Kansas Travel Blog

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

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Saturday - August 29, 2009: Had lunch at Smoke Masters BBQ in Pomona, Kansas. It s newly reopened - Their old location up the street sold, and they spent most of the summer preparing this new building. The interior of the small (9 table) restaurant is comfortable and features celebrity photos on the walls, but the exterior is pretty plain.

Smoke Masters was recommended to me by Leita Hill, who emailed that "the ribs fall off the bone, the sauce is excellent and the prices are extremely reasonable. This is definitely a hidden gem as far  as BBQ joints go."

I found the ribs OK, but was much more impressed by the fresh cut home style French fries and the hot wings. There were 5 large, spicy, complete wings and a slice of delicious garlic bread for $4.95

All of the servings were generous for the money, The "small"  $1.50 order of fries was very generous. The $8.95 half slab of ribs could serve two people. I had mixed feelings about the sauce. It is very thin (barely sticks to the meat or fries) and quite sweet. The flavor was mostly brown sugar. I thought it worked better with the ribs, than with the already flavorful wings.

On the way back to Olathe, a stopped in Ottawa to photograph the Marais des Cygnes River waterfall just west of town. I think it is more attractive now than it was during high water a few months ago. It is created by a dam across the river and has a nice few of a railroad bridge which crosses the river 100 yards south of the falls.

But the big treat of the day was in the afternoon. When L and I were going onto I-35 from Antioch Road in Merriam, I noticed a waterfall just a short distance from the road.

Getting off at the next exit, we drove back on Merriam Drive looking for access, only to find a sign that said "Waterfall Park." We found a nice park with a paved path to the waterfall and access to the nearly 4 mile long Turkey Creek Streamway Park. A lovely spot, despite being wedged in between railroad tracks and an industrial area. I plan to return to bicycle the trail along Turkey Creek soon.

 

Smoke Masters BBQ - Pomona, Kansas Smoke Masters BBQ
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Marais des Cygnes River - Ottawa, Kansas Marais des Cygnes River railroad bridge
 

Turkey Creek Waterfall - Merriam, Kansas Turkey Creek Waterfall

Friday - August 28, 2009: Today I finally had a chance to have lunch at Café Tempo, located in the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. The upscale restaurant is open only Tuesday through Saturday and never open for supper.

I had the Café Steak (grilled flank steak with romaine lettuce, roasted red onions, portabella mushrooms, roma tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and sherry balsamic vinaigrette). At $9.25 it was the most expensive entree on the menu, and well worth it. It was the best salad I have had in months.

Service at Café Tempo is minimal. You order at the counter, pick up your beverage, and your food is brought to the table.

 

Café Tempo - Overland Park, Kansas Café Tempo
Sunday - August 23, 2009: L and I watched the KC Royals play the Minnesota Twins at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. It was sunny in the low 80s and about perfect weather for watching a baseball game. We were planning to visit the new Royals Hall of Fame, but the waiting line was 30-45 minutes long.

The Royals lost 10-3, with the most significant event being the Twins' Michael Cuddyer becoming the 53rd player in major league history to hit two home runs in the same inning - Which the Royals' announcer never pointed out.

After driving across the metro area to Shawnee, Kansas, we watched two girls softball games, then had supper at J Murphy's Irish Pub & Grille which has replaced Rockrose, a Mediterranean influenced restaurant which I recommended when it was open.

The interior of the restaurant hasn't changed much, though they have added individual televisions at most of the booths. Irish Skins (potato skins willed with melted cheddar cheese, Irish bacon, green onion and sour cream), cobb salad and Buffalo wings were all fine, but not special enough to make me hurry back.

 

Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium George Brett statue at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium
Saturday - August 22, 2009: L and I had supper at Bleu Tomato Eatery & Gallery in DeSoto, Kansas. I had lunch there once shortly after Bleu Tomato opened a few years ago. I'd enjoyed my meal, but hadn't made it back. Although it doesn't look like much from the street, Bleu Tomato is a fairly sophisticated weekday coffee/sandwich shop which serves supper on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. 

We shared the goat cheese appetizer which was baguette bread with three spreads (goat cheese, roasted garlic, and olive tampanade). I enjoyed both the roasted garlic and goat cheese spread. For entrees, L had pork medallions served with a whole grain mustard sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetables; while I had the parmesan encrusted salmon served with ravioli stuffed with chevre cheese, arugula, and walnuts and parmesan cream sauce.

The pork was a little too rare when first brought out, but after returning it briefly to the kitchen, it was my favorite dish. Very tender and complimented perfectly by the sauce. I also liked the arugula and wished there had been a little more arugula and a little less ravioli.

