Kansas Travel Blog
December 2008

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's adventures while exploring and photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact Keith at sfreader@sff.net.

Kanas Travel and tourism
Wednesday - December 31, 2008:  For my final meal at a restaurant in 2008, I tried China Star, a Chiniese buffet on Olathe, Kansas that stresses that their entrees are prepared fresh every day and they use no MSG.

But I like my food a little fresher than sometime today. This buffet has too large a selection for the the food to stay fresh in the warming pans. Although the hostess was friendly and the service was good, I'm afraid it will be a few years before I try China Star again.

The first bad sign was when I got my plate. The top dishes on both stacks were dirty and I had to transfer 3 or 4 plates from one stack to the other before finding a plate that looked clean. (When I made a second trip to the buffet, the second stack still had dirty dishes on top).

The food was mostly so-so, but the best dishes of the 15 or so that I sampled were the twice cooked pork, chicken kabobs and fried rice.

 

Monday - December 29, 2008:  I revisited Tannahs Asian Fusion in Olathe, Kansas for lunch today, getting ready to prepare a separate page for this restaurant. Today I tried Mandarin Orange (chicken tossed with orange slices, chili peppers and a mild tangy orange sauce
Chicken). It came with choice of soup, a spring roll and choice of brown or white rice for $8. It was good, though not as spicy as I expected. If you didn't eat the chilies, I don't believe it would be hot at all. The service was good.
Sunday - December 28, 2008:  I returned to Lawrence, Kansas for lunch on Sunday, visiting India Palace on 10th Street east of Massachusetts. I've really enjoyed the meals at the India Palace Restaurant in Overland Park. This restaurant is owned by relatives of the folks with the Overland Park restaurant and I had high expectations.

But although the menu on lunch buffet was much like the other restaurant. the taste was not. This wasn't terrible, but I found none of the dishes special, and the service was disappointing. I didn't even make a second trip to the buffet.

Before leaving Lawrence, I photographed a number of businesses for the upcoming Guide to Lawrence Restaurants. As I left town, I stopped at Tryyaki, a Chinese restaurant on 23rd Street. Tryyaki has only a drive through window. The small building is all kitchen.

I picked up two appetizers:  8 Piece Chicken Wings for $3.95, and 8 piece Unagi (EEL) Roll for $3.55. For those low prices, I didn't expect a lot. But, while the servings were small, they were both good. The 8 pieces of Unagi roll would be 4 pieces most places, but then it wouldn't be so inexpensive. I would enjoy having both of those dishes again, but will need to try new dishes the next time.

A friend and I were going to have supper at Stroud's Restaurant & Bar in Fairway, Kansas, but even at 7:45PM on a wintery Sunday the wait for a table was going to be over 30 minutes. If you don't want a wait at Stroud's, I recommend going for weekday lunch.

Added a new Lawrence Christmas Display Tour

 


 
 
 
 
 
 

Tryyaki - Lawrence, Kansas Tryyaki Chinese restaurant

Friday - December 26, 2008:  In the early evening, I drove to Lawrence, Kansas to photograph Christmas displays. But first I had dinner at Drake's Southern Cuisine/Orient Vietnamese Cuisine on Massachusetts Street. This was my first meal there since they combined into a single restaurant.

Having had the Vietnamese food many times in the past, this time I had all southern food: chicken & crawfish gumbo, fried okra, and a jumbo corn muffin. All were good. The gumbo could have used a little more meat, but the flavor was great.

When leaving the restaurant, I photographed Massachusetts. Every tree is covered with lights, over 200 trees in Lawrence downtown.

Then on to photograph Christmas displays. Several of the recommended displays were not lighted, but I was quite pleased with those I did find. 

The highlight of my tour was photographing the lights at 4817 W. 25th Street. I had a lovely chat with the owner of the home, Betty Henderson, who was sitting outside with her cat on her lap, enjoying the 60+ degree weather. Her display includes a shooting star which lands in the yard.

