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.

Follow me on Twitter.

Visit my Michigan Straits of Mackinac site:  www.mightymac.org

Saturday - July 31, 2010: Today we visited a couple of Johnson County restaurants for the first time this year. The first one was Grandstand Burger in north Overland Park, a location that many people assume is in another city.

This tiny burger joint has indoor seating for only 3 people, but the outdoor seating has new umbrellas over the tables (not shown in the photo at right) and the seats were shaded and comfortable. The hand formed burgers were the best I have had in weeks and the onion rings were great.

Supper was only a few miles away at Old Shawnee Pizza in Shawnee, Kansas. Their thin crust pizzas are still above average, if not outstanding. The chicken wings were a little better than on my previous visit, but still  about what I could easily prepare myself.

 

Grandstand Burger in north Overland Park, Kansas Grandstand Burger
Friday - July 30, 2010: Several friends joined me this evening in trying Shawnee, Kansas' newest BBQ restaurant - The Pick Smoke n' Grill. The Pick opened just a few weeks ago and was recommended to my by someone who recently moved into the neighborhood.

The Pick use about a third of the space formerly occupied by Infused Restaurant & Bar, which closed last year. The dining room has high ceilings and terrible acoustics. The noise coming by children at some other tables carried tot he point where it was difficult to order or have a conversation . Our server admitted that sometimes the noise is even worse.

The meats at The Pick were the strong point. None of the side dishes really appealed to me, although a couple of the people that I was with enjoyed the beans. The french fries are ordinary, not fresh made.

Two of us ordered the special - a full slab of pork ribs with two sides for $16.99. The sides that came with the ribs would have small regardless, but were very small when shared by two people. A smoked hamburger and beef brisket were both OK. The ribs were sweet (much like Applebee's). Hot chicken wings had good flavor, but were not very meaty.

The Pick is one of the few KC BBQ restaurants that does not offer sausage.

 

The Pick Smoke n' Grill - Shawnee, Kansas The Pick Smoke n' Grill
Thursday - July 29, 2010: Tonight's supper was at Overland Park's newest Chinese Restaurant - Joy Wok. The new, giant buffet is probably the most attractive Chinese restaurant in the metropolitan area. This space was previously occupied by Amor de Brazil Fiery Steakhouse, but they opened it out, added a huge water feature and really turned this building into an attractive restaurant.

The food was impressive, not just for the well made traditional dishes but for other surprises like roast beef and Kansas City Steak Pie. I enjoyed a couple of vegetable dishes that I have never had before. There was also a surprisingly nice selection of sushi and an area where food is prepared hibachi style, to order.

Monday through Thursday evening, the buffet is $9.95. A bargain!

 

Joy Wok - Ovarland Park, Kansas Joy Wok
Monday - July 26, 2010: Lunch was at Austin's Bar & Grill in Olathe. I used to be a regular at Austin's, but visiting restaurants for this web site has been keeping me away. Monday is half price burger day and we both went for burgers. I had the Burger of Burgers with grilled onions & mushrooms. Monterey Jack & American cheeses and topped with bacon, while Linda had a bacon cheese burger.

It used to be that Austin's steaks and burgers came well done regardless of how they were ordered, but my burger today came medium rare as I ordered it. A nice improvement.

Supper was my first visit to Gaslight Grill in Leawood, Kansas, right in front of the Church of the Resurrection mega church. I didn't intend to go to Gaslight Grill tonight, but I discovered that two nearby restaurants: Blue Fin & Tannah's Asian Fusion have both closed.

I first discovered Gaslight Grill from seeing their ads on this web site. The online menu looked rather pricey and something left me prepared to to like the restaurant.

I arrived early in the evening when the restaurant was almost empty. The space is huge and the music was too loud for a restaurant, rather than a bar. But I suspect that it becomes less noticeable when the restaurant is filled with customers.

The service was impeccable.

