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
Saturday - December 31, 2011: Our final restaurant meal of the year was at the Snack Shack on Santa Fe in Overland Park, Kansas. This restaurant has gone through many changes in less than a year and a half. 

It first opened as the Shake Shack on Santa Fe in 2010, but a threat from an east coast change with part of the same name forced them to change their name. They didn't want to get a a new sign, so the cut the top off the "h" and erased the "e," becoming the Snak Shack on Santa Fe. The was a great Mom & Pa burger joint with a limited menu, and a commitment local, organic and sustainable and quality.

Sadly, it closed last summer. A new family opened the "Snack Shack on Santa Fe in September. The restaurant now appears to be more professional. The menu is still small, but has more items. Best of all they kept using hamburger from Bichelmeyer Meats. But they no longer make fresh fries or onion rings.


Chicken Snacker at the Snack Shack on Santa Fe Chicken snacker sandwich & onion rings
Sunday - December 25, 2011: On our way home from a family gathering in Topeka, we stopped in Lawrence to check out a Christmas display we could not find on the earlier visit. Westridge Court Holiday Lights is a half block long culdesac that has a half dozen nice Christmas light displays. It is now added to the Lawrence Christmas Light Display tour.


Westridge Court Holiday Lights - Lawrence, kanass Westridge Court Holiday Lights
Friday - December 13, 2011: Linda, Mary and I had supper at The Pick Smoke n' Grill in Shawnee, Kansas. Not bad, but in an area with so many good BBQ restaurants it needs to do something special to stand out. 

Even though they have two doors separated by a few feet, the dining room grew cold as people entered and left.

On the return drive, we swung south to see the animated music and light program at Falcon Valley Speedy Car Wash. The show can be viewed from either side of the building, but the best views are from the supermarket parking lot on the east side. We particularly liked the snowman on the roof of the car wash. It is added to the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour.



Falcon Valley Speedy Car  Wash Christmas display Speedy Car  Wash Christmas display

Saturday - December 17, 2011: This evening, we drove to Shawnee so I could photograph the two Christmas displays which I couldn't on the night my camera broke. The Dorr Family Christmas sound & light program has moved to a new location behind the Prairie Village City Hall and can be viewed from the Shawnee Mission East High School parking lot. That is good from the standpoint of more people having the chance to enjoy it, but bad from the stand point of having the best experience.

We then went to Julian's Restaurant where we had an 8:45PM reservation. Julian's is a tiny place operated by celebrity chef, Celina Tio. We had to wait about 50 minutes for a table, but they made a serious effort to make i up to us, providing 2 rounds of free specialty drinks and Celina brought an appetizer to the table where we were waiting in the bar. The meal itself was very good. I had  bowl o' mussels, Chinese black bean sauce, green onions for a $10 starter. I didn't care as much for the mussels as I expected, but they were popular with my step daughter. I enjoyed my main dish much more - slow cooked pork belly, parsnip puree, sherry glazed pearl onions for $17.


slow cooked pork belly at Julian's in Kansas City, Missouri slow cooked pork belly
Friday - December 16, 2011: We began the evening with a drive to Edwardsville to check on the Mason family animated Christmas light display.

We then swung through Kansas City, Kansas and stopped to get BBQ at Mr. Epps BBQ, a tiny joint which I like but can have erratic hours and often runs out of things. When we walked in, there were 4 or 5 people waiting for (mostly to-go) orders and Mr. Epp was by himself and running rather slow. It turned out that he was out of all the things we really wanted (sausage, chicken wings and ribs), but we went with some others. The only beverages available were bottled water and canned Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

It took about 50 minutes to get our food, by which time he helper had returned from making a delivery and things were going more smoothly. I like the food and the atmosphere, but I need to rework its review to properly warn people what they may experience.

We drove on to check out another Christmas display in northern Johnson County, and while driving along the county line road, we found 3 more displays worth photographing. 2 on Wyandotte County side and one in Johnson County. The 5 displays have been added to the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour.


Mr Epps BBQ - Kansas City, Kansas Mr. Epps smoker

Kansas City Christmas display one of the County Line Road Christmas Displays

Tuesday - December 13, 2011: Long overdue, we finally made it to Topeka to update the Topeka Christmas Light Tour. Linda did the driving while Mary navigated with her GPS and we revisited all of the light displays from the 2010 tour. Two displays were not there, this year and have been dropped from the 2011 tour. Some additional displays were photographed tonight and will be added to the tour soon.