The middle photo at right is a two home display at 2617 and 2701 West 30th Street.

Driving back toward Kansas City, I noticed an interesting display at Eudora, Kansas' Church Street exit of K-10. Adjacent homes at 2213 and 2215 North 1300 Road have large Christmas displays including a small sound and light program with the music being played through speakers.

 


 

Massachusetts Avenue Christmas lights Massachusetts Avenue
 
 

West 30th Street Christmas Display

Lindeen and Musick family Christmas displays - Eudora, Kansas Lindeen and Musick Christmas displays in Eudora, Kansas

Thursday - December 25, 2008:  Christmas evening, I went out to photograph two additional holiday displays that were recommended by readers of this site.

The first was on 127th Street in Leawood, Kansas, near the Missouri State Line. It was recommended by Timothy Dorr who has a great display in Prairie Village. This was another animated sound and light presentation, where you tune your radio to listen to the program. It is one of the most attractive displays I have seen and the drive on 127th Street from State Line Road includes many other pretty light displays.

The second one was recommended by Sharon Pacheco. It is right across the street from Mahaffie elementary school in Olathe. I was blown away by the huge light display which occupies 3 or 4 acres. It is perhaps 1/5 the size of some of of the charity drive-through displays. Hard to believe this is only a mile and a half from my home and I never knew about it before!

Both of these displays have been added to the Johnson County Christmas Display Tour which now has 17 different displays with maps. I've had a lot of fun with this page, which has been receiving several hundred visits a day. 

 


 
 
 
 
 

Tiny part of a huge light display in Olathe.

Sunday - December 21, 2008:  A small group of us had lunch at Cinzetti's Italian Market Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas. The menu is a little different for Sunday lunch. They didn't have the fried calamari and chicken spedini that are among my favorites.

They did have some of the best bacon I have had in years. I took a number of photos and will be adding a page devoted to Cinzetti's soon.

I did quite a bit of web work today, adding G-Town Christmas in Gardner, other Christmas Displays, and two tour maps to the Johnson County Christmas Display page. I also added new photos to the pages devoted to Candy Cane Lane and Paulie's Penguin Playhouse.

 

Cinzetti's Italian Market - Overland Park, Kansas Cinzetti's Italian Market food preparation station
Saturday - December 20, 2008:  For lunch, a friend and I drove to Paola, Kansas to revisit Beethoven's 9th, a German restaurant. I was still quite impressed with the food at this restaurant that is only open 3 days a week. 

I had Jaeger Schnitzel (pork loin - breaded and pan fried with creamy mushroom sauce) again, enjoying it as much as my first visit. My friend had Weisswurst  (Veal and Pork Sausage). She liked it, but not as much. Sides sampled included cucumber salad, lightly battered French fries, Spaetzle and green beans. The green beans were the most unusual - very sweet.

 

Friday - December 19, 2008:  Tonight was a lot of fun.

I began the evening with a second visit to Thai Treasure restaurant in south Overland Park, Kansas. They have many selections in the $10-15 range. I began with the Garlic Rib appetizer. Quite garlicky and tasty, it came with a traditional Thai hot sauce on the side. The server warned that the sauce was hot, but it wasn't too bad. 

My entree was Spicy Peanut Pork (stir fried with fresh peanut, bell peppers, jalepeno peppers, white onion, hot red peppers and green onion). I ordered the pork medium hot, despite the server warning that the medium was very hot. Picking out most of the hot red peppers, I was just able to eat it. It will seem odd ordering mild on my next visit.

Than on to visit the first of several music and light Christmas displays that had been recommended by visitors to this website. 

The first was the Ultimate Holiday Tree - a tree-shaped flat panel holiday lighting display with thousands of solid-state LED bulbs. It was featured on HGTV's "All Out Christmas" show. The Ultimate Holiday Tree is interesting, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other displays.

Next I revisited Candy Cane Lane in Prairie Village, Kansas. Getting new photos to replace some of those on the page devoted to the display.