Even though I had just had a gorgonzola ribeye steak on Saturday, the Maytag blue cheese crusted ribeye sounded the most attractive to me. A 14 ounce steak with bacon & chive mashed potato and green beans was $28. Wow! The steak was perfectly cooked and the blue cheese sauce was incredible.

I need to go to Gaslight Grill again soon.

 

Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas Austin's Bar & Grill
 

Gaslight Grill in Leawood, Kansas Gaslight Grill

Sunday - July 25, 2010: Following a night in Abilene, Kansas, I began the day with a revisit of Brown Park Waterfall on on Turkey Creek a couple of miles south of town. My first visit to this falls was in the winter and I wanted to get some photos while things are green.

Before leaving town, I also photographed the gardens at the Seelye Mansion.

Then west to Junction City where I drove south of town to Geary State Fishing Lake. Scott Bean had recommended that I check out the waterfall here and he was sure right! After parking near the dam, I walked its length looking for the outlet. As I reached the far side, I could hear water falling back in the trees to the right.

At the far end of the dam, there was a trail leading off to the right. It wasn't easy walking, there was a steep slope, mud, and trees to work through, but I soon found myself at the top of a spectacular 35' falls. Wow!

It was a lot more work getting down to the creek below the falls, but it was worth the effort. My pictures don't do this beautiful waterfall justice.

I drove back up to Junction City and then to the adjacent community of Grandview Plaza to Stacy's Restaurant. The oldest part of Stacy's Restaurant started as a Valentine Diner. I attempted to eat at Stacy's in May of 2009, but when I entered the dining room, it was filled with cigarette smoke. 

I searched for a table or booth away from the smoke, but the three vacant tables were each next to people that had lit cigarettes. I knew I wouldn't enjoy the meal if I stayed and quietly left. Even that brief time in the restaurant left my clothes smelling smoky for hours

But Kansas went non-smoking on July 1 so it seemed like a good time to return.

This building is neat and the people are friendly, but the food was pretty boring. The homemade vegetable beef soup ($2.99) was the best part of the meal. But I didn't finish my chicken fried steak ($8.99) with country gravy and salad. The steak was preprocessed and mostly breading and the gravy had no flavor.

They do serve breakfast until the early afternoon closing - perhaps that is the strong part of the menu.

Driving northeast, I passed through Manhattan to Tuttle Creek dam on the Big Blue River. There was a lot of water being released from the dam and the flow through the gated chute spillway was quite impressive with water whirling and around and up many feet into the air.

After taking some photos at the dam, I drove down river to the waterfall at Rocky Ford State Fishing area. which I had been told about by Lawrence Seib from the University of Kansas. Although the river is much wider at this point, there was still a tremendous flow of water over the low falls.

I don't think this is one of the more attractive Kansas waterfalls, but it is still impressive and I enjoyed watching the people using various fishing techniques.

ON the way back to Manhattan, I stopped for a burger and onion rings at the Vista Drive In. It is one of two locations for the family run burger place that have been in business since 1964. 

I love the classic look of the building and its sign, and appreciated the clean well maintained interior, but I can't see this being voted Manhattan's best hamburger. The fries were OK for frozen, but there was nothing special about them, the quarter pound Vistaburger, or the onion rings.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but this evening I had supper at Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Mission, Kansas. It was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and I wanted to try the chicken which is briefly deep fried after smoking.

But as we approached the door, there was a sign saying they were out of chicken. While we were being seated, the owner said they had sold 800 servings of chicken since Friday. They were also out of onion rings and ran out of ribs just after we got our order in.

Service was also an issue, though the owner was hurrying around trying to make sure things didn't get out of hand. We had to wait a long time for our food and were pressed to hurry eating when it came. One of us had ordered burnt ends, but was brought pulled pork instead, but we didn't think we could take the time for them to correct the order.

