Kansas Travel Blog

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration & photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact him.
Art Prints

Concert at the Emma Chase Cafe in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
Sunday - July 31, 2011: There is one potential problem with Abilene Bed & Breakfast Inn: only one of the rooms has a private bath and there could be too many rooms sharing the same bathroom. The upstairs shared bath was attractive & functional, and I had confirmed that we would not be sharing with others, while booking the room. The 5 of us in two rooms were able to coordinate our schedules, but there were two other vacant rooms and there could have been way too many people.

BTW: With three of our party staying in a two room suite, our host even offered to let one of them stay in one of the vacant rooms if they wished. These folks really are nice.

At this B&B we were asked when we wanted to have breakfast. As some of us settled into the large comfortable living room to use our notebook computers before breakfast, the hosts repeatedly checked to see if we needed, orange juice or other beverages.

ABBI doesn't say much (anything?) about their breakfasts, but they were an elaborate affair, starting with Marcia Cox greeting us dressed like a dance hall girl. We weren't sure why she was dressed that way, but it was a fun start to the morning.

The first course was an attractive presentation of assorted fruits and a yogurt dip. The second course was cream of wheat. The third coarse was poached eggs, blueberry pancakes, fried potatoes and sausage. Doc prepared everything fresh and checked to see if anyone wanted more.

We drove about 45 minutes to Manhattan to worship at First United Methodist Church where one of our former pastors, Kay Scarbrough, is now Senior Pastor. We were expecting to hear preach, but they had made changes and we heard one of the Associate Pastors. But our surprise visit was saved when we found Kay after the service and she joined us for lunch at one of my favorite Manhattan restaurants, CoCo Bolos Wood Fired Grill and Cantina.

CoCo Bolos is a small place and we had to wait about 20 minutes to get a table large enough for 6 of us. They have a nice patio, but with triple digit temperatures, that did not appeal.

The menu is a bit limited on Sunday and we were still able to find dishes that each of us could enjoy. The chili verde was spicy and flavorful and I liked the scrambled eggs with jalapenos & onions, but we were all in envy of Kay's tostada salad with grilled steak.

That was the final exploration stop of the trip and the drive home was uneventful, with a brief stop to visit family in Topeka.


Abilene Bed and Breakfast Inn - Abilene, Kansas Abilene Bed & Breakfast Inn

Abilene Bed and Breakfast Inn breakfast Fruit course

CoCo Bolos Wood Fired Grill and Cantina - Manhattan, Kansas CoCo Bolos Wood Fired Grill and Cantina

Saturday - July 30, 2011: Seasons of the Fox serves a three course breakfast and we had received the menu when we checked in. We were told that breakfast would be served at 9 AM and our host, Michael J. Fox, wanted us in the adjoining room in advance so he could open the doors and show off the table. 

The first course was mahogany zucchini bread & rustic scones, stone fruit, grapes and tangerines. I didn't care for the scones, but liked the zucchini bread (made with zucchini from their garden) quite a bit.

The second course was sunflower soufflé and chicken sausage. John was a big fan of the soufflé and we all liked the sausage which came with or without hot peppers. The hot version of the sausage wasn't too spicy. One of our party could not have cheese and coddled eggs were offered as an alternative to the soufflé.

The meal finished with almond torte and Lingonberry tarn. It was a bit rich for breakfast, but we had already had a lot of food.

Our first stop of the day was at Kansas's smallest state park - the 5 acre Mushroom Rock State Park. There are many large, rounded Dakota sandstone concretions and the softer sandstone beneath three of them has partially eroded away so they are supported on "stems." Jesi complained that they didn't look like mushrooms, but couldn't convince the the rest of us to agree. 

It was already getting pretty hot  & humid outside, and 10 minutes was plenty of time for our visit.

We drove on to Lucas, the Grassroots Capital of Kansas, where we started at the north end ot the downtown at Bowl Plaza, where a public rest room is being built in the shape of a huge toilet. At the adjacent Flying Pig Gallery, Eric Abraham showed us the mosaics which are being made to go on the walls of giant toilet. THe gallery did not have AC and it was very hot, but I would have stayed longer if we hadn't had so much more to do. 

The next building was Brant's Meat Market, a wonderful little market which has been operating for 83 years. I love Brant's Czechoslovakian ring bologna, but it wasn't going to be easy to transport, so I limited my purchases to some cold drinks and a pound of the great beef jerky (produced by Luther's Smokehouse in LeRoy, Kansas). I'm nibbling on the jerky as I work on this two days later.

The next building was Troy's Grocery, whose outside wall is covered with a beautiful, large mural dedicated to the regions post rock limestone and Czechoslovakian immigrant experience.

A few doors farther up the street, we came to the Grassroots Arts Center. Part of the front wall recently bowed out and construction is taking place to stabilize and restore the wall. The Arts Center was the busiest I have ever seen it and there were several families on our tour looking at the work of various self taught artists.

Grassroots Art Center Director Rosslyn Schultz lead our tour on a short walk to a second location, the Florence Deeble home with the Garden of Isis and its wonderful rock garden.

Before leaving town, we drove past the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction & Museum and the Garden of Eden where more work is being done. During this visit, I was delighted to learn that Kohler Foundation has purchased the Garden of Eden and is restoring the unique concrete sculptures.

Lunch was at the Hungry Hunter in Lincoln, Kansas, which I visit about once a year. Just simple, well prepared food at a reasonable price. We had fried chicken, grilled pork chops, grilled chicken tenders and fried chicken gizzards. We waddled back out to the van and headed back east.

We arrived at the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Eisenhower Museum at 4:45 PM. Walking up to the visitors center's door, we found a sign that said that for the summer hours, the boyhood home, tomb and library were closing at 4:45 and the museum and visitors center closing was at 5:45. We went into the visitors center anyway and discovered that the sign was wrong (and they knew it!). The boyhood home was closing then for the day, but the library stays open until 5:45 and the Place of Meditation (tomb) stays open until dusk.

We toured the Eight Wonders of Kansas exhibit at the Eisenhower Library. Some of the exhibits which I had seen here in June have been removed. We also stopped at the Place of Meditation.