Then about a mile east to Timothy Dorr's sound and light program on Fontana. It has 30,863 lights, 5,000 feet of extension cords and is operated by Eleven 16-channel Light-O-Rama controllers. By coincidence, I ran into Tim outside the home. He was quite gracious. 

I went on to get some 2008 photos of Mike Babick's display on Falmouth. The cars from people viewing Babick's house filled the block. There were even limos.

As I continued on to the County Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, I discovered another Prairie Village display with many inflatables and animated displays on Rainbow. It will be added to the Kansas City Christmas Display Tour.

In the Plaza, I lucked out and found a parking spot right across front he store I was visiting (won't mention which one here, in case the recipient is reading) and was able to quickly purchase the item I had researched online.

Then back toward south Johnson County to the home of Tyson Hofsommer, who has the G-Town Christmas sound and light display in Gardner. It wasn't running when I visited Gardner the first week of the month, but Tyson has the kinks out of this first time display and it looked great this evening.

Before returning home, I made one more stop, to get some 2008 photos of Paulie's Penguin Playhouse. I discovered that a snow making machine has been added midway through the holiday season, last year.

I was setting up the tripod to take a photo through the front door, of some of the penguins inside the house, when Paul Craig spotted me and invited me in to take a quick photo. He also introduced me to his lovely wife and I got a photo of the two of them. It was a pleasure finally meeting the Craig's.

After my brief visit inside the house, I am confident that there are even more penguins inside the Penguin Playhouse than outside.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ultimate Holiday Tree - Overland Park, Kansas Ultimate Holiday Tree
 
 
 
 

Dorr Family Christmas Display
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Craigs
 

Wednesday - December 17, 2008:  Today's lunch was a second visit to The Other Place in Olathe, Kansas. The service was still good and the kitchen was faster than the previous visit. I sat it the quieter, far corner with its view of a beautiful snow covered ravine and bicycle tour.

I had a cheese steak wrap and seasoned French fries. The wrap was better than the fries, but I still prefer the country fried tenderloin that I had on my previous visit.

I also tried the chili ($2.5 for a cup), but I thought it tasted more like soup than chili. I didn't enjoy it nearly as it as the chili at Lenexa's Parkway Cafe the day before.

Supper was at Chung's Rainbow Korean Restaurant in Overland Park. My second chance to try the new expanded menu. 

I started with an inexpensive ($4) appetizer, KimBab - a seaweed roll with crab meat, egg, fish cake, spinach, pickled radish and carrot. It was slightly warm (perhaps the egg was just cooked?) and tasty.

But I didn't need it. The entrees are generous. I had KanPoonKee - deep fried chicken with jalapenos in spicy and sweet sauce. It came with kimchi, steamed rice, clear broth and daan moo ji (sweet, yellow pickled radish). 

I enjoyed it all and would be happy to have this dish again.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

KanPoonKee ai Chung's Rainbow Restaurant KanPoonKee

Monday - December 15, 2008:  Went to the Pepperjax Grill in Overland Park, Kansas for lunch. This is the second Kansas location for the small small chain which has 6 stores in Omaha, Nebraska.

Pepperjax has counter service, where they prepare Philly sandwiches, wraps, rice bowls and salads. I ordered a steak sandwich & fries and enjoyed watching them quickly prepare the sandwich on the grill in front of me. Three people worked side by side at the grill behind the counter and passed off the sandwich as it was prepared.

The sandwich and fries were both fine, but more pricey than some other local places at $10 for a sandwich, fries and a small drink. Perhaps that is why they don't post prices on their website.

The steak sandwich was big enough, but not as big as 10" sounds. The ends of the bun are not slit and the filling is only in 8", tapering at the ends within those 8.

 

Pepperjax Grill in Overland Park, Kansas Pepperjax Grill
 

Pepperjax Grill steak sandwich steak sandwich

Saturday - December 13, 2008:  Today's lunch was at Peanut On 127, a bar & grill in Overland Park, Kansas. I hadn't been at this Peanut location for a couple of years and had only had the Buffalo chicken wings in the past.