 

Brown Park Waterfall - Abeline, Kansas Brown Park Waterfall
 

Geary Lake Falls - Junction City, Kansas Geary Lake Falls
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Stacy's Restaurant - Grandview Plaza, Kansas Stacy's Restaurant
 
 
 
 

Rocky Ford Waterfall Rocky Ford Waterfall
 
 

Vista Drive In - Manhattan, Kansas Vista Drive In

Saturday - July 24, 2010: I was up early and on the road for my first overnight Kansas exploring in 3 months. Heading straight west, my first stops were in Salina, where the fields were being fired around the Yesteryear Museum, just north of I-70. I thought that this kind of burning was only done in the spring.

My lunch was at a new restaurant to me - Hickory Hut Serious Barbecue in Salina. It started business as a drive through only restaurant, next door, 30 years ago. It appears that the majority of their business is still done at the drive through window today.

Wanting to try as many dishes as possible, I ordered the sampler platter ($19.99) which included 2 ribs, a sausage, chopped pork, BBQ brisket, fries, baked beans, potato salad and cole slaw. No I didn't eat all of that, though I did eat most of the meat.

The potato salad and (frozen) fries were OK, but the sweet cole slaw was better. The beans were sweet and loaded with sausage & a little bacon. They were definitely my favorite side dish.

The meats were all above average, but none really stood out. There was a choice of regular or hot sausage. I went with the hot and it may have been my favorite meat.

There were two sauces in squeeze bottles. One was labeled "barbeque sauce" and the other was labeled "hot." A third sauce was in a dispenser labeled "intense BBQ sauce" but it was intermediate between the other two. The sauces were all sweet, tomato based sauces and I didn't notice a big difference between the three. Hot sauce was also available.

Moving on to Lincoln, Kansas, the first stop was at the Lincoln Art Center. The modest sized art center is mostly about temporary exhibits, with few permanent displays, but it does have a very nice gift shop with arts and crafts from various artists. Admission to the Lincoln Art Center is free.

The current temporary displays are the works of three Baldwin City artists: Stephan Anderson-Story (photographs), Joseph Anderson-Story (whimsical pottery and glass), and Tracy Townsley (pottery).

Hurrying on up Lincoln Avenue, I arrived at the Kyne House Museum. I needed to be there before it closed for the day at 1PM. The curator, Andy Anderson, was kind enough to show me through the museum and stayed past 1PM so I could take my time and see everything.

The large collection is much like that at county historical museums across Kansas. The exhibit likely to be of the most interest to visitors from outside Lincoln County is probably the F. A. Cooper room with paintings and examples of Cooper's "It Happened in Kansas" newspaper articles and cartoons which were once syndicated in 50 newspapers. 

But my personal favorite item was a large desk which had come from the old First National Bank. The back of the desk is a 5' x 8' display of painted advertisements for businesses in the community, reminiscent of the stage curtains that were once found in many Kansas schools. This is the first desk like this that I have seen.

Then back and across the street to the new Michael Steven Gallery. I toured Michael's studio when I was in Lincoln this winter and his new gallery was the principle reason for this visit. Michael creates wonderful art and furniture from laminated wood.

My last stop in Lincoln was a revisit of the Saline River Waterfall which I discovered last winter. It was great getting some photos while things are green.

Leaving Lincoln, I decided to check on a couple of waterfalls which Andy Anderson had told me about. The first is near the unincorporated community of Shady Bend, about 2 miles west of Beverly, Kansas. I found the small cluster of buildings that is all that remains of Shady Bend, but had no luck finding the waterfall.

I had better luck with the waterfall that was 30 miles north on the Solomon River in downtown Beloit. There is a small park next to the falls and I had to dodge groups of frisbee golfers who were having a tournament. There was so much water coming over the dam that the falls was the beautiful I bet it is nicer when there is less flow. There is even a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Solomon River a little above the falls.

Driving back east and west, I passed through Salina and drove a few miles farther south to Assaria, home of one of my favorite Kansas Restaurants - the Renaissance Cafe. Located in an old school building, the Renaissance Cafe has typical fare ar weekday lunch, but three evenings a week, a different chef comes in and the restaurant serves fine Italian food. 

