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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Star Buttz Outhouse - Elk Falls Outhouse Tour
Wednesday - November 30, 2011: My father passed away early this morning. I had already booked a trip to Michigan so I went ahead to take care of his affairs. My flight was into Traverse City and I had supper at Scalawags Whitefish & Chips. I love their Mackinaw City location, but it closes for the winter. This was my first visit to this larger location. The larger kitchen lets them offer more dishes than the original location. I enjoyed the whitefish and perch.

It was a two hour drive to Mackinaw City.


Scalawags Whitefish & Chips - Traverse City, Michigan Scalawags Whitefish & Chips
Monday - November 28, 2011: Linda and I had supper at Gates Bar B.Q. on State Line in Leawood, Kansas. Although they an issue of a hearty greeting ("Hi! May I help you?), the service was slow and the food was even slower coming out to the counter. I had the mixed plate with ribs, beef & ham, while Linda had the chicken. The meats were all good, though not standout. The tangy, original sauce isn't what I would want every day, but works well with the meats. 

We went on to check out the first half of the south Kansas City Christmas Display Tour. I was sorry that a couple of my favorite displays were not up this year.


Gates Bar B. Q. kitchen Gates Bar B. Q.
Sunday - November 27, 2011: We visited the balance of of the North Johnson County route, adding two new Overland Park displays to the tour, one at 5500 West 92nd Street and one at 10275 Cody Street. We were disappointed to find that the large display at Vince & Associates on Metcalf was set up, but not running.


Overlnad Park Christmas Display 5500 West 92nd Street
Saturday - November 26, 2011: We flew back to Kansas and this evening Linda and I went out on our first check of the Kansas City Christmas Display Tour for 2011. The first stop was the new Door family music and light program which has been located to the Shawnee Mission East parking lot. We arrived as the program was ending and I set up the camera and tripod to wait for the next show. Unfortunately, a gust of wind blew over the tripod and broke the camera.

We went on to confirm half of the displays in the North Johnson County route and had a good dinner at Johnny's BBQ in Mission.


Thursday - November 24, 2011: Our Thanksgiving dinner was a mediocre buffet at the resort, but we had a great time at Downtown Disney, starting with seeing the early show of Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba. It wasn't one of my favorite Cirque shows, but was still very entertaining. We followed the show with supper at Wolfgang Puck Café where the food was OK, but the menu was limited and the service was so bad we almost demanded that the automatic tip for large parties be removed. 

We particularly enjoyed the shopping in Downtown Disney.


Cirque du Soleil La Nouba - Desney Cirque du Soleil La Nouba
Wednesday - November 23, 2011: We returned to Universal, but spent our time in Universal Studios. My favorite ride by far was Men in Black Alien Attack which combines arcade shooting with a ride. I did it twice and wish I had gone one more time. Shrek 4-D was less overwhelming, but it was fun seeing a new Shrek short. Terminator 2: 3-D was a combination movie/live performance which was more impressive.

Universal Orlando's Horror Make-Up Show was a huge disappointment - juvenile humor and and a waste of time.

Linda and I had supper at the nearby Bahama Breeze. It was much better than I expected and the Crab Claws St. Thomas (Blue crabs in Island citrus butter with fire toasted Cuban bread for 13.59) was the best dish of the entire trip!



Crab Claws St.Thomas at Bahama Breeze Crab Claws St. Thomas

Tuesday - November 22, 2011: We spent at Universal Islands of Adventure. Most of our time was spent at the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The food was fair and I did like the community of  Hogsmeade, but the crowds were so bad! The best part was the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, which may be the best theme park ride anywhere. The line to the start of the ride is a treat as it gives a tour of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and includes several very nice effects.

Before leaving Universal, we had supper at at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe, where Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe where we enjoyed listening to the live music during supper.


Stoeks and Lipp Families at the WIzarding World of Harry Potter Here I am with my family - Hogwarts is in the background
Sunday - November 20, 2011: After breakfast at the motel. we drove the rest of the way to the coast and turned north on Highway 1A. Our first stop was at Fort Matanzas National Monument, a stone fort built by the Spanish in 1740. Normally there are ferry rides across the Matanzas Inlet to the fort, but the ferry was down for maintenance and I had to settle for a couple of photographs from the shore near the visitor's center.

We continued north and our next stop was at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum where we toured the grounds and climbed the 202 steps to the top of the tower. Than on to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument which was constructed in the 1670s. I had long wanted to visit the star shaped stone fort. 

Before leaving the city's historic center, we walked along St. George Street with its historic homes from various periods. Most of these homes are reconstructions, but a few are original. We enjoyed visiting the shops and the 220 year old Cathedral Basilica. 

We had lunch at Sangrias Wine and Tapas Bistro on the second floor of one of the St. George Street buildings. The sangria was very good and we also enjoyed splitting several of the Tapas dishes.