Since everyone had enjoyed the Whirling Earth Gallery yesterday, I took them to the Bow Studio and Gallery which I enjoyed so much in 2008, both for the pottery and for the delightful couple operating it - Bob and Inga Bow. Sadly, things have changed. Inga no longer has short term memory and is no longer creating her wonderful decorative handmade tiles, sculpture, and other art work. Bob is still producing his glazed turtles, but Inga was the principal artist and the gallery is turning into more of a museum. It is heartbreaking.

Tonight's stay was at another B&B - Abilene Bed & Breakfast Inn (ABBI). Abilene has many fine mansions and we were not disappointed with this one. Marcia Cox and Utsab (he said to call him "Doc") immediately made us feel welcome. After stowing our luggage, we were offered cold drinks & nuts, and shown through the rest of the Victorian Mansion. Marcia arranged our dinner reservation.

Tonight's supper was at the Kirby House Restaurant which was in another restored Victorian Mansion. Although not as good as the previous night's steak, my bone-in ribeye was very good. My asparagus was even better and the green beans (which were cooked with butter & garlic) may have been the best I have ever had. Other highlights of the meal included the prime rib and mussels. Linda was less pleased with the "grilled" salmon which appeared to have been poached.

The service was extremely good.

We finished the evening back at ABBI, where we all settled into the very comfortable, large living room and took advantage of the wifi. Doc was attentive, checking several times to see if we wanted wine or anything else to drink.



sunflower souffle and chicken sausage at Seasons of the Fox sunflower soufflé and chicken sausage

Mushroom Rock State Park Mary sitting atop one of the rocks

mosaic wall - Lucas Bowl Plaza Bowl Plaza mosaic wall

Brant's Meat Market - Lucas, Kansas Doug Brant wrapping meat

Garden of Eden - Lucas, Kansas Garden of Eden

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Eisenhower Museum Dwight D. Eisenhower statue by Robert Dean

Kirby House Restaurant - Abilene, Kansas Kirby House Restaurant

Friday - July 29, 2011: Five of us are on our first exploration of Kansas with the whole family. Linda & I were just married in October and her daughters Mary & Jesi are 18 & 21. We were joined by Jesi's fiancee, John.

Our first stop was the Booth Hall of Athletics at the University of Kansas Allen Fieldhouse. Linda & I had toured the sports museum before, but the girls had not. Linda and the girls are huge KU fans, so it seemed an appropriate place to start this Kansas tour. John is from Nebraska and not that interested in watching team sports, but like me, he is learning that following KU Basketball is part of the package of loving these women.

In the photo to the right, another family is posing with the Phog Allen statue outside the entrance to the Booth Hall of Athletics.

Our next stop was the 1884 First Presbyterian Church in Topeka. The building is very handsome, with hand carved furnishings which were installed in 1935. The best known feature of the building is the 100 year old Tiffany windows. Louis Tiffany visited topeka and planned the windows which were installed in 1911. The windows are only available for viewing and photographs on weekdays, so it has taken me a long time to get here.

The next stop was the Topeka Computing museum, located just 3 blocks away. The modest display fills some no longer used store windows inside an office and retail building near the Kansas State Capitol building. It is very low key and not staffed, so I wanted to confirm that it is still in operation. The computer display appears unchanged, but some of the other windows, lining the arcade, now have other displays. One is devoted to the restoration and renovation of the Jayhawk Theatre. Another is about the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority which also occupies the building.

It takes just 5-10 minutes to see all of these displays and the youngest members of our party remained in the van.

We continued west to Wamego, Kansas for lunch at Friendship House, a bakery and restaurant. Linda and I had been impressed when we are there three years ago, but this time around, two of us have dietary restrictions and the menu is rather limited. The food was still good, but it wasn't the treat it was before. 

The best dishes sampled were the cheese broccoli soup and the chicken enchiladas. The crust on the strawberry rhubarb pie was flaky and good, but it isn't the favorite pie of anyone in our party.

During the drive into Wamego we had noticed the Whirling Earth Gallery and we stopped there on the way back out of town. Whirling Earth has work by other artists, but primarily sells the hand thrown pottery crafted in the studio in the back by Bill Derek. We enjoyed the art work, our tour & demo in the studio in the back, and meeting Bill 7 his wife, Lena. If they had a little larger kitchen canisters, already in stock, they probably would have had a sale.

Before getting back on I-70, we stopped at Alma Creamery in Alma, where we sampled cheeses and bought some sausage and cheese for the road. We were also going to visit Alma Bakery & Sweet Shoppe, but it was gone. I have since learned that they have moved out of the wonderful building they had occupied, into a newer building off the main street, a block away.

We pushed on straight to Lindsborg because I wanted to arrive at Hemslöjd while the artists were still at work. Hemslöjd has been selling imported Swedish gifts and handcrafted Dala horses since 1984. We liked the craft work (particularly Christmas ornaments) but purchased only some imported chocolate.

After looking over the rest of the Lindsborg shopping district, we checked into Seasons of the Fox, an attractive bed & breakfast in a three story mansion near Bethany College.

After unpacking and freshening up, we went down to the back parlor, where the Welcome to our Inn Sheet said  "Appeteasers of crudités, spreads and crackers with house cider would be offered at 5:30 PM." The only thing setting out was a small bowl of party mix, though after about 20 minutes we were offered chilled, mulled apple cider which was good.

At 6 PM, we were back in the van for a couple more stops. We drove north out Lindsborg, just a few miles to Coronado Heights Park - a scenic overlook, park and stone castle built by the WPA on a 300' promontory dedicated to Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who visited central Kansas in 1541. It is a beautiful setting with a wonderful view and exploring the little old castle and checking out the view in each direction was one of the highlights of the weekend.

We arrived in Assaria just in time for our 7 PM reservation at the Renaissance Cafe - one of my favorite restaurants anywhere and a place I was wanting to share with my new family.

Renaissance Cafe is totally unexpected in a hundred year old high school gym in a Kansas town of a few hundred people. With five of us, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to sample a large selection of the Italian menu. Between us, we had two types of steak, campanelle with escargot & pesto, pasta Renaissance and chicken mozzarella.

