Kansas Travel Blog
Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration & photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact him.
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Tuesday - August 31 2010: Made a second visit to Callahan's Bar and Grill in Lenexa. I hadn't been that favorably impressed during the first visit last September, but was much more pleased with the food at this sports bar today.

The chili was spicier than it had been on my first visit and needed no added hot sauce. It had a spice I am not used to being in chili. I'm not sure what it is, but it is used in some Indian dishes. In any case, it worked well. 

The fish tacos were a little unusual - the fish was long chunks, like fish & chips. But I still enjoyed the tacos.


Callahan's Bar and Grill - Lenexa, Kansas Callahan's Bar and Grill
Monday - August 30 2010: Added a new review of Hillsdale Bank Bar-B-Q in Hillsdale, Kansas.


Saturday - August 28, 2010: Linda and I drove to Hillsdale, Kansas to have lunch at Hillsdale Bank Bar-B-Q. The 21 year old restaurant occupies both an old bank building and an old railroad caboose. The food was even better than I remembered from my last visit in early 2008. I particularly liked the fresh cut fries and the spicy sausage.


Hillsdale Bank BBQ - Hillsdale, Kansas Hillsdale Bank Bar-B-Q
Friday - August 27, 2010: Linda joined me for a second visit to the new Smash Burger in Olathe. Today I tried the chili (pretty good) and the smashwedge salad (better). 

The smashwedge was tow wedges of iceberg lettuce, topped with bacon, chopped tomatoes, red onions, blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. Both attractive and tasty, it looked impressive enough the a stranger passing our table stopped to ask what it was.


Thursday - August 26, 2010: This evening I revisited Chung's Rainbow Restaurant in Overland Park. When I was at Chung's this spring, they had a new, much larger menu. Now they have another new menu. but this time the selection is even smaller than it was in the past. 

My OhTingOhBokum (spicy squid sautéed with vegetables in red pepper paste sauce on top of thin noodles) was still good, but lacked a certain something which I had liked in the flavor. I'm not sure what it is, but I think they may have changed kind of oil which they use.

Meals at Chung's Rainbow Restaurant are still very reasonable. My squid was $10.95 including rice, a clear soup, kimchi and pickled radish. There are only a couple of meals which cost more than $12.


Chung's Rainbow Restaurant - Overland Park, Kansas
Tuesday - August 24, 2010: Added a new review with many photos of the Lawrence Busker Festival.


Monday - August 23, 2010: Continuing to look for restaurants I haven't visited before, this evening we dined at Fronteras Mexican Restaurant in Lenexa. I had been aware of this restaurant and its Olathe location for sometime, but for some reason it hadn't seemed appealing.

That was a big mistake. I was very pleased with the food. The salsa was superior and the $7.29 avocado chicken salad was very good and a large serving. Shrimp tacos and deep fried ground beef tacos were good, but the fish taco was heavenly - one of the very best tacos I have had in Kansas City.


Fronteras Mexican Restaurant - Lenexa, Kansas
Sunday - August 22, 2010: Added a new review of Speck's Bar and Grill in Topeka, Kansas.

For lunch, we revisited Backfire Barbeque in Kansas City, Kansas - a first of its kind theme restaurant based on the Orange County Choppers TV show on the Discovery Channel. 

We visited Backfire BBQ shortly after it opened in 2009 and frankly weren't that impressed with the food during that visit. The food was much different today. 

The menu has changed to include more BBQ items and we tried two of them this day. Linda had the $16.99 beef burnt end platter with fries and pit baked beans. The burnt ends weren't the crispy chunks we are used to at most Kansas City BBQ places, but were broken up and were flavored with a good sauce throughout.

I had the Sunday afternoon special called the "patio pig party," a serving of a smoked whole hog with grilled corn and baked beans. Wow, that was good pork and the corn was good too. I also had the chili. It wasn't very hot, but was very flavor and tasted great with a little added Tobasco Sauce.

The only disappointment was the beans which were soft and fairly tasteless.



smoked whole hog at Backfire Barbeque smoked whole hog

Saturday - August 21, 2010: The first stop today was Shawnee Mission Park. The 4 square mile park in Lenexa and Shawnee is the most visited park in the state of Kansas. I took a number of photos to update and expand the page which I started for Shawnee Mission Park in January.