I decided to retry the steak Venato which I enjoyed so much on my first visit to the cafe three years ago. The 10 ounce ribeye is dredged in seasoned bread crumbs, grilled, and smothered in a savory sauce of brown mustard, shallots, mushrooms, cognac & cream. They have changed the plating since my other visits, and I didn't care as much for the presentation, but the steak was still wonderful. $21 with potato, vegetable, and  the choice of soup or salad.

I highly recommend the gorgonzola romaine salad - romaine hearts topped with spicy pecans, dries cranberries and a rich homemade gorgonzola cheese dressing. A few other restaurants try something similar, but I have never had one that I like as well.

My final stop before calling it a night was the Cozy Inn in Salina. The only dish the 88 year old restaurant prepares is burgers with grilled onions and it is an icon, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. For me, the Cozy Inn has always been more about the atmosphere and the tradition, then about the burgers, but this is the first time that I didn't really enjoy the burgers.

The burgers are tiny (16 to the pound), but this time they seemed even tinier. There was hardly anything between the slices of bun - a sliver of meat one pickle, the tiniest dab of grilled onions and a couple of drops of ketchup and mustard. I'm not going to condemn Cozy Inn based on one poor experience, but I will be little more cautious about recommending it.

 

Prairie fire in Salina, Kansas Prairie fire
 

Hickory Hut BBQ in Salina, Kansas Hickory Hut BBQ
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lincoln Art Center - Lincoln, Kansas Lincoln Art Center
 
 

Kyne House Museum - Lincoln, Kansas Kyne House Museum
 
 
 
 

Michael Steven Gallery - Lincoln, Kansas Michael Steven Gallery

Saline River Waterfall - Lincoln, Kansas Saline River Waterfall
 

Beloit Falls on the Solomon River Beloit Falls
 
 
 

Steak Venato at the Renaissance Cafe in Assaria, Kansas Steak Venato
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cozy Inn - Salina, Kansas Cozy Inn

Friday - July 23, 2010: We had supper at Vive Latino Mexican Restaurant on Holmes Road on the south side of Kansas City, Missouri. It was highly recommended by friends that said the food is so good, that they will forgo having Margaritas (no liquor license) to eat there.

Vive Latino is in the strip center behind Gomer's Chicken, which we tried the previous week.

The restaurant is very plain, but the food is good. The best items sampled were the spinach dip ($5.49) and nachos ($7.50), The discada fajitas ($9.99) sounded better than they tasted, but were not bad. Discada is a combination of grilled pork, steak, chorize, bacon, ham, and meat franks.

I'm told that the discada chimichanga ($9.99) is very good.

 

Vive Latino Mexican Restaurant - Kansas City, Missouri Vive Latino
Thursday - July 22, 2010: It is time for me to go back to visiting more Johnson County Kansas restaurants for my city guides. There hasn't been enough time during the past few months.

Today's lunch was at Jose Pepper's Grill on Blackbob Road in Olathe. I had not eaten at Jose Pepper's since it moved to this location several years ago. Jose Pepper's is a small Kansas City chain with additional restaurants in Wichita and Topeka.

I had one of the signature dishes - the $14.99 Fajitas Del Trio (three jumbo bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese & jalapeno, flame grilled steak and char grilled chicken). I was pleased to learn that Jose Pepper's Grill offers the choice of substituting fresh fruit, a side salad or cottage cheese for the beans & rice. They don't have blue cheese dressing for the salads, but the Italian dressing was quite good.

The shrimp and stuffing seemed a little wasted. They tasted good, but really all that I could taste was the bacon. Overall, I wish the meats had been grilled with a bit more spice.

Linda joined me for supper was at Mafia Mike's Pizza in Lenexa. I had not been there in a couple of years. The hot chicken wings (10 for $7.99) were meaty and had great flavor. The $5.99 antipasti salad was large and came with a ton of cheese, green and black olives, meat, mushrooms and pepperoncini. The $8.99 medium calzone was large enough for two people, but came with only one topping (filling). Even with our paying for a second topping, we felt that there wasn't enough filling.