My Steak Venato (ribeye dredged in seasoned bread crumbs, grilled and smothered in a savory sauce of brown mustard, shallots, mushrooms, cognac and cream) was outstanding. The tender steak was one of the best I have ever had.

Chef Kevin O'Brien stopped by the table between the main courses and desserts. It was a pleasure introducing him to my family. We discussed the menu changes he has made and it was a shame to learn that rising production costs have stopped him from producing the Renaissance Cafe's Prairie Fire hot sauces.

Tonight was also a chance for me to get a rare, tiny taste of the desserts I can no longer eat. In addition to the complimentary amaretti cookies, our party ordered bacon maple pound cake, chocolate sorrento, and blackberry spiced rum sorbet. Although I didn't care for the pinot noir berry sauce on the side of the wonderful dark chocolate torte, the desserts really were all great. In case you wondered, yes you can taste the bacon in the pound cake.

Back at the Seasons of the Fox, we were disappointed to learn that they do not have wifi. They do have a computer available with an internet connection, but we had four people wanting to use our laptops. I did get a brief chance to check on email.

The only TV was in the public area on the main floor of the inn and a couple of our party went down to check it out as well, as the evening sweets and beverages which were mentioned on the web site and Welcome Sheet. They found the innkeepers already settled in watching TV. They did not feel welcome and were not offered anything. Supposedly there is another TV on the third floor of the inn, but we were told the AC was off up there and we would not be comfortable.

I took few exterior photos, because the outside door was always locked and we could only reenter by ringing the bell. Overall, we did not feel very welcome or comfortable at this B&B. It wasn't terrible, but I would be unlikely to return.


Phog Allen statue at the University of Kansas in Lawrence Phog Allen statue outside Allen Fieldhouse

First Presbyterian Church - Topeka, Kansas First Presbyterian Church

Topeka Computing museum - Topeka, Kansas Jayhawk Theatre

Friendship House - Wamego, Kansas Friendship House

Hemslöjd - LIndsborg, Kansas painting a Dala Horse at Hemslöjd

Seasons of the Fox - Lindsborg, Kansas Seasons of the Fox garden waterfall

Coronado Heights Park - LIndsborg, Kansas John, Mary & Linda at Coronado Heights

Renaissance Cafe - Assaria, Kansas
Renaissance Cafe desserts


Thursday - July 28, 2011: Added a new review of the Marion Historical Museum, which is the nicest historical museum of its size I have found in Kansas.

For supper we went to Woody's Pub & Grub, a small neighborhood bar and grill in Lenexa. Woody's doesn't open until 4 PM and the menu is quite limited: seven burgers & sandwiches, and seven appetizers or sides. The same man was trending bar, cooking and waiting on tables. He did a pretty good job.

The food sampled was all good, if not great. The $7.49 Tulsa tenderloin was a traditional pork tenderloin sandwich. It came with fries, but we upgraded to onion rings. The $7.99 Bleu Burger was 1/3 lb black angus beef topped with Cajun spices & bleu cheese crumbles. The spices weren't that noticeable, but the cheese was strung and good. It came with seasoned hand cut fries.

There was a problem with the Coke and Diet Coke. They were flat because the lines run through the hot, un-air conditioned basement.


Marion Historical Museum - Marion, Kansas Marion Historical Museum

Bleu Burger at Woody's Pub Bleu Burger

Tuesday - July 26, 2011: Updated the page on Nick Schmeidler's Grassroot art environment in Lawrence, Lawrence, Kansas.

For lunch I drove to Gardner, where I discovered that Fat Katz BBQ has suddenly closed. I had lunch at Smoke'N Babes BBQ. The onion rings were good as always, but they have changed the sauce on the chili sweet chicken wings. It was an oil based sauce, but now it is sweet syrup. It wasn't bad, but I like the other style much better.

When I commented on the sauce, I was told that they were experimenting because the sauce they usually use is only available in small bottles.


Nick Schmeidler Grassroots art environment - Lawrence, Kansas Nick Schmeidler Grassroot art environment
Monday - July 25, 2011: Added a new review of the  137 year old Bowersock Mills & Power Company in Lawrence. 

We tried out the Dodge City Distillery which opened 3 days ago in Olathe. A sign outside the restaurant said, "Welcome to our Training Event" and there was a limited "training menu."

I started with a bowl of chili which I enjoyed. It was light on the beans and fairly heavy on the spices. Some folks would have found it too spicy. We each tried burgers. I miss read the menu and ordered the Texas burger (with chili on the burger) when I intended to order the Doc Holiday burger (with bacon and gorgonzola cheese).  Linda had the Doc Holiday.

The 8 ounce burgers were served on large, toasted, excellent buns. Linda's well done was properly cooked, as was my medium. For $9, they included one side. There were only three options and we both went with the fries. They were fresh and thick cut - pretty good, but I would have them cooked a bit more and the serving could have been a little larger.

The service was very good. My only question is that we ordered Coke products and the bill said they were Pepsi.

A small still has been set up in the front of the store and in time they will be distilling vodka and whisky.


Bowersock Mills and Power Company - Lawrence, Kansas Bowersock Mills & Power Plant

Texas burger at Dodge City Distillery and Grill Texas burger

Saturday - July 23, 2011: I drove to Lawrence, Kansas this morning, where my first stop was at the Downtown Farmers' Market which claims to be the oldest farmers market in Kansas. The  Lawrence Farmers' Market is a producer only market, which means that everything sold is grown, prepared or crafted by its vendors. In addition to produce, baked goods and plants, there were food vendors, musicians, grass fed beef, poultry, emu and elk. I limited my purchases to some iris bulbs sold by Lawrence First United Methodist Church.

The primary stop of the day was at Bowersock Mills & Power Company where a tour was scheduled at 10 AM. I was the only one taking the tour today and met the Plant Manager, Rich Foreman. Rich is enthusiastic about the plant and we spent a very enjoyable (though hot) hour and a half exploring the interesting old facility. Bowersock is a small, family run business and the only operating hydroelectric plant in Kansas.

The first dam at this site was completed in 1874, but there have been many floods and damage over the years. Much of the current facility (and some of its equipment) date back over 100 years.