In the early evening we drove back south to Lake Buena Vista to join more of our family at Sheraton Vistana Resort. The area is quite congested and appears to have only chain restaurants, so we had dinner at Landry's Seafood House a few blocks away.


Fort Matanzas National Monument - St. Augustine, Florida Fort Matanzas National Monument

Castillo de San Marcos - St. Augustine, Florida Castillo de San Marcos

St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida St. George Street view from Sangrias Wine Bar

Saturday - November 19, 2011: Today was the first day of our Thanksgiving Holiday and Mary, Linda & flew into Tampa Florida. The woman at the rental car booth gave us the wrong directions on our way out of the garage and it ended up adding over an hour to our drive, but we eventually stopped for supper at Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille in Lakeland, Florida. I enjoyed the fried green potatoes and fried oysters.

Before getting back on the road, we walked over to the nearby nearby Lake Mirror, which had lovely Christmas light displays around its edges and in the middle.

We went on to spend the night at a nice Best Western in Palm Coast.


Lake Mirror - Lakeland, Florida Lake Mirror
Friday - November 18, 2011: I began the day driving west on US Highway 160, stopping to take photographs along the highway and in the communities of Elk City and Longton. Both communities had many interesting old stone buildings. 

Arriving in Elk Falls, I first revisited the bridge and falls which give the community its name. After taking some photographs, I drove to the one block long downtown to the Outhouse Tour Hdqrs. The nice young woman from Howard sold me an Outhouse Button, ballot and map for $1. This is the 16th annual outhouse tour and community open house. The few blocks of the small community had several yard sales, 11 competing outhouses, a quilt show, arts & crafts, horse drawn wagon rides and live music at Elk Falls Pottery.

After touring all of the outhouses, I voted for "King Toot" and "Star Buttz" by placing my ballot in the "Voter's Booth" outhouse.

Continuing west on US 160, I photographed a Kansas State Historical Marker devoted to Prudence Crandall who established the first black female academy in New England before moving to ELk Falls.  A mile farther, I found an interesting row of oil well pumps.

I continued west to take more photographs of the oldest swinging bridge in Kansas, then headed north and east stopping to take photos in Severy. Things were going smoothly until a nail entered the side wall of one of my tires as I was pulling out of a rest area on Highway 54.

After changing the tire, I continued to Yates Center at 50 mph. For lunch I tried The Feedbunk on the courthouse square. The chicken fried steak was very good. It had a crisp coating, perhaps made with corn flakes and was tender enough to cut with a fork. The meal came with a trip to a small salad bar which had very good ingredients and everything looked fresh even though it was now after 1PM.

The final stop of the trip was at Luther's Jerky Smokehouse in LeRoy, Kansas. It had been a couple of years since my last visit to Luthor's and I was surprised to learn that they no longer have buffalo jerky of pemmican. I still stocked on some of the Luthor's smoked meat products.


Cattle along US Highway 160 Cattle along US 160

Star Buttz Outhouse in Elk Falls, Kansas Star Buttz Outhouse

oil well pumps in Elk Falls, Kansas oil well pumps

The Feedbunk - Yates Center, Kansas The Feedbunk

smoked meats at Luther's Jerky Smokehouse smoked meats

Thursday - November 17, 2011: After work I drove to Independence, Kansas with just one stop - at one of my favorite Unique Kansas Restaurants, The Prairie Nut Hut in Altoona.

The Prairie Nut Hut seats less than 40 customers. The floor is littered with peanut shells and the walls are decorated with Christmas lights. I had three of my favorite dishes and was not disappointed with any of them. The prairie oysters are fresh made at the Nut Hut and far superior to the pre made and frozen prairie oysters served at most of the few places that make them. The fresh cut home fries are cooked to just the right point. The Rohr burger with grilled onions, mushrooms and Swiss cheese is served a tasty, toasted bun.


Saturday - November 11, 2011: Linda and I revisited one of my favorite Kansas City BBQ restaurants - LC's BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri. It is on the east side of the city and I only make it by LC's about once a year. Things were pretty much unchanged at the little, plain barbecue joint.

The ribs were a bit tough and not as flavorful as usual, but I loved the sliced beef and pork. The fresh made onion rings were Linda's favorite, but I preferred the thick cut fresh fries. They went well with LC's unique sweet sauce.


LC's BBQ - Kansas City, MO LC's BBQ
Friday - November 10, 2011: A couple of friends joined me for lunch at Downtown Dinner in Olathe. I had the Downtowner Burger with two beef patties, Swiss cheese, corned beef and coleslaw. It is really a great burger.

One of my friends got excited when he hear about the Heart Stopper (grilled cheese sandwiches for the buns, 2 patties, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, bacon & BBQ sauce). It took longer to prepare and the other food came out first. WHen it arrived, he and the people at the next table took pictures.

He liked it and ate the whole thing. When he sent me this photo, he said he didn't eat again until the next evening!