Mafia Mike's Pizza appears to be an unusual chain. Near as I can tell, there is this one in Kansas and four others in Arizona.

 

Jose Pepper's Grill in Olathe, Kansas Jose Pepper's Grill
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mafia Mike's Pizza in Lenexa, Kansas Mafia Mike's Pizza

Wednesday - July 21, 2010: Driving through Edgerton, Kansas this evening, we stumbled across a waterfall which I knew nothing about. Santa Fe Lake Falls is just south of Sunflower Road near the Edgerton city limits. There have been heavy rains this week and the waterfall was quite attractive.

Added new pages devoted to Santa Fe Lake Falls in Edgerton and Papa Bob's Bar-B-Que in Kansas City.

I was disappointed to discover today that Pickering's Restaurant and Pub in Olathe, Kansas has closed and the building is empty. I will miss their hand breaded pork tenderloin sandwich and chicken wings.

 

Santa Fe Lake Falls - Edgerton, Kansas Santa Fe Lake Falls
Saturday - July 17, 2010: Two friends joined me for lunch at Gomer's Chicken in Kansas City, Missouri. The restaurant is right across the parking lot from the better known Gomer's Liquor. At times Gomer's is counter service only, but at other times there are servers and there was very good service today. The fried chicken and sides (particularly the real mashed potatoes) and the cinnamon apples were both a hit.

I particularly enjoy the fried chicken hearts, in part because this it the only place where I can regularly get them.

Published 4 pages of photos from the Campbell Conference.

 

Gomer's Chicken in Kansas City, Missouri Gomer's Chicken
Friday - July 16, 2010: This is the first day of the Campbell Conference and we drove to the University of Kansas in Lawrence where the Campbell Banquet and Awards Ceremony were held at Mrs. E's (aka Ekdahl Dining Commons).

The dinner was followed by the presentation of the John Campbell Award for best SF novel of the year and the Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short SF of the year. I photographed the awards for the MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive. For several years the inductions for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame were also conducted at this ceremony and I was responsible for a portion of the program.

The ceremony was followed by a reception on the 6th floor of Lewis Hall. As the evening wound down, the sun was setting over Lawrence.

 

Campbell Awards Ceremony Campbell Conference Awards Ceremony

Lawrence Kansas sunset

Wednesday - July 14, 2010: Three friends joined me for supper at Ten Restaurant in the historic Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence, Kansas.

Our entrees were surf & turf, Tandoori lamb chops, pork tenderloin, and buffalo short ribs. I loved the garlic & thyme sauce that came with the ribs and ate two much of the mashed potatoes with the sauce.

We started with a cheese & fruit course and ended with two desserts. I thought the $9 Midwestern Berry Milk Cake was particularly good. It was more or less a strawberry/raspberry shortcake in a chocolate shell. The White Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake was also good, but it was a small serving for $8.

At just over $170 before tip (without alcohol) it was an expensive meal. If the service had been just a little better, it would have been worth it. But our server wasn't good about tell us of specials and had to be repeatedly asked to bring more water and iced tea.

As we were leaving Lawrence, there was the sound of fireworks just south of the downtown. It was the final weekly Wednesday night concert of the summer season and the last concert always features the 1812 Overture with fireworks in the appropriate places.

Updated the review of Soaring Heart Gallery, with info about its new location in Lincoln, Kansas.

 

Desserts at Ten Restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas Midwestern Berry Milk Cake & White Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake
Tuesday - July 13, 2010: Added a new review with more photos of the Idle-a-While Bar and Grill in Cherokee, Kansas. Updated the details for Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory & Sanctuary in Louisburg, Kansas.

For supper, two friends joined me at KC Grill N Kabob in Lenexa. KC Grill N Kabob has a good buffet a lunch time every day and all day on the weekends, so this is the first time that we have ordered off on the menu. The $3.99 Noon Panear (Bread with sliced tomatoes, dill, cucumbers and feta cheese) was a simple, reasonably priced starter and the main dishes were very generous. The lamb that came with the shish kabob was the best meat dish that I have ever had at this restaurant and the chicken from the chicken kabob was nearly as good.