The seven hydroelectric turbines in the plant are capable of producing enough electric power for nearly 1800 homes. The Bowersock Mills & Power Company is building a second power plant on the opposite bank of the Kansas River, where four larger turbines will triple the capacity of the plant.

Lunch was at The Orient Vietnamese Cuisine. I first dined at this restaurant 25 years ago and I love the Phad Thai so much that I tended to order the same food over and over, but it has been several years since my last visit. Lawrence has so many good locally owned restaurants that even though I am in Lawrence 10 or more times a year, I can't keep up.

Today I tried totally different, more recent additions to the menu - the fried chicken and braised greens. The greens sounded great, "collard, turnip and mustard green braised and served with ham hocks and simmered in their savory potlicker juices." I am sure that some people love this dish, but it didn't work for me. I could not find the meat, and the greens had a flavoring which I didn't like. I usually like ginger, but think that was the spice I didn't like in this dish.

The chicken looked ordinary, but I was in for a big surprise when I bit into the first piece. It was tender and wonderful. I've had fried chicken many times in the past few weeks and this was definitely my favorite. The skin was battered in gluten free, rice flour, crispy and very flavorful

At the end of the meal, the proprietor, Nancy Nguyen, stopped by my table. We talked about the chicken and the difficulties of promoting a small restaurant. I asked about the coating of the chicken and she said that is was flavored in part by a medicinal herb from Asia, whose name I didn't catch. Whatever it was, it was great.

Before leaving Lawrence, I made one more stop, at the Lawrence Art Center. The 36 year old art alliance is involved in a wide spectrum of the arts. The youth theater is currently performing Jason and the Argonauts; the lobby has a display of cardboard & zip tie art by Juniper Tangpuz; the galleries had other exhibits by Akiko Jackson & Tanya Hartman; and they have recently conducted workshops and classes on art as diverse as jewelry making, metal working, stained glass, sketching, painting, comic book art and prop making.

In the evening we drove to Paola, Kansas planning to have German food at Beethoven's 9th, but they were closed this weekend for a vacation. Our second choice was Hillsdale Bank BBQ in Hillsdale, which we had not visited in over a year.

We had burnt ends, pork ribs and spicy sausage and I thought every meat was very good. The fresh cut fries were better than most French fries, but not stand out for fresh cut. The coleslaw was good, but the baked beans and potato salad were only average.


Prairie Acre band Prairie Acre performing at the Lawrence Farmers' Market

Bowersock Mills and Power Company - Lawrence, Kansas Turbines at Bowersock

Orient Vietnamese Cuisine - Lawrence, Kansas Orient Vietnamese Cuisine

Lawrence Art Center - Lawrence, Kansas Juniper Tangpuz art 

Hillsdale Bank BBQ - Hillsdale, Kansas Hillsdale Bank BBQ

Friday - July 22, 2011: Lunch was at Mom's Kitchen in Olathe. I decided to go with the fried chicken. The menu and the waitress both said that it would take 20 minutes, but I hoped it would take a little less. It took 27.

The fried chicken was slightly over done, but was still pretty good. So was the mashed potatoes and gravy. The salad would have been decent, but I didn't like the "Chef's Choice" dressing that came with it. I don't care to have their salad again.


Thursday - July 21, 2011: Added a new page devoted to the Central Park Springs & Waterfall in Marion, Kansas.

At noon, I paid a second visit to Talk of the Town Grill & Bar in Overland Park. This time I had the fish and chips for $9.99. I used to really like the coleslaw that came with the fish & chips, but recipe has changed and there was too much of a second vegetable which I didn't care for. 

The chips were seasoned waffle fries. They tasted pretty good, but I think they should warn people that the fries will be seasoned. The fish was four small chunks of lightly breaded cod.

Service was very good. It continues to be the best thing about Talk of the Town.

For supper, we tried Dean & Deluca in Leawood, a market best known for expensive cheeses and specialty foods. This location also serves ready to eat food and has places to sit in the store and outside. It was a little confusing and the cooked items we selected were all cold. They didn't offer to heat them, so we took them home. With many of the meat dishes running $20-$32 a pound, it is expensive leftovers.


Historic Natural Spring - Marion, Kansas Central Park Spring

Fish and chips at Talk of the Town Grill Fish and chips 

Dean & Deluca - Leawood, Kansas Dean & Deluca

Tuesday - July 19, 2011: Added a new page devoted to Wright Park Zoo in Dodge City, Kansas.

I revisited Smokin' Joe's B-B-Q in Olathe for lunch today. The half smoked chicken was good and I like the garlic coleslaw a lot.

Smokin' Joe's has a new $12.99 sandwich, the Big Bad Joe - a 1 lb sandwich with beef, turkey, pork, sausage, 2 pieces of bacon, pepper Jack & American cheese, spicy sauce and French fries on the sandwich. 

For supper I went to Talk of the Town Grill & Bar in Overland Park for the first time in a couple of years. Talk of the Town has a little better than average bar food, good service and free wifi. Since this evening all appetizers were $5, so I tried two of them - the chicken wings and the onion rings. The rings were huge (the ranch dipping sauce in the photo is twice as big as it looks) and quite good.

The wings were both good. The North Carolina BBQ wings tasted of honey mustard and the Caribbean Jerk were were sweet ginger.


Wright Park Zoo - Dodge City, Kansas Wright Park Zoo

Talk of the Town onion rings onion rings at Talk of the Town Bar & Grill

Sunday - July 17, 2011: The menu at the Peach Tree Buffet on Eastwood Trafficway in Kansas City, Missouri is different each day of the week. Sunday isn't my first choice, but I hadn't been to this down home restaurant for a couple of years and today was a good chance to see if things had remained the same.

The building is very plain. You pay for your meal before being seated and the service is so-so, but the food is so good. The fried chicken and baked chicken were both good, but I really liked a meat which I couldn't identify. It obviously came from a large animal, but the taste reminded me of roast turkey dark meat.

I finally asked someone, and learned that it was beef neck bones. It was tender and tasted great! No one else in my party was willing to try it.

Some of the sides weren't as good as I remembered, but I can recommend the cornbread stuffing, candied yams, and incredible peach cobbler.

