their orders to try to throw the waiters off, but without success.

“It was a source of pride, and to the customers, a source of amazement,” he said.

Taking orders by memory is a tradition that continues, said Kileen Smith, a waitress in her 27th year who is the company’s longest-tenured employee.

“It just becomes habit,” she said.

One of the biggest changes she’s noticed has been the introduction of the cellphone at the dinner table.

It’s sometimes hard to get customers’ attention when you come to the table, which wasn’t the case when Smith started.

“You felt a little closer to the table, personally,” she said.

Behind the restaurant’s upstairs bar, bartender Don Cline keeps moving all the time: filling glasses with ice, mixing drinks, and closing out customers’ bar tabs.

“What are you drinking these days, Dan?” he asks a customer.

The familiarity is legitimate. Cline has tended bar at the Red Horse for 25 years.

Drinks change over time, but you’ve still got your standards, such as Manhattans and martinis, he said.

Cline said he used to tend bar downstairs in the lounge, which had more of a party atmosphere than the dining room bar.

But after more than two decades, he said he still loves getting to talk with the regulars and meeting new people.

“When it ceases to be fun, I’m done,” he said.

That’s Ken Bromfield’s philosophy as well.

The restaurant’s property is up for sale, but Bromfield said he’s in good health and still enjoys his job.

“We’re not in any hurry. We plan to be here for a long time,” he said.

The restaurant has managed to stay around long enough to become an institution of the Frederick dining scene.

“Ten years ago we were old-fashioned,” he joked. “Now we’re classic.”

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(32) comments

mrnatural1

My wife and I met at the Red Horse over 31 years ago. She was the singer in one of the bands that played in the lounge. When we were married a year and a half later we had our reception in the Red Horse lounge.

We have a lot of good memories of weekend nights spent in the lounge -- either when her band, or a friend's band was playing.

Also good times at Roy's house playing volleyball.

We hope that if the property is sold it will not be the end of the Red Horse.

joelp77440

They use to serve real horse back in the day. Darn FDA and the Dept. of Agriculture. Trump, make America great again and bring back Horse Steak!

CDReid

Besides horse meat, I'd love to see real haggis available in the states, too, and I don't mean the fake stuff one sees at Celtic festivals. It's not allowed to either be imported, or made here, just because one of the ingredients is the lungs of the sheep, but I haven't heard of any Scots getting sick or dying from it. As far as I'm concerned, real haggis is a delicacy!

threecents

I wonder if the FDA or USDA would care.

CDReid


The USDA is the reason why haggis is banned.

http://www.scotlandnow.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/editors-picks/haggis-banned-usa-6736230

chris

God Bless the USDA

sofanna

Thank you FNP for doing the right thing and editing the article. Sometimes, your Editors don't think about the unnecessary comments that journalists put in articles that can cause pain and grief for others, especially when the comments are TOTALLY unnecesary!

Every time I've had dinner there all of the staff were subperb!!!

Please remember that the Frederick News Post was a community newspaper and should remain so!

sofanna

Very sad to hear the Red Horse Restaurant is up for sale!!! My first dinner there was in 1972 and is a memory I will always cherish. I pray whoever purchases the property will continue the great history of a great restaurant!

Learch

The restaurant property is up for sale I don’t see where it said he was closing

islandcuban

All of us who had the benefit of having the Bromfield brothers give our children their first job , have one thing to say , MUCHAS GRACIAS !!

rbtdt5

Best steak in town. Hope they're around for a while longer or maybe someone buys the restaurant and keeps it going.

sofanna

AGREE!

Jackjaw1984

Couldn't disagree more. Its not the worst but it's definitely not the best.

CDReid

If memory serves me correctly, Bill Jefferies, the original owner of The Red Horse, used to own the Town and Country Restaurant which was located in what is now a pawn shop at the intersection of W. Patrick Street, W. South Street, Catoctin Ave. and W. College Terrace, before he moved to the current location of The Red Horse. The Town and Country was one of my favorite restaurants back in the early and mid 60's.

sofanna

It too, was a great restaurant.

CDReid

Yes, it was, sofanna, one of the best.

joelp77440

Good grief you people are old.

CDReid

Maybe if you reach our ages you'll be glad you did, just like we are, joelp. And then, if you do, I hope no one writes disparaging comments about your age, like you have about ours.

Learch

Good job guys the food and staff are great. We love to eat there.

neilyoungfan25

This place is a treat to our family a couple of times each year. Food is still tops and the service can’t be beat. Many memories of that downstairs Golden Horseshoe Lounge. If only that horseshoe dance floor could talk!! Kudos to Ken Bromfield for his years of hard work and dedication!

ma23464

Why would the article mention that many of the servers are black? Why does the color of there skin matter to the history of the restaurant? Everything has to have race interjected nowadays.

sevenstones1000

I thought that was bizarre, too.

ABQ2013

“Many of whom were black” sounds like something a very old person who grew up in segregation might say. It is not something a newspaper should just randomly mention without any context. If there’s a noteworthy reason that many were black, then say that. Otherwise, I’m surprised an editor didn’t catch this.

CDReid

I believe it's the FNP's way of giving black waiters credit for being able to remember orders without having to write them down.

DickD

That was what I thought too, CD. didn't sound negative at all. How was your trip down to Charlotte?

CDReid

Actually Dick, we postponed the trip due to the weather and also because my wife came down with a bug the day before we were going to leave. We were going to visit one of my nieces but it wouldn't have been much of a trip with all the rain called predicted for here, on the way, and down there which was kind of a good thing, too. Because I worked Friday, I heard Bob Berberich, who owns Vinyl Acres record store, on WFMD's Mid Maryland Live on the way home from work talking about how his business was devastated by the flooding last week, so when I got home I called him up and told him I'd be willing to let go of my record collection if he was interested in taking a look at it. Besides the usual classic rock, I had a few quite rare items in it, and he ended up coming to our house yesterday to see what I had and loved what he saw. I let him know that I'd let go everything but my Stones, I have a pretty extensive collection of their albums, and he ended up making me a pretty good offer on everything else that I had, roughly 250 albums. He really appreciated the offer, said it would go a long way towards keeping him, his family, and his business afloat. I'm happy with what he paid me and he's happy with what he got so it all worked out for the better. And it's just more stuff out of our basement. Hell, I haven't played an LP since I got my first CD player around 25 years ago. I was glad to see them go.

ma23464

So essentially the FNP is saying it's unusual for black people to have a good memories. Is that the point ? Or is memory an unusual skill that black people excel at? If the latter is so I have never heard this before.

CDReid

Beats me, ma23464, why don't you ask Ryan Marshall why he included race in his article?

DickD

We have some, not sure what. (Records)
Yeah, we didn't go far, took a short drive Sunday. It was unbelievable the amount of water that must have been flowing down some small streams. A small stream 4 feet wide, 1 foot deep must have been 10 feet deep and 50 feet wide, looking at debris left on fences and sections of roads totally gone.

ABQ2013

I agreed and my comment was deleted. Let’s try again. There is no reason for the article to mention that every server was black. I hope an editor re-reads that paragraph and realizes how cringeworthy it is.

ma23464

I used to go the the red horse often. I never thought it odd that the wait staff was mostly black. I could care less about what color they are. The old wait staff at the red horse were excellent at the job. Not only didn't they remember your order well, they also would Remember people even if you didn't go often. Of course some of this is just a show to make people feel welcome. Which is perfectly ok and part of excellent customer service.

sofanna

All the waiters and all other staff were subperb!!!

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