Today I had a cheeseburger, French fries and 6 wings (the smallest order of wings that the Peanut offers). The burger was hand formed and cooked to order. Both it and the fries were good, but probably not worth driving more than 2 or 3 miles to get.

The wings are the Peanut's claim to fame. Large though not particularly meaty wings that are the whole wing. (Restaurants that cut a chicken wing into three pieces, serve 2 of the thirds and call it 2 wings are cheating!). The wings are a bit tough but have a unique flavor that makes it all worth while. Served with a special blue cheese sauce made in the restaurant. 

In the evening, I drove thru Christmas Card Lane in Olathe, Kansas for the first time this year. It appears that a few less people are participating in holiday decorations this year, but there are new displays and Christmas Card Lane is still worth a special visit. This year, two displays included quiet music coordinated to flashing lights. 

Also, more homes in the adjacent subdivision are decorated this year. This whole area of Olathe has many nice holiday decorations.

Added new photos and updated the review of Christmas Card Lane., as well as added details about the Christmas Eve Mass at Saint Martin's Church in Piqua, Kansas.

Thanks to Marci Penner and the Kansas Sampler Foundation blog for the update about St. Martin's. The blog is a fun way to track Marci's and WenDee LaPlant's adventures exploring Kansas.

 


 
 
 

6 chicken wings at the Peanut in Overland Park. Chicken wings at Peanut Bar and Grill  on 127
 
 

Home in Olathe's Christmas Card Lane

Friday - December 12, 2008:  Went to lunch at Thai Treasure Restaurant in the Stanley area of south Overland Park, Kansas. Although there has been a restaurant at this location for several years, the Napaisans took over this location about 9 months ago. Michael Napaisan once managed a Thai Restaurant in Metcalf South. More recently, he and his lovely wife (didn't catch her name) worked at her sister-in-law's Thai Tradition Restaurant in Wichita (which I visited and enjoyed in July 2007).

Thai Tradition has a large lunch menu - 3 pages. Many of the items are available with your choice of beef, chicken, pork or tofu. 13 different entrees are available in a combination meal for $7.25 including rice, soup or salad, and appetizers of the day.

I had Garlic Pepper Chicken (Mainly lots of roasted garlic and green onion over a bed of shredded cabbage) with hot and sour soup, crab rangoon and egg roll. The appetizers were OK, but I liked the soup a lot. The garlic pepper chicken was very good - lots of garlic, but not a "hot" dish.

For $1, you can add a small bowl of curry to the meal. I had enough food already, but make the sacrifice for you, the reader, tried a small bowl of green curry. I loved it, but it wouldn't have been for everyone. It was right at the limit for how hot a dish I can eat. But it was so good that I ate every bit.

With food this good, for this price, I will become a regular here.

A friend joined me for supper at Talk of the Town Grill & Bar in Overland Park. Service was poor. and the food was a mixed bag. The best items tried were the house salad, butterflied shrimp and huge onion rings. The French fries, mashed potatoes and deep fried cod were all disappointing.

 

Thai Treasure Restaurant - Overland Park, Kansas Thai Treasure Restaurant
 
 
 
 

Garlic Pepper Chicken at Thai Tradition Restaurant Garlic Pepper Chicken

Thursday - December 11, 2008:  Added a new page devoted to Winter Wonderland XI in Topeka, Kansas.

 

Wednesday - December 10, 2008:  Added a new page devoted to Candy Cane Lane in Prairie Village, Kansas.

 

Tuesday - December 9, 2008:  Had lunch at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Olathe, Kansas. They have introduced chili for the winter. I liked it it lot - meaty, sweet and flavorful with no beans. It might have been a little too mild for my taste, but they offered onions and diced jalepenos (and cheese) on top, which made it just right.

Added new pages devoted to the free Festival of Nativities at Centenary United Methodist Church in Lawrence, Kansas, and to the Potwin Place Christmas Display in Topeka, Kansas.