Than we drove a few miles to Starlight Theatre for the last night of the performance of the musical Guys and Dolls. It was so hot and humid! There was no air movement in the theater and a quarter of the audience didn't return after the intermission.

However, it was the best show that I had seen performed at Starlight. The female leads were weak, but the male performers (including the supporting cast) more than made up for them.

Added a new page about the Carnival Heritage Center in Kinsley, Kansas.


Peach Tree Buffet - Kansas City, Missouri Peach Tree Buffet

Carnival Heritage Center - Kinsley, Kansas Carnival Heritage Center

Saturday - July 16, 2011: After hearing more positive things about Char House on Johnson Drive in Shawnee we decided to give it another try. We had their BBQ meat before and was unimpressed.

The fried chicken was very good. The pieces were fairly small and they were lightly coated - more like pan friend, than the cast iron pot fried chicken at some of the more famous Kansas chicken places. We had to return the bacon burger because they forgot to put on the bacon, but it was otherwise fine.

The green beans were also cooked with a little bacon. I know some people like them this way, but they were overcooked for my taste. The corn bread was sweet and very good. The onion rings were an unexpected treat - very good.

For supper, we had our first meal at Avenue's Bistro in Leawood. We hadn't made a reservation, but called as we were leaving the house and even on a Saturday night we were seated in less than 5 minutes.

We decided to order tapas, selecting five dishes. We thought they would come a bit scattered in time, but our table was covered with dishes.  Our favorite dish was the Crab Rangoon dip. The warm dip reminded me of the whitefish spreads from northern Michigan.

The Filet Tips & Mushroom Cabreles (Spanish bleu cheese) was also very good, but I wouldn't repeat any of the other dishes.

The Fiery Garlic Shrimp, was very sweet, rather than hot. Too sweet for me. The Bacon Wrapped Dates which the menu described as a "top 3" selling tapas was very rich. We each enjoyed the first one, but didn't want more than one.

The Avenues Style Pomme Frites were just ordinary French fries. I realized afterward that we were supposed to get our choice of which dipping sauces came with it, but our server didn't ask what we wanted. Linda cared for none od the sauces they brought. I liked the BBQ Mayo.

The service was inconsistent, regularly bringing me a new Diet Coke, but having to be asked to refill Linda's iced tea.

The pricing was reasonable, our total bill was $52. We will try Avenues Bistro a second time.


Char House - Shawnee, Kansas Fried chicken at Char House

Avenue's Bistro - Leawood, Kansas Avenue's Bistro

Friday - July 15, 2011: We paid a second visit to the new Rub Bar-B-Que in Olathe, Kansas. ALthough the restaurant was busy on this Friday evening, the line to order food moved fairly quickly. The brisket may have been better if it had been hot. The smoked meat loaf should also have been warmer, but tasted pretty good anyway. The onion straws and cheesy corn were both very good.

Updated & expanded the review of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.


Rub Bar-B-Que - Olathe, Kansas smoked meat loaf & brisket
Thursday - July 14, 2011: Today's lunch was at Napoli's Italian Restaurant in Olathe. The chicken parmigian and eggplant parmigian were both good, but the appetizers continue to be the stand outs. We tried the $10.99 Napoli's Sampler: fried mozzarella cheese, stuffed mushrooms, shrimp scampi, mussels marinara, calamari and toasted ravioli. It was all good, with the creamy sauce on the stuffed mushrooms being the best. 

It was a lot of food. Most of the entrees went home with us. The eggplant parmigian was better the next day.

Updated and added new photos to the review of Roy's Pit BBQ in Hutchinson, Kansas.


Napoli's Italian Restaurant - Olathe, Kansas Napoli's sampler
Wednesday - July 13, 2011: We had supper at Rice House Chinese Restaurant in Lenexa. Rice House opened as a carry out restaurant about 3 years ago. The Subway Restaurant which shared the small building with Rice House closed and they have recently expanded into the whole building, adding a dining room and buffet.

The food was fairly good. Even though we were a little late in the evening, most of the dishes on the buffet seemed fresh and hot.


Tuesday - July 12, 2011: We had our second lunch at the Santa Fe Cafe in Overland Park. The lunch items on the menu are pretty much limited to sandwiches and salads, but they continue to do a good job with everything I have tried. I really need to get back here and try the breakfasts. 

Supper was at KC Grill and Kabob in Lenexa. Although most people go to KC Grill and Kabob for their lunch & weekend buffet, I am more impressed with the items ordered off of the menu. The salmon and lamb were both very good. 

Learned today that Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub in Shawnee has closed. Their Branson, Missouri location is remaining open. 



KC Grill and Kabob - Lenexa, Kansas KC Grill and Kabob

Monday - July 11, 2011: For supper we paid a second visit to Saints Pub in Lenexa. There AC was malfunctioning and it was in the mid 80s in the dinning room, but we stayed. It was a little cooler by the time we left.

The Cajun onion rings were and impressive presentation. 11 rings were stacked on a 10 inch rod with two dipping sauces. The pork tenderloin was thick and tasty. The shoe string fries were limp, but they were seasoned with garlic and still pretty good.

Added a new page devoted to Spearville Wind Farm in southwest Kansas.


Calamari at Saints Pub in Lenexa, Kansas Calamari at Saints Pub
Sunday - July 10, 2011: We checked out the brand new McGuire's Tavern in Overland Park. It has moved into the location recently vacated by the second location of Hayward's Pit Barbeque. This is the third restaurant to go into this location in less than 3 years.

The menu is somewhat limited: 7 entrees, 4 salads & 9 sandwiches. But the food was very good. I had a wedge salad and fish & chips, while Linda had the house salad and shepherds pie. The shepherds pie came with fresh biscuits.

Added 4 pages of photos from Friday night's Campbell Awards Dinner to the MidAmercan Fan Photo Archive.


McGuire's Tavern - Overland Park, Kansas McGuire's Tavern
Saturday - July 9, 2011: We tried Bar West in Shawnee, Kansas for a second time. They were very busy, with almost every table taken, but just one woman was waiting on all the tables and tending the bar. Given the circumstances, she did a great job.

Overall, the food is average, but I was impressed with the hot chicken wings. Although they look pretty conventional, I would say their flavor was unique, but they do remind me of the great spicy chicken wings at Smokin' Babes in Gardner.