Shawnee Mission Park is a four seasons destination with things as diverse as a 53 ace dog off-leash area, 130 acre lake, and a base for radio controlled aircraft.

Then on the the Lawrence Busker Festival. There were at least 6 stages with continuous performances, scattered around Massachusetts Street, with more street performers set up along Mass. The three day event is free, other than tips to the performers. 

My favorite performances included KC Ukesters, the MamaLou Strongwoman Show, Alferd Packer Memorial Sting Band and the Voler aerial artists.

We drove on to Topeka for supper at Specks Bar and Grill. 

Specks Bar and Grill began in 1957 as the Seabrook Tavern. The Tavern was sold a few years ago, it had stayed good, but closed earlier this year. Fortunately, Carl Maichel and his wife Debbie (daughter of the original owners Franklin "Speck" Benge and Lou Benge) returned to reopen the Tavern as Specks.

Specks is famous for serving burgers up to 3 pounds in size, on buns made inhouse. They also have such treats as mountain oysters and house made fries, chips and onion rings. 

We sampled the house burger (which includes Swiss cheese, American cheese and shaved ham), potato chips, onion rings, mountain oysters and the fresh ground pork tender sandwich. The only disappointment was the chips, which didn't seem different from those from a bag.

The biggest hits were the burger, pork tender (not "pork tenderloin") and oysters. The mountain oysters were more tender than they are many places and went well with the cocktail sauce.


Shawnee Mission Park Shawnee Mission Park

Voler - Thieves of Flight Voler - Thieves of Flight

Specks Bar and Grill - Topeka, Kansas Specks Bar and Grill

Friday - August 20, 2010: There are still many interesting old restaurants in Kansas that I haven't found. Tonight we dined at the 50 year old Frontier Steak House in Kansas City, Kansas. It is located less than a mile east of the Legends complex, on State Avenue.

We had good, if not outstanding food. The best parts of the meal were the steak, baked potato, garlic bread and apple pie. The fillet was better than the ribeye. Our meal for two including beverage and tax came to just less than $40!


Frontier Steak House in Kansas City, Kansas Frontier Steak House
Thursday - August 19, 2010: Updated and expanded the reviews of Beethoven's 9th & The BBQ Shack in Paola, adding maps, menus and new photos.


Wednesday - August 18, 2010: Two friends joined me in trying the newest restaurant in Shawnee, Kansas - Bar West. It is located next to Eggtc, and I am guessing that it has the same owner as Eggtc and the Minsky's Pizza chain.

The small bar and grill was busy, but the servers were working well together and the service was good. The chicken wings were better than average and all of the food was good.

I was not impressed with my grilled catfish, but did enjoy the waffle fries and green beans which came with it. I thought that the hand breaded pork tenderloin and steak which my friends ordered were much better.


Bar West - Shawnee, Kansas Bar West
Tuesday - August 17, 2010: I returned to the Gaslight Grill in Leawood, Kansas to try a dish highly recommended by an acquaintance - the brown sugar rubbed BBQ Style baby back ribs. The excellent ribs were tender, with a good meat flavor accented well by a mild, sweet BBQ sauce. They came with think cut fresh fries which were crispy on the outside and tender inside. And the best cheese corn bake I have ever had. I need to have the cheesy corn again!

The Gaslight grill can be expensive and makes things look even more expensive by not including the prices in their online menu. But there are some good buys. At $18, this dish is one of them. The mixed green salad with cranberries, blue cheese crumbles and poppy seed vinaigrette was only $3 when ordered with an entree.


baby back ribs - Gaslight grill in Leawood baby back ribs with wonderful cheese corn bake
Monday - August 16, 2010: I finally tried the new Smash Burger which opened two weeks ago in Olathe. The gourmet burger chain shares some things with the 5 Guy's located a couple of blocks away.

I think that 5 Guy's makes a better burger, but Smash Burger has the edge in most other category. The atmosphere is much more pleasant and there is a much larger selection of items. Smash burger has things like onion straws, salads and other sandwiches.