 

Monday - July 12, 2010: Tonight Diners, Drive-ins and Dives had the premiere of their Kansas City BBQ episode. which featured RJ's Bob-Be-Que & Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Mission, Woodyard Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas and Smokin' Guns BBQ in North Kansas City, Missouri.

KansasTravel.org hosted a Watch party and compared the BBQ from two of the restaurants in the show. Here are the photos and the results of the BBQ comparison.

 

BBQ from Johnny's and RJ's BBQ from Johnny's Hickory House and RJ's Bob-Be-Que
Sunday - July 11, 2010: Added brand new review of Mr. Epp's K.C. Barbeque in Kansas City, Kansas. It has taken almost two years for me to catch Mr. Epp's open enough times to complete my review. Fortunately, the food is almost good enough to make it worth that much effort.

Also added a review of Scotty's Classic Car Museum and Store in Arma, Kansas.

 

Mr. Epp's K.C. Barbeque in Kansas City, Kansas Mr. Epp's Barbeque
Saturday - July 10, 2010: I had a lot of fun today, starting with a long awaited tour of Scotty's Classic Car Sales and Museum in Arma, Kansas. The museum is just a couple of blocks off of I-69 and I had seen it many times, but didn't have the free time to stop and look around at the time of day when it is open.

Phyllis and Scotty Bitner opened the automobile store & museum after retiring from their Pittsburg automobile dealership in 1969. The focal points of Scotty's are the classic cars which are displayed with mannequins in period clothing, but many people will be just as interested in the toys and automobile related memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s.

It was a pleasure meeting Scotty and Phyllis.

When scouting locations to visit to day, I had found a web site for the Idle-a-While Bar and Grill in Cherokee, Kansas. Pulling into the small town, it looked like all the locals were eating at the nearby Cooky's Diner, but I decided to stay with Idle-a-While even though it had no customers.

The Idle-a-While turns out to be more restaurant than bar, has a malt beverage license and sells no hard liquor. It has been in operation since 1935 but Dan and Michelle have had the place just 4 and a half years.

When I was given the menu, the first thing I asked was if they prepared their own mountain oysters or used the ones that I have found at several restaurants around Kansas. The answer was both. They used the commercially prepared ones, but occasionally got them from a local farmer and cooked them up for the beer drinkers. Dan prepared a batch of their own mountain oysters and brought me one to see if I wanted the rest of the order. They were fried with flour & pepper and were great.

I also had the $6 daily special Tex Mex Burger, a 1/2 pound spicy ground sirloin burger patty topped wit a slice of pepper jack cheese and 2 pieces of bacon on Texas toast. With grilled onions, it ws a tasty burger, but my favorite part of the meal was the hand cut onion rings.

It was time to race back around Pittsburg to the Franklin Community Center where the Kansas Explorers were having their annual event which is called "The Happening." It is held in early July and brings together the Explorers in a different region of Kansas each year. They never know how many will show up, but there was a crowd of about 65 attending the meeting and learning some of the history of the community which was nearly eliminated by a Category 4 tornado in 2003.

Members of the Franklin and Arma communities welcomed us and told us about some of the community's history. Then Marci Penner gave us some background on the Kansas Explorers and invited members to share some of their experiences coming to this and other Explorer events.

The meeting was followed by "Walk the Walk" on the one and a half mile long sidewalk which connects Arma & Franklin and is in the Guinness book of World Records.

I was disappointed to learn today that the 1106 Drive-In in Pittsburg has closed and is now for sale.

 

Scotty's Classic Car Sales and Museum in Arma, Kansas Scotty's Classic Car Sales and Museum
 
 
 
 

Idle-a-While in Cherokee, Kansas Idle-a-While
 
 
 

Franklin Community Center - Franklin, Kansas Franklin Community Center

Exhibit of items from the Franklin Tornado

Franklin Kansas sidewalk Kansas Explorers preparing to walk the sidewalk

Wednesday - July 7, 2010: Today's lunch is at a fairly new restaurant which I have been meaning to try for some time - Blue Fin Modern Asian Fusion on 135th Street in Leawood, Kansas.