We had supper at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri where we saw the KC Royals defeat the Detroit Tigers 13 - 6. Yes that sounds like a football score. With so many at bats, it was a long game, but it had started at 6:10PM so if wasn't too late when the game ended. We had BBQ from the outlet in the outfield and it was pretty good for ballpark food.


hot chicken wings from Bar West in Shawnee, Kansas hot chicken wings 

Kauffman Stadium - Kansas City Royals Kansas City Royals

Friday - July 8, 2011: Lunch was at another brand new restaurant, Napoli's Italian Restaurant, which just opened in the Olathe location recently vacated by Ari's Greek Restaurant. The menu is long and varied.

I started with the $4.99 Italian sausage appetizer - a generous serving of meat in a garlic lemon sauce which I was tempted to lick off the plate. 

I returned to the University of Kansas, for the Campbell Awards Dinner where the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction in 2010 was presented to Geoffrey A. Landis for "The Sultan of the Clouds" and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of 2010 was presented to Ian McDonald for The Dervish House. Both authors were there to receive their trophies.

The dinner and awards ceremony were held at Mrs. E' Kitchen and followed by a party in a nearby residence hall.

Added two pages of photos from the previous night's Theodore Sturgeon Reception to the MidAmercan Fan Photo Archive.



Thursday - July 7, 2011: I attended a reception and program held at Watson Library on the University of Kansas campus where it was announced that the definitive collection of late author Theodore Sturgeon's books, papers, manuscripts and correspondence will be established at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at KU, which also is home to the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The Sturgeon collection, valued at $600,000, had been privately held in two parts.

Before leaving Lawrence, I had a late supper at the Burger Shack at the Casbah on Massachusetts. The Burger Shack was originally at Dempsey's Irish Pub a few blocks away. This new location has more room and works much better. 

"The Brat" was very good. The $4.95, 1/4 lb brat was covered with grannysmith sauerkraut, Budweiser mustard & cracker jack cheese. The "Smoke Burger" was almost as good. The $8.50 1/2 lb gourmet burger was topped with apple wood smoked bacon, smoked gouda cheese and chipotle cocoa ketchup.

The onion rings were good, but not up to the caliber of the sandwiches.


Theodore Sturgeon Reception - University of Kansas Theodore Sturgeon Reception

Burger Shack at the Casbah - Lawrence, Kansas Burger Shack at the Casbah

Wednesday - July 6, 2011: Lunch was at Mom's Kitchen in Olathe. It had been over a year since the last time I was at Mom's Kitchen and it has made several nice changes. There is now art on the walls and they have upgraded the service.

Meals come with the choice of garlic toast or a warm loaf of good bread. I ordered the most expensive item on the menu - the $11.99 hand cut char broiled KC Strip. It was cooked medium rare, exactly the way I had ordered it, which many finer restaurants fail to do. It was fairly heavily seasoned, which I liked, but some people might be happier without it. In addition to the bread, it came with a large salad and the choice of two sides. I went with corn (fairly ordinary) and the fried potatoes (thin like potato chips, good!). I sprang for grilled mushrooms and onions for an extra dollar.


Mom's Kitchen - Olathe, Kansas Steak dinner at Mom's Kitchen
Tuesday - July 5, 2011: Today, I tired Great Panda Buffet & Grill in Lenexa for the first time. It is another of the large Chinese buffets that are common in Kansas City. I took only one photo of the interior when the hostess told me that photography is not permitted.

I'm not prepared to evaluate the restaurant on just one visit. A number of the dishes have a different twist, others are different than we have been seeing on the other buffets. Several of them worked fairly well for me, but Linda was less pleased with the dishes. They do not serve several of the ones she likes best and is used to seeing.


Great Panda Buffet - Lenexa, Kansas Great Panda Buffet & Grill
Monday - July 4, 2011: Though not very interesting, the Dodge House was more comfortable than the more expensive B&Bs we had stayed at the previous two nights. The breakfast included with the room was a fairly large buffet in the hotel restaurant, and was the best breakfast of the weekend.

It has been 25 years since I have visited the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, but I hadn't been that impressed with it before and wasn't prepared to spend the $36 to $58 in fees for the two of us on admission and other activities just to view it again. I emailed the museum a few days in advance to see if they would waive admission, but never heard back from them, so we skipped the museum.

Before leaving Dodge City, we revisited the Wright Park Zoo. It is one of the smallest zoos in Kansas, but was larger than I remembered from my previous visit. Much of the zoo is old, but there is more room and better facilities for the animals than many WPA zoos.

Starting toward home on US 56, we stopped again in Spearville for more photos, than turned off a few miles to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. The ornate brick building is no longer used as a church, but a small group of people preserve the building and keep it open daily. It may be the most ornate church interior that I have seen in Kansas.

Back on US 56, we stopped briefly for more photos, but the only real stop along this stretch was at Pawnee Rock State Historic Site in the community of Pawnee Rock. It was the only attraction in two days where we saw other visitors. It is a shame that more people aren't seeing this beautiful state.

We had lunch at Page An American Bistro in Great Bend. The sports bar shares a building and rest rooms with a Perkins Restaurant. It was one of the better meals of the weekend. I liked the garlic roasted mashed potatoes and the unusual sausage & beef meat loaf.

After lunch, we stopped at the Great Bend Zoo. I have been there a couple of times before, but not since the Raptor Center opened. The Center doubles as the zoo entrance and the public areas are devoted to bird of prey education, rather than seeing the birds. We went through part of the zoo, but it was about 100 degrees and we passed cage after cage where the animals were invisible.

Before leaving Great Bend, we drove past the home of Grassroots Artist, Bob Mix, whose are we had seen at the zoo. There are fewer of his unusual metal sculptures on display in the yard than there had been when I was there before, but the work is still very interesting.

US 56 heads east from Great Bend and we stayed on it, with another stop at The Well in McPherson. The Well is a large Christian bookstore with lots of seating and a good beverage & pastry area where we got refreshments for the road.

Continuing east, we finally left 56 and drove along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway from Strong City to Council Grove.