With iced tea, our meal came to about $50. 

Reservations are strongly recommended at the small restaurant. If they hadn't had a cancellation, we would have had a long wait for a table. No alcohol is served, but the tables are already set with wine glasses, and it appeared that more than half of the customers had brought their own wine.

Before leaving DeSoto, we walked down the block so we could look through the windows of Grandpa's Garage and Body Shop with its many beautiful restored Model Ts and custom automobiles.

Updated the review of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival with details of the 2009 season. The Cabaret Macabre Shows in late October are new this year. They feature hors d'hoevres & desserts and are much bawdier shows.

Updated the page devoted to Mike Babick's animated Christmas display on Falmouth Drive in Prairie Village, Kansas. Comicville (which has been a key feature of the display for many years) was ruined by hail last Christmas season and will be replaced by a new village with new 4 foot tall buildings filled with mechanical figures.

 

Bleu Tomato - DeSoto, Kansas Bleu Tomato
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Kansas City Renaissance Festival - Bonner Springs, Kansas Kansas City Renaissance Festival

Friday - August 21, 2009: Updated and expanded the page devoted to the Lansing Historical Museum on the grounds of the Lansing Correction Facility in Lansing, Kansas. Added several new photographs showing changes since the museum rebuilt following a fire.

 

Lansing Historical Museum - Lansing, Kansas
Wednesday - August 19, 2009: When our tennis match was rained out, L and I decided to treat ourselves with supper at Stroud's Restaurant & Bar in Fairway, Kansas. When we pulled up in front of the restaurant there were people waiting, and we almost when on to another restaurant. But when we went in, it turned out those people were part of a large group and there were many tables available.

We both had skillet fried chicken. The family style meal comes with choice of salad or great chicken noodle soup, choice of potato, gravy, green beans and cinnamon buns. We actually had more leftovers to take home than we ate.

 

Friday - August 14, 2009: Finally back in Kansas.

Tonight L and I revisited J Gilbert's Wood Fired Steaks. Since the close of CC City Broiler, J Gilbert's gets my vote for the best steakhouse in Overland Park, Kansas. L had a three course tasting meal while I had the Louisiana Skillet Seared Center Cut Filet. The service and all of the food was great.

During the meal, we suddenly noticed the man at the next table kneeling on the floor, and our section of the restaurant applauded when the woman said "yes."

 

J Gilbert's Wood Fired Steaks - Overland Park, Kansas J Gilbert's Wood Fired Steaks
Wednesday - August 12, 2009: Today was the final day of the trip and the final Naples, Florida meal was at one of my favorite restaurant - Pelagos Cafe. The Mediterranean influenced restaurant is owned by a family that came from Armenia.

I had Chicken livers (my standard favorite dish) and S & I split an order of saganaki. A great finale for the trip.

 

Pelagos Cafe - Naples, Florida Pelagos Cafe
Tuesday - August 11, 2009: Today was my last day to have the bicycle and I drove a few miles north to take my ride along the ocean in Bonita Springs.

Lunch was at a Naples restaurant which had been highly recommended on Tripadvisor - Michelbob's Ribs. I should have known better when I saw that the place didn't have a smokestack, but after several days of seafood, I was in the mood for ribs. Unfortunately, I found that Michelbob's was more about marketing than food. It wasn't terrible, but this was the poorest meal of the trip.

But supper at IM Tapas more than made up for it. The restaurant recommendations are much better on Chowhound than on Tripadvisor.

IM Tapas is an intimate restaurant with a small but friendly staff. At various times we met every member of the staff, including the Chef, Isabel Pozzo Polo, who hugged both of us and her mother, who was very friendly and reminded S of her Grandmother.

The meal began with fresh anchovies in garlic sauce topped with slivered garlic. We also had flash fried calamari and chorizo sautéed in cider. The meal finished with a selection of 5 cheeses: two cow and two goat cheeses from Spain and a third goat cheese from the Canary Islands. All very good. This wonderful little Spanish restaurant lived up to my high expectations.

 

Michelbob's Ribs - Naples, Florida Michelbob's Ribs
 

IM Tapas - Naples, Florida IM Tapas

Monday - August 10, 2009: This afternoon I traveled to Fort Myers, Florida to tour the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. They were enjoyable and worth seeing, but I think $20 a person is about 50% too much. Still, I'm not sorry I visited them.