 

Monday - December 8, 2008:  Launched new Guide to Topeka Christmas Light Displays.

 

Sunday - December 7, 2008:  On Sunday afternoon, friends who are former residents of Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas joined me for some exploring. We first drove to Lawrence so I could photograph the nativity displays at the tiny Centenary United Methodist Church. This is the 14th year for the event and there were 370 nativities on display. They began decorating the church on the day after Halloween.

This display is free and ladies from the church were serving free hot apple cider. There was also a small gift shop with Christmas items and baked goods. The church will still be open for visitors on the afternoons of December 13, 14, 20 & 21.

Then on to Topeka where we met some current Topeka residents. Supper was at the Seabrook Tavern, known for 3 pound hamburgers, mountain ousters and fresh french fries. I enjoyed my Bomber Hot Dog - smothered in Swiss cheese, Jalapeno peppers, sauerkraut and onions. The patty melt and pork tenderloin were also good. Chicken gizzards and chicken fried steak were more average.

Seabrook Tavern changed hands a little over a year ago. The menu is unchanged and the food is similar, but the service is a little off.

Then we explored Topeka, checking out another dozen or so holiday displays. The most impressive was the Potwin neighborhood Christmas display. Block after block of well decorated beautiful Victorian homes with international theme displays on the small roundabouts (traffic circles) at each intersection.

Our tour concluded at Lake Shawnee, with its drive thru Winter Wonderland. There was a little less to it than I expected, but my favorite was a ship chasing and firing a cannon at a sea serpent. I'd made advance arrangements with the organizers and we were permitted to stop so I could use a tripod to take better photos.

 

Nativities at Lawrence's Centenary United Methodist Church Centenary United Methodist Church
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Decorated home in Topeka's Potwin Place 

Saturday - December 6, 2008:  Launched Johnson County Christmas Light Displays. This page should grow during the month of December.

A friend joined me for lunch at Papa Keno's Pizzeria in Overland Park, Kansas. I hadn't tried the pizza on my previous visit. We each had a slice of specialty pizza (with small drink for $7.75). I had a slice of BBQ pizza which had BBQ sauce, chicken, red onion, mushroom and provolone. The slice was the size of a personal pizza at some restaurants. Not bad pizza, but I like their calzones better.

 

Friday - December 5, 2008:  Had lunch at Tannah's Asian Fusion restaurant in Olathe, Kansas. This location was originally a chain restaurant with a similar menu. After a terrible service experience, two years ago, I didn't return. But after a brief presentation by Tannah's owner at and Olathe Chamber of Commerce luncheon, I have returned a few times this year.

The Szechuan Beef ( cooked with garlic and white onion in a red chili pepper sauce) was the best dish I have had there, though it was much too salty. It came with choice of spring roll or crab wanton, hot and sour or egg drop corn soup, and brown or white steamed rice for $8.75

The hot sour soup and crab wanton (crab Rangoon) were OK, but nothing special. I had brought a coupon for spring rolls with a meal purchase. The coupon was clear if it was just for supper or also good at noon. They are clearly trying harder on their service. Although they said it was intended to be just ar supper, they honored it anyway.

 

Szechuan Beef Szechuan Beef at
Tannah's Asian Fusion
Thursday - December 4, 2008:  Lunch today was at The Other Place in Olathe, Kansas. It is part of a small restaurant chain with 7 locations in northeast Iowa and 2 in Johnson County. I normally avoid this restaurant because it is so noisy. The interior is designed to make it reflect sound and is loud when even a few people are there.

But the food is pretty good. I had a slice of the pizza of the day (sausage). It had good flavor, but was a very small slice. It was only $2.25, but it would take 3 or 4 of these slices to equal the size of pizza slices I am used to having.

But I had no complaints with the serving size for the country fried tenderloin. It was one of the regular lunch specials that are only available for dining in. A large hand breaded pork tenderloin, with gravy, real mashed potatoes and corn. All were good and the servings are generous for $7.25

The service was good, but the kitchen was slow for lunch specials.