Supper was a revisit of Boss Hawg's BBQ. We had tried Boss Hawg's three years ago, but been unimpressed. I was much more impressed tonight. The fries, chicken and pork were good. I thought the sausage with cheese in it was very good, but Linda and Mary didn't care as much for it. The baby back ribs were very good, but the spare ribs were tough and less flavorful. We thought the food was a bit expensive for the size of the servings and the service was marginal.


Boss Hawg's BBQ - Topeka, Kansas Hawg Heaven - 1/4 chicken, 4 spare ribs, tiny bit of sausage & sliced meat: $19.49
Saturday - December 10, 2011: Linda and I had lunch at Beethoven's #9: The Restaurant in Paola. It had been well over a year since my last visit. The German restaurant is open only Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The sausage sampler was very good as always. The Jaeger Schnitzel, grilled pork chops, red cabbage and and sauerkraut were all very good. The $9.99 sausage sampler with bratwurst, weisswurst, nuernberger bratwurst , knackwurst and sauerkraut was the best.

We drove on to Pittsburg, Kansas to attend the Division 2 football national championship game between Pittsburg State University and Delta State University. It was 38 degrees at the 6PM start of the game, but fell below freezing during the next 3 1/2 hours. Pitt won the game 49 - 23, but the game really wasn't that close.

We finished the day with supper at Chatters Bar and Grill in Pittsburg. As one of the few places with a kitchen open until 11PM and only a half mile from the campus, they were quite busy. The kitchen was slow (I had heard that complaint about the bar & grill before), the food was good, not great. I had chicken wings and onion straws.



Pittsburg State University Football Celebration at the conclusion of the Pittsburg State University Football game

Thursday - December 8, 2011: I made a second visit to the new Mr. Gyros Greek Food and Pastry in Olathe. This is the third location for the small chain which has been located in Overland Park for many years. I am quite impressed with the food at this small counter service restaurant. The humus, pita bread and Greek salad are all very good.

We had supper at Brobecks Barbeque in Overland Park. It was our first visit in about a year. The smoked ham salad and house made chips were quite good. Actually, the meats and salads were all pretty good.

We investigated a pair of Christmas displays on Windsor Street which used to be on the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour. The Ingham & Mikkleson families have great displays which are located across the street from each other. They were on the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour at one time, but at the request of one of the families, they were removed. Too many people were coming by. The displays are still very nice this year.


Mr. Gyros Greek Food - Olathe, Kansas Mr. Gyros Greek Food

Brobecks Barbeque - Overland Park, Kansas Brobecks Barbeque

Wednesday - December 7, 2011: Linda and I drove to Lawrence to update the Lawrence Christmas Light Display tour. All of the displays from 2010 are back up, although the Howe Family Christmas Animated Light Display is much smaller this year. We investigated two new displays, but could not find one of them. The other one at 909 Stonecreek Drive was very attractive and sits in a neighborhood with many fine holiday displays.

Free State Brewery turned out to be closed for a special event, so we had supper at 715 Restaurant. The service was very slow. We tried two samplers. The first had three house made sausages and three types of ham for $21. The second was a selection of seven cheeses for $24.

These were really my types of dishes, but I liked only two of the hams and three of the cheeses. The samples were quite small.


Monday - December 5, 2011: Linda and I tried Maloneys Sports Bar in downtown Overland Park for the first time. The small neighborhood bar is filled with 30 HD plasma televisions. We had a hard time finding items which grabbed us on the menu.

I selected one of the Monday night regular specials a half slab of baby back ribs with jalapeno cheesy corn for $7.99. The ribs were so-so, but the corn was pretty good. Linda had the Triple Crown French bread pizza (roasted garlic sauce with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, jalapeños, red onion, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

We then checked out an animated Christmas program a few blocks away on England Street, just of Santa Fe. We were surprised that we had never run across this beautiful program on our own, but fortunately the Williams family had recently emailed to let us know that their display has grown in the past two years.


Maloneys Sports Bar - Overland Park, Kansas Maloneys Sports Bar

Williams Family Holiday Program - Overland Park, Kansas Williams Family Holiday Program

Sunday - December 4, 2011: I finished closing up the house in Mackinaw City, Michigan, then drove back to Traverse City, with a brief stop in Charlevoix to photograph the Charlevoix South Pier Light.