Returning to Naples, I joined friends for supper at Naples English Pub, which bills itself as Florida's oldest authentic British pub welcomes you. Service was good at the busy bar. I enjoyed my mixed grill and the bangers and mash was also popular, but I confess that my favorite thing about the English Pub was the attractive servers with their short plaid skirts and stockings.

 

Edison and Ford Winter Estates - Fort Myers, Florida Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Sunday - August 9, 2009: After today's bike ride, I joined S and friends for lunch at Tommy Bahama in the historic Old Naples neighborhood, which I had never visited before.

In addition to clothing and home design stores, Tommy Bahama has a small chain of restaurants in Hawaii and across the southern United States mainland. The restaurants serve mostly seafood and other Caribbean influenced dishes and mixed drinks. The Naples location is flanked by men's and women's clothing stores and another retail outlet across the street.

I enjoyed the Aruba Arugula Salad (Caribbean cracker-meal seared jumbo shrimp & scallops on a bed of fresh baby arugula, tossed with tamarind vinaigrette. and garnished with sliced papaya & chopped peanuts), but was more impressed with Saba Steak Salad (Marinated, char grilled tenderloin medallions served over a bed of fresh mixed greens tossed with tamarind vinaigrette. Garnished with grilled potatoes, roma tomatoes, shiitake chips and garlic aioli) which S had.

Supper was takeout from Noodle Saigon, a locally owned Vietnamese Restaurant. Although it was OK, nothing really stood out as a dish I am anxious to try again.

 

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar - Naples, Florida Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar
 
 
 

Noodle Saigon restaurant - Naples, Florida Noodle Saigon

Saturday - August 8, 2009: This morning was my longest bicycle ride, which included a stop at the Naples Fishing Pier, where it seemed that over half the tourists were European. I'm glad someone benefits from the weak US dollar.

For lunch, I joined S and friends at the The Dock at Crayton Cove in Naples. We all had seafood. Mine was a Japanese bento box lunch.

For supper tonight, we prepared a dish at home, one which was first prepared for me by S' mother 20 years ago - Bagna Cauda. The name means "hot bath" and bagna cauda originated in the Piedmonte region of Italy. 

Prepared in an electric skillet and kept warm, the dip was 4 sticks of butter, 4 tins of anchovies and and an entire head of thinly sliced garlic. It was gently cooked until the anchovies were rendered down. We dipped cabbage, onions, sweet peas in the shell, asparagus and shrimp into this incredible mixture.

 

Naples Fishing Pier Naples Fishing Pier

The Dock at Crayton Cove - Naples, Florida The Dock at Crayton Cove

Friday - August 7, 2009: Following a morning bicycle ride along the the Naples shoreline, I drove up US 41, the Tamiami Trail, to visit family in Englewood, Florida. 

I enjoyed the exploring but made only one stop, for lunch at River City Grill in Punta Gorda where I had seared ahi tuna.

 

River City Grill - Punta Gorda, Florida River City Grill
Thursday - August 6, 2009: The day began with massages at Massage Envy.

We followed it up with lunch at Latin Family Bakery, a Chilean and Peruvian Restaurant in Naples, Florida. S had Lomo a lo Pobre (New York steak served with French fries, eggs, onion and rice) while I had Pargo Frto (deep fried whole red snapper served with rice and salad. The owner, Francisco Robles, consulted with both of us before placing our order and brought out Hallullas (Chilian bread) and a spicy salsa.

My red snapper came out covered with garlic and was one of the best dishes during the trip.

Before leaving the shopping center, we picked up fresh mozzarella, beef & chicken sausages and giardiniera at Neapolitan Gourmet a dew doors away.

In that afternoon, I picked up a rental bicycle from the Trek Shop in Naples, and I rode 12-20 miles every day of the trip.

We planned to have supper at IM Tapas, but a sign on the door said they were closed for several days. Instead we had supper at Naples' Capital Grille, where we shared two appetizers and one side dish: proscuitto wrapped mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes, cold shellfish, roasted seasonal mushrooms.

All three dishes were great and my favorite was the mushrooms which included portabella, oyster, shiitake and Cremini mushrooms oven roasted with olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic butter. BUt the show stopper of the meal was the shell fish. It took to servers to bring out the appetizer, wetting down a large platter, a frame and a slightly small platter above it. Beds of crushed ice were filled with huge shrimp, blue point oysters on the half shell, king crab and two whole lobsters. We took home enough left over shell fish to be a significant part of several meals.

 

Latin Family Bakery - Naples, Florida
Latin Family Bakery

Neaplotan Gourmet - Nalpes, Florida Neapolitan Gourmet

Wednesday - August 5, 2009: Traveling out of state again. Today I am off to Florida for a week.