I had two appetizers for my meal - the $7 hot braised chicken wings flavored with garlic, jalapenos & sweet chili glaze and the $6 chicken lettuce wrap with ground chicken, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and oyster sauce topped with crunchy noodles & served in lettuce bowls.

The two dishes tasted quite similar. The key word was sweet, not spicy. The wings weren't very meaty and disappointed me. The wrap was more interesting, but the noodles added no flavor or crunch. The wrap isn't bad, but I think it is just one ingredient away from being a very special dish.

 

Blue Fin Modern Asian Fusion in Leawood, Kansas Blue Fin
Tuesday - July 6, 2010: Today was the travel day, but we managed to work in some good stops, starting with Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, which I had not visited in over 40 years.

Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the largest parks in Michigan and famous for its 49 acre section of old growth virgin white pines and a logging museum. Many of the pines are over 350 years old and are about 150 feet tall.

Lunch was in Grayling at Spike's Keg 'O' Nails restaurant and tavern. The small tavern has been operating since 1933 and has a lot of personality. I get a kick out of the memorial plaques that commemorate the dates with soldiers stationed at the nearby National Guard base drank record quantities of beer.

My ale and cheddar soup was fairly good. So was my basket of deep fried smelt. Smelt are a small fish that are cooked nearly whole, with just the head and guts removed. These were some of the smallest smelt I have ever had. All of them were just one large bite.

Supper was just a few miles from Detroit Wayne County Airport at Haab's, a restaurant in Ypsilanti, Michigan which was established in 1934 by Oscar and Otto Haab. It was good, but didn't live up to the strong recommendations it has received. The bread was the best items and the onion rings were good, but not great. THe hand breaded Lake Perch didn't have the sweet taste that I have come to expect and I wondered if they had substituted an ocean fish.

 

Logging Museum in Hartwick Pines State Park Logging Museum

Spike's Keg 'O' Nails restaurant - Grayling, Michigan beer drinking historic markers at Spike's Keg 'O' Nails
 

Haab's restaurant in Ypsilanti, Michigan Haab's

Monday - July 5, 2010: I really wanted to go to Munising and the Pictured Rocks today, but fog and the threat of rain made me change our route and we went to Tahquamenon Falls so that I could add some summer photos to the beautiful autumn photos of the falls which I took in 2008.

We spent almost two hours and visited both the Upper and Lower falls. There are many steps at the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, but we did the 97 steps down to the brink and the 120 steps down to the river shore. It was quite beautiful.

Lunch was at the Little Falls Restaurant in Paradise, Michigan. The whitefish basket was OK, but nothing like the whitefish which I had at Darrow's Restaurant in Mackinaw City on the day before. I think the restaurant has expanded since our previous visit and the entrance is now through the adjacent Red Flannel Bar.

Then we drove on out to the tip of Whitefish point where we toured the lighthouse and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The museum is great, but really should be called the Lake Superior Shipwreck Museum - the exhibits are all about Lake Superior Shipwrecks and mostly those near Whitefish Bay.

The most popular exhibit is the bell from the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald which sank nearby in 1975.

The Audubon Society also has a center across from the lighthouse, but it was closed. The best time for seeing birds at Whitefish point is the spring. Migratory birds follow the shore north to this location before crossing Lake Superior.

Supper was at the Hack Ma Tack Inn, a hundred plus year old restaurant on the Cheboygan River near Douglas Lake. The last time I dinned at the Hack Ma Tack was in the 1970s. The food was still good (particularly my lobster bisque), but the service was pretty poor.