The evening was a lot of fun. I was joined by friends to scout and photograph Johnson County Christmas displays. 

The evening started with supper at RJ's Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, Kansas. It had been over a year since I last dined at RJ's, but the food is just as good. We had some combination dinners, and sampled pork ribs, burnt ends, chicken wings, sausage, and brisket. I thought all but the burnt ends were very good. The meaty wings were smoked and had a lot of flavor from the cooking.

The side dishes were also good, including my favorite, the cheesy corn bake. A side of corn on the cob turned out to be a whole ear, not just the 3 or 4 inch section that many restaurants serve.

But on to the Christmas lights. The current pages devoted to the Falmouth Christmas Display in Prairie Village, Penguin Play Ground in Olathe, and Christmas Card Lane in Olathe are among the most visited pages on this website in December, and I am about to launch a new guide to Christmas Light Displays in Johnson County.

We visited about a dozen Christmas displays, both ones that were researched and a couple of good ones that we just stumbled across. It was handy having someone else drive, since I was in and out of the vehicle with the camera and tripod. 

One of the big treats was learning that Candy Cane Lane in Prairie Village has recovered from several years of dwindling displays. This is the 50th year of Candy Cane Lane on Outlook, off 79th Street and every house was attractively decorated. This display of lights is once again worth a special visit.

Another standout was the commercial display at Vince & Associates south of 103rd Street and Metcalf in Overland Park. Some new lights have been added to the computer operated display. The best place to view this Christmas display is from the parking lot of Emmanuel Baptist Church, across Metcalf. Many cars were pulled up on the ridge overlooking the Christmas lights, listening to the coordinated music on FM 96.9.

There will be much more to come about the metro Kansas City Christmas lights over the next couple of days.

 

The Other Place - Olathe, Kansas The Other Place
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Candy Cane Lane - Prairie Village, Kansas Candy Cane Lane

Wednesday - December 3, 2008:  Visited the Bass Pro Shop in Olathe to check on "Santa's Wonderland," which turned out to be only a typical small area for children to meet Santa and have their photos taken. The Wonderland was not open in the early afternoon.

Lunch was a second visit to 54th Street Grill in Olathe. This time I sat at a table in the bar area and had spectacular service from the young woman who was also tending bar. Though I didn't comment on it in last Friday's blog, the service was disappointing during my first visit.

Lunch was 54th Street's signature, Cabo Chicken Philly - a third of a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast, topped with pepper jack cheese, bell peppers, onions, jalapenos. Shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, with a sour cream spread on a torpedo roll. Served with fries.

A big sandwich and very good. I would be tempted to have one again, but will probably continue to try new dishes on my next visit. (The sacrifices I make for this website! :-)

A new menu will be introduced at 54th Street next Monday, December 8.

 


 
 

Cabo Chicken Philly at 54th Street Grill Cabo Chicken Philly

Tuesday - December 2, 2008:  Took advantage of being in Overland Park to take photos at KC Masterpiece Restaurant in Overland Park. There was no memory card in the camera when I dined there a few weeks ago.

Lunch was at the Fred P. Ott's a few blocks away. A mini burger with French fries and small order of Buffalo style chicken wings. The wings were too bland for my taste, but were better when I added hot sauce. The fries and burger were great, and the five ounce "mini burger" was plenty large.

Although this restaurant is very busy at noon, I was still able to eat and leave in about 45 minutes.

Added four new short reviews to the Overland Park Restaurant & Attraction Guide: Fred P. Ott's, KC Masterpiece, Kolache Factory, and Papa Keno's Pizzeria.

 

Monday - December 1, 2008:  Revisited Tea Garden in Olathe, Kansas with a friend and took photographs for this website. I think that Ann and the other folks at Tea Garden do a particularly good job on the appetizers, including shrimp rangoon, garlic chicken wings and dumplings. The remodeling of the exterior of the strip center is finally complete.

 

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