Leaving my car at the Parking Spot at Kansas City Metropolitan Airport (MCI) I traveled with American Airlines to Southwest Florida Regional Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers, changing planes in Dallas.

The highlight of the travel was perhaps 50 minutes into the flight when I happened to look out the window and see something I recognized: Great Salt Plains State Park near Jet, Oklahoma. I visited the park during the winter a few years ago and hope to return some year in the summer when Selenite crystal digging is permitted.

The large, shallow salty lake has 41 miles of shoreline and a large salt flat which fills much of Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.

The lowlght of the travel was when the second airplane had to sit near the runway with the engines and AC turned off for a half hour.

I made it to Fort Myers about 10:30PM. I was met by my oldest and closest friend and we headed to Naples where I will stay with her family.

 


 
 
 
 

Great Salt Plains State Park - Jet, Oklahoma Great Salt Plains State Park & Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

Tuesday - August 4, 2009: The pages devoted to the Haunted Atchison Trolley Tours have been expanded and updated with new information provided by the Atchison, Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

This major Kansas event continues to grow each year and includes private psychic visits, clairvoyant performances, history & mystery guided walking tour, private home visits, on-site investigations, tarot card reading, and a haunted cemetery walking tour. One of the newest activities for 2009 is a Ghostly Dining Experience.

 

Haunted McInteer house - Atchison, Kansas Haunted McInteer Villa
Sunday - August 2, 2009: L and I had the lunch buffet at Globe Indian Cuisine Restaurant and Bar in Topeka, Kansas. I had been wanting to try the food at Globe for about a year.

The food was OK, but I don't think it compares well with many of the fine Indian restaurants in the Kansas City metro area. If I lived in Topeka, I would probably dine at Globe occasionally, but with so many good places closer to me, I will probably not dine there again.

Following lunch, L took me to Gage Park to visit some attractions which I missed on previous visits: Gage Park Carousel, the Reinisch Rose Garden, and the Doran Rock Garden.

The Gage Park carousel was built in 1908 by the Herschell-Spillman Company of New York. Tickets are 75 cents for all riders.

The 2.5 acre Reinisch Rose Garden is more of a display garden than ornate - a good place to compare different rose varieties to decide which might do best in home gardens. It was established in 1929.

L was a bit disappointed by the adjacent Doran Rock Garden which was her favorite part of Gage Park when she was growing up. The island in the reflecting pool is now completely hidden by an enormous tree which reduces the view, and the plantings immediately surrounding the pool seem overgrown.

We were treated with a close view of what I think was a juvenile bittern. Topeka is at the southern limit of the American Bittern's summer range.

 

Globe Indian Cuisine - Topeka, Kansas Globe Indian Cuisine

Gage Park Carousel - Topeka, Kansas Gage Park Carousel

Between the Rose and Rock Gardens

American Bittern?

Saturday - August 1, 2009: Today I finally managed to revisit Baan Thai Restaurant in Leavenworth, Kansas. I thoroughly enjoyed Baan Thai on my first visit last summer, but hadn't been to Leavenworth recently.

Today, I had roasted duck curry (boneless roasted duck with pineapple, bell pepper, tomatoes and fresh basil in red curry and coconut milk. The duck and the sauce were so good!

Heading south through Leavenworth, I stopped at the 1893 Chapel of the Veterans near the VA hospital in Leavenworth Kansas. The Chapel has been featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not because it houses both a Protestant worship area on the second floor and a Catholic worship area on the first floor.

Just a little farther south, across the city limits into Lansing, I revisited Mount Muncie Cemetery Although best known for the Baby Mounds and the graves of the In Cold Blood murderers, Mount Muncie has other notable burials and I wanted to check on the grave of Helen Fritsche Cronkite, mother of Water Cronkite. It has been recently marked with a flag and a newspaper clipping of Walter's death.

Continuing through town, the next stop was the Lansing Historical Museum. This was my first visit since the museum reopened after a 2007 fire. The small museum is in an old railroad depot. I find the exhibits related to the nearby 1866 Lansing Correctional Facility.

I was disappointed to learn today, that the KC Masterpiece Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas has closed.

 

Baan Thai Restaurant - Leavenworth, Kansas Baan Thai Restaurant

Chapel of the Veterans - Leavenworth, Kansas Gargoyles on the Chapel of the Veterans

Helen Fritsche Cronkite grave

Lansing Historical Museum - Lansing, Kansas Lansing Historical Museum

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