 

Tahquamenon Falls - Michigan Tahquamenon Falls

Little Falls Restaurant - Paradise, Michigan Little Falls Restaurant

Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Shipwreck Museum Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Hack Ma Tack Inn - Douglas Lake, Michigan Hack Ma Tack Inn 

Sunday - July 4, 2010: We attended the 11AM service at the Church of the Straits (United Methodist and Presbyterian federated) in Mackinaw City. During the summer, the members of the regular church choir are all busy at their jobs waiting on travelers, so there is a volunteer choir formed from the visitors attending the service. I took part in the volunteer choir, but I'm afraid that America the Beautiful wasn't the best choice for the volunteer choir to sing. Parts of it sounded good, but parts were rather disastrous.

Our lunch was a Darrow's Family Restaurant. I remember back when Darrow's was just a drive-in in the 1960s. The fried whitefish was spectacular and the hand dipped onion rings were some of the best I have ever had. This isn't the best food I have ever had, but I think I would choose it for a last supper.

We toured Fort Michilimackinac where I worked in costume during the summers when I was in college in the 1970s. It was good seeing my old friend Jim Evans and seeing what changes have been made since my last visit. Colonial Michilimackinac is the site of the oldest continuous archeological dig in North America. The Fort was destroyed when the British move to Mackinac Island during the American Revolution, but reconstruction began in 1959 and continues through today.

Supper was in the Chippewa Room at Audie's Restaurant in Mackinaw. The perch was much better than the previous night's meal.

We followed supper with a Vesper Cruise. The ecumenical service is held on a ferry boat and includes a tour under the Mackinac Bridge.

The night ended with us back at the motel watching the fireworks displays in Mackinaw City, St. Ignace and Mackinac Island.

 


 
 
 
 
 

Mackinac Bridge and freighter
Freighter Niagara passing under the Mackinac Bridge

fireworks and the Mackinac Bridge Fireworks & the Mackinac Bridge

Saturday - July 3, 2010: We began the day taking a ferry to Mackinac Island. This was my first time there since October 2008 and and I needed to freshen up my web site devoted to the Straits, Bridge, Fort Michilimackinac and Island.

First up was a Mackinac Island Carriage tour. It took not quite two hours and we left the carriage at the rear entrance to Fort Mackinac to avoid the climb up to the 18th Century British and American Fort. After photographing several of the buildings, we stopped for lunch at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room which is operated by the Grand Hotel.

The Tea Room is in the Officer's Stone Quarters (the oldest building in the State of Michigan) and has a spectacular view out over the Mackinac Island Harbor. The menu is limited, but very good. We had a personal pizza, classic Caesar salad and a three cheese tart. The pizza and Caesar salad were excellent. The tart wasn't very large, more of a side to the tossed greens that came with it.

Then we spent some time on the Island's main street checking out the shops and famous fudge shops, finally getting fudge at Murdick's Fudge which has been on Mackinac Island since 1887.

We spent a little time along the shore near the Round Island passage before returning to Mackinaw City.

Supper was at the Rusty Anchor in Cheboygan. The restaurant opened at the former location of the Boathouse restaurant on Mother's Day. It has an excellent location with a view of the Cheboygan River. All of the food was good. My order of fried perch was a little small, but the New York Strip was huge!

 

Mackinac Island, Michigan Mackinac Island
 

Fort Mackinac Tea Room - Mackinac Island, Michigan Fort Mackinac Tea Room
 
 

Rusty Anchor restaurant - Cheboygan, Michigan Rusty Anchor

Friday - July 2, 2010: We flew to Detroit today, planning to have lunch at the classic old Bates Hamburgers in Livonia, Michigan. But construction on I-275 made us change the route and we settled for an Elias Brother's Big Boy where the food was so-so and took a very long time.

Driving north on US23 and I75, the traffic was often bumper-to-bumper until we were north of Bay City.

We are checked in to the Sunrise Beach Motel on the shore of the Straits of Mackinac, just outside the Mackinaw City limits. The motel is clean and has a good view, but the rooms are very tiny. There isn't anywhere to put things - I wouldn't stay here again.

 

Current Month     Kansas Travel Home

2015: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2014: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2013: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2012: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2011: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2010: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2009: January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
2008: May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December

Copyright 2008-2016 by Keith Stokes.