Smash Burger - Olathe, Kansas Smash Burger
Saturday - August 14, 2010: We started the day at Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory & Sanctuary in Louisburg. After taking the regular tour, the staff gave me an opportunity to approach the cages and take some photos where the bars on the cages wouldn't obstruct the camera. We ended us staying 2.5 hours more, taking photos from spots where the public isn't permitted.

I was accompanied by one of the staff who often got into the cages with the animals, or petted them from outside the cages. I particularly liked the wolves, leopard and two young African lions. I was close enough that I had to be careful that the animals didn't swipe at me or the camera. I was careful and the only animals that I actually touched were some wolves who I scratched and allowed to lick my hands. 

Lunch was a revisit of Beethoven's 9th in Paola. The German restaurant is only open three days a week and this was my first time back in a year and a half. Linda had the zigeuner schnitzel (breaded, pan fried pork loin topped with sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and a red wine sauce) and I had the Jaeger Schnitzel with a creamy mushroom sauce. It was good, but not the plate licking odd that I thought it was before. Linda really liked the rolls.

They have many German dishes on the menu and I really should get back there again and try some more. 

In the evening, we drove to the Legends in Kansas City, Kansas, to check into Chateau Avalon - a boutique hotel with themed rooms, nestled on a treed hillside.

We had the two level Castaway Room with a Jacuzzi on the main level and the bed tucked into the prow of a boat that is for some reason lodged in the trees. I liked the hotel, but the two level room didn't work. It seemed that what one of us wanted was always on the other floor and there were too many trips up and down the stairs.

A bottle of the house sparkling apple cider was waiting on ice when we arrived. They offer a number of "late night indulgences" and later we enjoyed the chocolate covered strawberries with whipped cream

Our supper was at the Savoy Grill in Kansas City, Missouri. 

I love the traditions of the 107 year old seafood & steak restaurant, that was a favorite of Harry Truman. The service was very good, but we have been to too many fine restaurants in the past year and nothing really stood out. Linda had a fried seafood platter and I had steak poivre (a huge sirloin strip which was peppered, seared and served with cognac and red wine sauce). The steak had good flavor, but was fairly tough.

My favorite part of the meal was the lobster bisque, but even though it was very good, I have had better a couple of times recently.


Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Sanctuary - Louisburg, Kansas Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory & Sanctuary

Chateau Avalon - Kansas City, Kansas Chateau Avalon

Savoy Grill - Kansas City, Missouri Savoy Grill

Friday - August 13, 2010: I drove to Paola, Kansas to have lunch at The BBQ Shack. I hadn't been to the SHack in about a year and a half. The ribs and chicken wings were still good, but this was a chance to try some more of the side dishes. The BBQ Shack has a wide variety of interesting sides and I have only had a few of them.

This time I had Fletch's spicy corn on the cobb and the atomic buffalo turds (cored jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese & marinated water chestnuts and wrapped in bacon). They were both very good. The corn reminded me a bit of the elote corn that I had in Cozumel.

Supper was at a new restaurant in Shawnee - Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub. We were greeted by a gentleman at the door who appeared to be the incarnation of the (presumably) mythical Mr. O'Shea. That was the high point of the meal. My fish & chips and Linda's shepherd's pie were both OK, but I will try something else the next time. The menu appears to have more Irish dishes than most of the area's Irish pubs.

There is a second Waxy O'Shea's in Branson, Missouri.


The BBQ Shack - Paola, Kansas corn on the cobb & ABTs at The BBQ Shack

Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub - Shawnee, Kansas Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub

Thursday - August 12, 2010: I had lunch at Johnny's BBQ in Olathe today. Johnny's Mission, Kansas location was featured last month on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and I wanted to try the chicken that was prepared on the show. It is smoked, then finished for a couple of minutes in the deep fryer. Quick's BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas does something similar, but I didn't care for the result at Quick's.

Johnny's chicken was OK, but unlike the way it was shown on Triple D, they served it with sauce on the chicken. I think I would have enjoyed it much more with the sauce on the side. The half chicken diner came with French fries, coleslaw & baked beans and was a good value at $9.69.


Johnny's BBQ - Olathe, Kanas Johnny's BBQ
Wednesday - August 11, 2010: Two friends joined me for supper at a new Olathe Restaurant - Zepi's Pizza and Pub at Ridgeview and K-10. This is the second location for Zepi's. The original location is on State Line Road in Leawood, Kansas.