Downtowner Burger at Downtown Diner in Olathe, Kansas Downtowner Burger
Wednesday - November 9, 2011: Linda and I had lunch at Stonewall Inn Pizza & Bakery, which is across the parking lot from the Stonewall Inn in Lenexa. The Pizza shop share the small building with a coffee shop. The menu is quite limited with some of the items being made in the Inn across the lot.

I had the chili, which was rather average and some very good Buffalo style chicken wings. The wings were meaty, tender and had a fairly spicy sauce. Linda had a huge meatball submarine sandwich with house made potato chips. She liked the fairly traditional flavor of the sandwich made from a hollowed out bun and the way the large meatballs had been sliced to make the sandwich easier to eat.

The counter lady and chef were friendly and fun, bringing samples of other items like the fresh breadsticks to the tables.

For supper, I went along to the Pizza Man, just a block away. The Pizza Man has Chicago style, thin crust pizza, dogs and Italian Beef Sandwiches. They are all good and the Italian Beef Sandwich is the best that I have found in Kansas City. It is made with thin slices of Italian roast beef with melted cheese on a good hoagie bun and comes with au jus and giardiniera (a Chicago condiment with pickled sport peppers, jalapeno and celery) on the side.


meatball submarine sandiwich meatball submarine

Italian Beef Sandwich at the Pizza Man in Lenexa Italian Beef Sandwich

Monday - November 7, 2011: Today's lunch was at Chapala, a Mexican restaurant in Olathe. It was the fist time I had been there in a year and a half. 

I'm afraid that I haven't tried enough of the menu at Chapala, but I enjoy the "Especial Chapala" too much. The special is fajitas made with beef ribs, chorizo, shrimp, grilled chicken, steak and a special sauce. At $12.75 it is one of the most expensive items on the menu and enough food for two meals. I really like the ribs, chorizo and shrimp and would be happy with a dish made with just these three.


Especial Chapala at Chapala in Olathe, Kansas Especial Chapala
Sunday - November 6, 2011: Linda and tried the new Urban Table restaurant in Prairie Village for lunch. It came with several recommendations, including a rave review by a family member.

Ordering is done from sign above the counter. The counter person did nothing to make us feel at home or help us get a feel for the menu as we stood there awkwardly figuring out the menu. The Sunday lunch menu was half breakfast items plus soups, five salads and seven sandwiches. Although you order at the counter, the food and drinks are brought to the table by a server. We had to wait a long time for beverages and refills.

Linda went with a sandwich which tasted pretty good, but didn't have enough ingredients to balance the amount of bread. I had a $9.50 grilled chicken salad. The chicken was bland and the salad was about the size of many side salads. I left the restaurant hungry.

The interior of Urban Table looks like it is intended to be hip. I found it uncomfortable. The tables are small and I thought the metal chairs were very uncomfortable.


Urban Table - Prairie Village, Kansas Urban Table
Saturday - November 5, 2011: For lunch we took an out of town guest to Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue in the Freight House district of Kansas City, Missouri. It was the first time I had been there for several years and the first time I had been there for lunch. I was pleased to discover that they offered a different menu for lunch daily from 11 AM to 3 PM.

I selected the $12.75 BBQ Combo Lunch of French fries with the selection of two meats from burnt ends, sliced meat, bone-in chicken, pork spare ribs, beef ribs and lamb ribs. I remembered the fries at Jack Stack being very good, but these weren't crispy. The two beef ribs were better though a little stringy. The lamb ribs were spectacular, the best I have had at BBQ restaurant, tender with a great smoky flavor, and there were 5 (more than I expected).

The service was excellent. Our friend was well pleased with the entire experience particularly the smoked green beans which were served in a cup formed by one of the huge signature onion rings.

We followed lunch up with dessert at the nearby Snow & Company, which opened just the night before. They are a casual, bright, frozen cocktail bar that I think will be a big success. It was too early in the day for us to try the cocktails, but we sampled locally made caramels, and organic brownie and organic red velvet twinkies. The caramels were OK and the brownie had an ingredient that none of us liked, but the twinkie was so good that we had two.


Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue

Snow and Company - Kansas City, Missouri Snow & Company

Friday - November 4, 2011: I had lunch at Fred P. Ott's on Olathe, where I had not dined in a couple of years. With this update all of the restaurants in the Guide to Olathe Restaurants have been visited in the past 6 months. The burgers at Ott's are a little smaller than they used to be. The "biggie" is now 8 ounces instead of 10. They still only prepare the burger well done and they aren't as juicy as they used to be, but they are are still made with good meat and have the large fixings bar to add whatever toppings you want. Grilled onions and grilled mushrooms were only 50 cents each, but their were so few on the burger that there wasn't much point.

The best things about the meal were the very good onion rings and the excellent service. I was already very happy with the service before my server offered to bring me a go cup to take a Diet Coke with me.


Biggie with cheese at Fred P. Ott's in Olathe, Kansas Biggie with cheese
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