Our supper was at the Trail Days Cafe & Museum in the oldest stone building on the Santa Fe Trail. It had been three years since our previous visit and the menu has changed and expanded with sections devoted to food from the American Indian, Old World, Early American, 20th Century and vegetarian.

We both ordered dishes from the American Indian section: roast buffalo and elk. Though they need a little salt, they were quite good, as were our side dishes: corn, squash, homemade apple sauce and Indian Bread. I had their last bowl of chili. It was a little tame, but was served with chili powder on the side so I could spice it up.

We waited until after I had paid, to identify ourselves. I have exchanged emails with Shirley McClintock. She follows my blog and wanted to congratulate us on last year's marriage. She is a lot of fun and so enthusiastic about the museum & Council Grove!

It was hard tearing ourselves away, but it was getting late and we wanted to return to Lenexa by 9PM.

The total driving during the 3 day Kansas weekend was over 1,000 miles. 



Wright Park Zoo - Dodge City, Kansas Wright Park Zoo

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church - Windthorst, Kansas Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

Pawnee Rock State Historic Site The view from Pawnee Rock

Great Bend Zoo tiger
Yawning Tiger at Great Bend Zoo

Shirley McClintock at Trail Days Cafe & Museum Shirley McClintock showing off Trail Days new chickens

Sunday - July 3, 2011: Sunday morning's breakfast at Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm Bed and Breakfast was the kind of meal typical of a larger motel restaurant. There was cereal, bagels and fruit, along with a station to make your own waffle. There was also sausage and scrambled eggs.

At 10AM, there would be a longer tour of the animal farm and a chance for rides, but we had to go on the road for an appointment in Kinsley. When I booked the trip, it looked like the evening and morning tours were the same.

We had a little trouble locating the Carnival Heritage Center, but finally found the building where most of the collection has moved. It is normally closed on weekends, but John Ploger generously agreed to meet us on a Sunday morning. He had to leave before we had seen most of the collection, but handed us off to Shirley Watson who finished our tour. Both know a great deal about Kinsley's Carnival history and are passionate about it.

Between 1907 and the 1980s Kinsley was home to six carnival companies. The Heritage Center is assembling artifacts related to those companies. They have all of the parts of a double deck carousel, except the horses, and local artists have recreated classic carousel horses which will someday be used when the carousel is restored.

Large portions of the collection are not set up in organized displays at this time, but our guides made it all interesting and we stayed much longer than I intended.

Now slightly behind my schedule, we pushed southwest with only a brief stop to photograph the Spearville Wind Energy Facility.

This section of the state has few restaurants that have recommendations on-line, and many of the restaurants are closed on Sunday. We had lunch at Norma's Antonio's Cafe (not a typo). Norma's was busy and the service was slow. The server forgot to bring chips or tortillas, but with the meal taking a long time, we didn't demand them. The shrimp basket and the beef fajitas were OK, but the meal wasn't a treat and I felt like this meal was a lost opportunity - I don't get to this part of the state very often.

We continued to Elkhart, Kansas, then headed west on State Line Road to Eight Mile Corner where a windmill marks the intersection of Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas. Linda posed for the obligatory photo standing in all three states. We saw mule deer (perhaps the same one) both coming & going and saw just one prairie dog at the prairie dog town east of the Colorado border. I'm sure we would have seen many more it we could have tarried more than a few minutes.

I loved the combination of the colors and light in this area, which made several of my photos look like paintings.

We drove back to Elkhart, then turned north into the Cimarron National Grassland, which is the only one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas which I hadn't previously visited. We made a number of stops in the Grassland, following the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail for several miles. We found that a long stretch of wooded area along the Cimarron River had been burned just a few weeks ago.

We returned northwest to spend the night at the Dodge House Hotel Convention Center in Dodge City. I had called Mariah Hills Steak & Ale a couple of days earlier to check their holiday weekend hours, but when we arrived at the country club restaurant it was closed. Local restaurant options were limited and with it getting late, we had supper at an Applebee's. The food was fine, but once again, it was a wasted opportunity.


zebras - Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm
This baby zebra was born the day we arrived

Carnival Heritage Center - Kinsley, Kansas Carnival Heritage Center

Eight Mile Corner windmill - Elkhart, Kansas Eight Mile Corner windmill

Kansas mule deer
mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Point of Rocks - Cimarron National Grassland Point of Rocks

Saturday - July 2, 2011: The Historic Elgin Hotel B&B is a restored 1886 hotel in Marion, Kansas. The owners live on the the third floor and the second floor has been turned into an eight room bed and breakfast. The hotel is gorgeous! We had the largest room - number 205, which is called a suite, but is just a slightly larger room with a large Jacuzzi tub.

It was all beautiful and fun, if not necessarily comfortable. There is no place to hang clothes, open suitcases, lay down toiletries in the bathroom, etc. There is no telephone or hair dryer and the TV is in a parlor near the kitchen. The wifi did not reach our room, so I used it in the parlor and got to know some of the other guests. We also enjoyed reading a photographic history of Marion which has had many floods over the years.

Breakfast was a little limited, compared to other B&Bs I have visited. There was just a good pecan French toast and ordinary breakfast sausage links.

We explored Marion this morning. The 1906 Marion County Courthouse was beautiful, but hard to photograph because of the trees on the grounds. The nearby Marion City Library is in an old Historic Santa Fe Depot.

Marion's Central Park was hosting the community's Sesquicentennial Car Show and the annual Marion County Antique Flea Market. There were only 5 or 6 exhibitors in the flea market and they had mostly crafts for sale. Considering the many antique shops in Marion, that was a bit of a surprise. The car show was much larger, with many vehicles in place by 10AM and more arriving.

The east side of the park has a small waterfall above a spring which has been used since 1860.  There is also a recently added manmade waterfall which feed into the spring from the side. Thank you to Judi Stewart to telling me about these falls!

The corner of the park also houses the  in an 1887 Baptist Church. This is the nicest historical museum of its size that I have found in Kansas. It is roomy and well lighted with attractive, clever displays. I wish we could have spent more than a half hour there, but there was much more of Kansas to see this day.