The pizza was just average, with a sauce that made me think of straight tomato paste without spices. Zepi's is probably a good choice for a party that has some people who do not want pizza. The rest of the menu is fairly varied. 

The onion rings were just something popped out of the freezer, but the chicken wrap was pretty good. I liked it that they offer a choice of dressings for the wrap and included additional dressing on the side.


Zepi's Pizza and Pub - Olathe, Kansas Zepi's Pizza & Pub
Sunday - August 8, 2010: I made a second visit to Joy Wok in Overland Park. The large Chinese restaurant is definitely doing a superior job in an attractive setting.


Saturday - August 7, 2010: Today's lunch was at a new place to me in Overland Park - the Caspian Bistro, which serves a variety of Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. We had the restaurant to ourselves when we arrived, but I was glad to see several tables filled before we left. 

Linda had the shish kabob (marinated filet mignon, skewered with onions, tomatoes and green peppers) for $18.69. The meat had a distinctive flavor which she enjoyed. She did wish the tomatoes had been cut into pieces so the cooking was more trough the vegetable.

My $19.99 lamb rack had 6 chops and was some of the best lamb I have had in a long time. I had the same complaint about the tomatoes.

The entrees came with the choice of two of basmati rice, baked potato and vegetables.


Caspian Bistro - Overland Park, Kansas Caspian Bistro
Thursday - August 5, 2010: Although 75 Cafe in Shawnee discontinued supper hours for a while, I recently learned they are now open for supper 6 nights a week. Tonight seemed like a good time to check on other changes. I was considering using 75 to host a private event.

The food is still good, but  there continues to be service issues. There was a problem on our last visit in the Spring, but we still had a good time and lived with it.

When our food was brought out this time, they brought 2 meals for 3 people. The person taking the order had missed one order entirely. It was a long wait for the other meal to be prepared.

At 75, you pay when you order. So after eating the meal, we ordered a cobbler for dessert and paid for it at that time. And were then told it would take 10 minutes. It would have been better if they had said that before we paid, but OK.

So we waited. When the cobbler was finally ready, they couldn't figure out who had ordered it. Even though there were only two other tables with customers, we overheard the server asking another table if they had ordered dessert and had to get there attention.

I do like the food at 75, but it just isn't worth the server problems.


75 Cafe in Shawnee, Kansas 75 Cafe
Wednesday - August 4, 2010: This evening we tried another restaurant for the first time this year - Cozy's Cafe in Overland Park. I like the little family restaurant, but it needs just a little more something. Perhaps a few more Mediterranean influenced dishes.

The best items at Cozy's Cafe may be from the breakfast menu, which is available all day.


Cozy's Cafe - Olverland Park, Kansas Cozy's Cafe
Tuesday - August 3, 2010: Tried a new place for supper tonight - Tailgater's Bar and Grill in Overland Park, Kansas.

I went with high hopes. The online menu listed burgers made from buffalo & elk, and when we waked in, I liked the interesting seating using old theater and airline seats in part of the restaurant. I was more than willing to overlook the too loud music.

But the food was nothing special. The onion rings and the buns used for the sandwiches were were sub par. The pork tenderloin tasted OK, but was mostly breading. The elk and buffalo burgers were so tough that it was difficult to stick a fork in them. I think they had gone straight from the freezer to the frying pan. 


Tailgater's Bar and Grill - Overland Park, Kansas Tailgater's Bar and Grill
Monday - August 2, 2010: Added two new reviews of places visited in July. Both places are special and deserve to receive more attention.

The first new page is devoted to Geary Lake Falls, which is about 6 miles south of Junction City at Geary State Fishing Lake.

The second new page is about the new Michael Steven Gallery in Lincoln. The Gallery occupies part of the space at the Village Lines shop and keeps the same hours.


Geary Lake Falls - Junction City, Kansas Geary Lake Falls
Sunday - August 1, 2010: For lunch we tried the Sunday Brunch at Gaslight Grill in Leawood. It was OK, but not the special treat that ordering off the menu was earlier in the week. The service wasn't as good, either. 

Not that the brunch was bad, but there is no reason to make a special trip for it. The biggest pleasant surprise, was the fruit smoothies.


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