I had a late lunch of smoked bangers and sauerkraut at Mackinaw Brewing Company in Traverse City. The smoked Whitefish Bake (smoked whitefish, cheeses, green onion & garlic served with garlic rounds appetizer for $7.99) was my favorite part of the meal, though I didn't care much for the rounds.

The Delta flight out of Traverse City was delayed first by the plane arriving 25 minutes late, but after we boarded the plane and it left the gate, we were held on the ground by air traffic control for another 45 minutes.

We still arrived in Detroit with an hour cushion before my flight to KC and I thought I was fine, but Delta didn't have a free gate and we sat on the plane until my connecting flight departed.

Before going to a nearby hotel, I had a late supper at one of my favorite airport restaurants - National Coney Island. Funny thing, as my food was brought to the table, two of the people who I work with at Olathe Ford Lincoln came in. They were traveling to South Bend. 

After a night at the Best Western (which provided a good room and prompt service, the rest of the trip back to Kansas City was uneventful.


Charlevoix South Pier Light - Charlevoix, Michigan Charlevoix South Pier Light
Saturday - December 3, 2011: Today was a solid day of working on getting my father's home ready for winter. The only breaks were for lunch and supper. Both were at Audie's Restaurant, just up the street.

Lunch was in the main dining room where I had chili, followed by smelt. The smelt were very tiny and a bit more fishy that I like. I assume it was because they had been frozen fro some time.

Supper was in the Chippewa Room and was very nice. Medallions of elk loin sautéed with bacon, cherry wood smoked venison sausage, mushrooms, peppers & onions. Plus 6 small perch fillets.


Audie's Restaurant - Mackinaw City, Michigan Elk loin, smoked venison sausage & perch fillets
Friday - December 2, 2011: Today was supposed to be the only nice weather for the balance of my trip and this will probably be the last time that I am in  Mackinaw City at this time of year, so I took several hours off for more photography.

The first stop was at Colonial Fort Michilimackinac where I worked for 5 summers in the 1970s. It is closed for the winter, but I took photos of the construction of first new building to be reconstructed inside Fort Michilimackinac in over 20 years. I also visited with my old friend, Jim Evans, who has worked at the State Park since 1970.

The I drove to St. Ignace to catch Shepler's Ferry to Mackinac Island. During the winter, they continue to operate 3 or 4 times a day from St. Ignace.

Mackinac Island is much different in December. There were no tourists to be seen and there was heavy equipment and a few vehicles in use that would not have been permitted during the tourist season.

I had lunch at northern Michigan's newest restaurant, Cawthorne's Village Inn. The Grand Hotel is managing the Mackinac Island restaurant and the Grand Opening was yesterday. Prices have gone up and the menu was more limited than it used to be. The only fresh fish on the new menu is a planked whitefish meal for $19. But today's special was a very reasonable fried whitefish and fries basket for $7.50. I also tried the $8 calamari appetizer. The food was good, the service was a little slow.

Back in Mackinaw City, I took photos of the 27th annual Christmas parade and tree lighting.

Super was again at the Key Hole Bar where I had perch and ribs. The perch was very good, but I wish I hadn't ordered the combination with the ribs.


Fort Michilimackinac - Mackinaw City, Michigan Fort Michilimackinac

Mackinac Island Yacht Club Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinaw City Christmas Parade Mackinaw City Christmas Parade

Thursday - December 1, 2011: I spent much of today in Cheboygan, Michigan. I wanted a break and I was near the Cheboygan River Dam & Lock, so I took a few photos. The lock can accommodate boats up to 60' long and 17' wide. It closed for the winter on October 20.

Lunch was at Mulligan's Bar & Restaurant in downtown Cheboygan. I had never been there before. I had a whitefish sandwich and onion rings. I would have liked a bit larger piece of fish on the sandwich, but the serving of onion rings was generous and they were very good.

That evening I took a few photographs of the Mackinac Bridge for my other main web site: mightymac.org before having supper at the Keyhole Bar & Grill on Central Avenue in center of town. They had very good burgers when I have been there before, but tonight the burger was dry and rather small. The onion rings were even better than I had at Mulligan's earlier in the day.

The Keyhole was recently closed for a couple of weeks for remodeling and now looks much brighter inside.


Cheboygan River  Lock - Cheboygan, Michigan Cheboygan River  Lock

Mackinac Bridge at night Mackinac Bridge

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