We continued on to Hutchinson, arriving at Roy's Hickory Pit BBQ a little before noon. The line waiting to order food was the width of the main room and 3/4 of the length of the exterior of the restaurant when we arrived. We made friends with other people in line and discovered we might as well have arrived a little bit later. We were inside the building before more people got in line behind us.

The small family run restaurant is 29 years old and is just open on Monday - Saturday, from 11AM until 3PM or "until the meat is gone." When we left the restaurant neat 1PM, they were out of everything but the hot links.

I'm not impressed with the side dishes at Roy's, but the meats are very good. My favorite was the mild Polish sausage, which surprised me, I am a "hot" food lover. I also liked the brisket & ribs. Linda and other people we spoke with were fans of the turkey. The Texas toast is fried on a grill and very good.

The price is quite reasonable One meat and all you can eat of the side dishes is $9.50. Two meats are $10, 3 meats are $10.75 and four choices are $12.50.

We did the 2PM tour of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. The tour begins with a safety briefing and everyone is issued a hard hat and an emergency breathing apparatus. Then the tour goes down 650 feet in a crowded, dark double decked elevator. The guides will leave the elevator lights on if someone has trouble with the  90 second ride.

After a brief welcome to the Permian Sea, everyone is free to do things at their own pace. There are mining galleries and an interesting large display of movie memorabilia from Underground Vaults & Storage. a company which uses portions of the mine as secure storage.

The main purpose of this visit was to ride the Salt Mine Express, which just open in March. The narrow gage railroad formerly operated at the Hutchinson Zoo and was converted to run on electricity when the zoo purchased a new train.

We had an enjoyable 2 1/4 hours in the Museum. A typical visit including all the options would run 1 to 3 hours depending on how much time is spent reading displays, riding tours and watching videos. Admission runs From $13.25 to $18 for adults, depending on if tram & train rides in the mine are included in the visit to the museum.

We had just a little time remaining before supper and stopped at the Hutchinson Zoo. I was disappointed to learn that the new Cargill Wildcare Center is not open to the public. The $350,000 building is used for animal rehabilitation and at (least at this time) has no provision for letting visors see the animals or work. Additionally, large portions of the zoo are torn up for construction and I would postpone visits to the zoo this summer.

We had supper at Skaet's Steak Shop, a diner on the edge of the Kansas State Fair Grounds that opened in 1949. We had been impressed with the breakfast we had there last year, but were a little less impressed with this meal, particularly the Kansas City Strip. The ham steak and baked potato were good, though the loaded baked potato was a little unusual. There were a about 5 toppings, but they were all on the side. There was even a paper cup with large pieces of bacon.

Then we drove a few miles northwest to the small community of Nickerson, to Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm Bed and Breakfast where we had reserved the ostrich suite. I toured Hedrick's farm years ago, but had never stayed at the B&B. In addition to having the farm, Hedrick's has several petting zoos in the state & county fair circuit and supplies animals to other events such as camels for Radio City Music Hall.

Our suite was attractive and came with a hot tub in one end of a side room that is described as a sitting room. I can't really imagine anyone using the sofa in that hot, damp room.

The evening kicked off with a tour of part of the farm with other families staying at the B&B. The three other couples each had two children in the 4-7 year old age range and they had a ball with the kangaroos including one with a Joey in her pouch. Following the tour, we walked the rest of the grounds on our own and saw camels, emus, giraffes, ostriches, zebras and other animals. One of the zebras had been born that morning, but we were not able to get very close. The giraffes were quite friendly.

Returning to the community room in the B&B, we found fresh baked cookies waiting and got to know some of the other guests. The room had quite few games and Linda and I played ping pong before calling it a night.


Historic Elgin Hotel Bed and Breakfast - Marion, Kansas Historic Elgin Hotel B&B

Marion City Library - Marion, Kansas Marion City Library

Historic Natural Spring - Marion, Kansas Central Park Spring

Marion Historical Museum - Marion, Kansas Marion Historical Museum

Roy's Hickory Pit BBQ - Hutchinson, Kansas Waiting to order at Roy's Hickory Pit BBQ

Salt Mine Express at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum Our Engineer and the new Salt Mine Express

Cargill Wildcare Center - Hutchinson, Kansas Cargill Wildcare Center

Skaet's Steak Shop - Hutchinson, Kansas Skaet's Steak Shop

Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm Ostrich suite

giraffe at Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm Linda & giraffe


Friday - July 1, 2011: July 4 is one of only two holidays my employer is closing in 2011, so we decided to take advantage of the 3 day weekend to travel to the far southwest corner of Kansas.

Our trip began late Friday afternoon and we headed out of the Kansas City area on I-35, turning west at Emporia and making our first stop at the bridge and dam in Cottonwood Falls. The water flow over the dam was about average and it was a lovely evening as the temperature started to back down from the day's high. The temperature would peak near or above 100 degrees every day of the trip.

My favorite thing at the Cottonwood Falls Dam and Bridge is watching the catfish and turtles in the Cottonwood River below.

Our supper was at the Grand Central Hotel & Grill, a couple of blocks away. The Grand Central is the only hotel in Kansas to receive Triple A's 4 diamonds. I like the the neat brick building, which has been a hotel since 1884.

A piano was being played in the corner and the setting was very pleasant. Unfortunately, for the second time the service did not live up to the diamonds. We were ignored for long periods and the kitchen was slow. The food was good, but not outstanding. My rib eye was the best of the items we sampled. It was cooked more than the medium rare I had requested, was still juicy and tasted great.

The onion rings were huge and attractive, but suffered from comparison to better tasting similar style rings at Fiorella's Jack Stack in Kansas City.  The chicken kabob had a good flavor from the marinating, but the bits of meat were tiny. I don't think they totaled more than 3 ounces of meat.

After dinner, we walked up and down Broadway where musicians were playing outside the Emma Chase Cafe near the Chase County Courthouse.

We drove on to Marion, Kansas where we spent the night at the Historic Elgin Hotel B&B. There will be more about the Elgin Hotel in tomorrow's blog.


Turtles in the Cottonwood RIver - Kansas red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans)

Grand Central Hotel and Grill - Cottonwood Falls, Kansas Grand Central Hotel & Grill

Emma Chase Cafe - Cottonwood Falls, Kansas Listening to music outside the Emma Chase Cafe

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