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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Fort Larned Kansas blacksmith at work
Sunday - July 1, 2012: With another 100 degree day coming, we drove out to Fort Larned National Historic Site, first thing in the morning. There have been a few changes since I visited the Fort in 2006. There is now a mockup of the Fort cemetery, and a memorial marker which had been moved to the Larned Cemetery has been returned. Those soldiers who had been buried at Fort Larned were moved to the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, years ago.

There were also living history exhibits which I hadn't seen previously. Pete the blacksmith was at work and he made us a wall hook, explaining the steps he took along the way. There was also a young woman portraying an officer's wife, who was playing the piano as we entered the officer's quarters, and then showed us through the building.

On the way back toward Larned, we also visited the Santa Fe Trail Center, a locally run museum devoted to the history of the Santa Fe Trail. The Center was created by the Fort Larned Historical Society, who originally had a museum at the Fort, but lost the space when the Fort became a National Historic Site. 

In addition to a museum and gift shop, the grounds have a collection of old buildings which have been moved to this site or recreated. More recently, the Trail Center has added additional buildings with exhibits of historic farm equipment and automobiles. The structure which I found the most interesting was the cooling house which was originally built about 1870.

There was just one more stop on our way back to Johnson County, we had lunch at Diane's Diner in Great Bend. Our experience was mixed. Linda's cheeseburger and onion rings were good, but overall, the buffet was just so-so. With one exception, the fried chicken was very good. This chicken tasted so good after sitting for sometime, that I would like to return to Diane's and order fresh made.

We arrived at 1:30 and the restaurant was going to close at 2PM. Most of the staff were eating their lunch at the next table, which would have been fine, except they were loudly talking about bad experiences that they had with other customers. It was inappropriate.


Fort Larned memorial monument and cemetery Returned 1867 Fort Larned monument

Santa Fe Trail Center - Larned, Kansas Santa Fe Trail Center

Diane's Diner - Great Bend, Kansas Diane's Diner

Monday - July 2, 2012: Linda joined me in checking out Backfire Barbeque at The Legends in Kansas City, Kansas. It was the first time I had been there in over a year. They have made a few changes to the menu, but the restaurant is otherwise mostly unchanged. The best of the four meats sampled were the sausage and the smoked chicken. The grilled corn on the cob was very good. The fries were the best item of the remaining sides. 

The three year old restaurant could use a little sprucing up. Things are starting to look a little worn and there was a broken water fixture in the men's room.


Backfire Barbeque - Kansas City, Kansas Backfire Barbeque
Thursday - July 5, 2012: I photographed The Sole of Downtown cowboy boot by Diane Porter Triplett that is now displayed at the Olathe, Kansas City Street Maintenance facility. It is the fourth giant boot from the 2007 Welcome Home! Cowboy Boots! exhibit around Olathe in 2007.

Thank you to Pastor Ryan K. Nelson for telling me where this boot is displayed.


The Sole of Downtown cowboy boot - Olathe, Kansas
Friday - July 6, 2012: Tonight was the annual presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The awards banquet and presentations are the opening event of the Campbell Conference. 

This was the first year that the conference was held at the new Oread Hotel.

This year, only one of the award recipients was present to receive their award. Joan Slonczewski was there to accept the Campbell Award for the novel, The Highest Frontier. In the photo to your right, she is posing with Science Fiction Grand Master Games Gunn, who is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Kansas.

The second photo at the right is the sun setting over Memorial Stadium at the University of Kansas.

Photos of the Award Ceremony at our sister web site, the MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive.


James Gunn, Joan Slonczewski - Campbell Conference James Gunn, Joan Slonczewski

Memorial Stadium at the University of Kansas Memorial Stadium

Tuesday - July 10, 2012: Updated the review of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway, Kansas with the new shorter hours and higher pricing.


Friday - July 13, 2012: Tonight's supper was at Cafe Casbah in Overland Park. I had just recently learned of this Mediterranean restaurant on Central Standard Friday on KCUR (Kansas City Public Radio). THe restaurant offers a "fine dinning" experience, but we were not out of place being there in shorts.

We began with the seafood bisque, which was highly recommended. It was thick, rich and full of seafood, including two huge shrimp in each bowl. It was super good.

We sampled three entrees - Shrimp Casbah, Shrimp Fettuccine and rack of lamb with garlic sauce. The fettuccine was good, but nothing special. The Shrimp Casbah had a lobster sauce and was better. The stand out was the lamb, both for flavor and value. That was a lot of lamb for $29.99 (including salad, vegetable, saffron rice and a really good fried zucchini.

We will be making a second visit to Cafe Casbah, soon!



Rack of lamb - Cafe Casbah in Overland Park rack of lamb

Sunday - July 15, 2012: We paid a third visit to Joy Wok in south Overland Park. We first tired this enormous Chinese buffet in February and were blown away with the selection and quality. But a second visit in March had not been nearly as good.

Tonight's visit was somewhere in between. This was good food, but it wasn't as well kept as I wan to give the restaurant an outstanding grade. The short ribs, appetizers and tradition dishes were fairly good. The seafood that justifies the higher ($13) price was less consistent. The snow crab was hot, good and not overcooked. The frog legs had a good flavor, but they were not hot and were not replenished when they ran out. The spicy shrimp cooked in the shell was also just luke warm.


Joy Wok - Overland Park, Kansas Joy Wok
Thursday - July 19, 2012: I went to the Downtown Diner in Olathe to check out today's lunch special - homemade German Roulade - thin steak rolled around a stuffing and wrapped in bacon. Very nice!

Updated and slightly expanded the reviews of the Butterfield Trail Museum and Historical Museum in Russell Springs and the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway.


German Roulade - Olathe, Kansas German Roulade
Friday - July 20, 2012: I spent this evening revisiting places in Kansas City, Kansas, starting with Christy's Tasty Queen in the Turner District.

There are no tables or chairs at Christy's just a window where you order and a small area to stand while the food is prepared. There are four picnic tables behind the restaurant for dining and the table which was in the shade was popular on this 100 degree day.

Christy's pork tenderloin is the best that I have had anywhere in the Kansas City area.

Then on to downtown Kansas City to the Huron Indian Cemetery, next to the 7th Street Casino. The years of battle to keep this cemetery have many interesting stories, but my favorite is that of the daughters of Andrew Syrenus Conley (who is buried in the cemetery). Eliza Burton Conley became the first Native American woman admitted to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. She and her sister, Helena, lived in the cemetery for two years to protect it and Helena cursed anyone who intruded upon the cemetery.

While photographing the cemetery, I met a man who said that he had just been released after 20 years in prison and had just learned that his family had died while he was imprisoned.

The final stop was Mad Jack's Fresh Fish, about a mile away. This tiny dive is half fish market, half restaurant. I ordered a half pound of fried oysters and they were great.

Jack's is mostly about take out. The seating is limited, your food is bagged to go even if you are dining in, and the utensils are flimsy plastic.


Christy's Tasty Queen - Kansas City, Kansas Christy's Tasty Queen

Huron Indian Cemetery - Kansas City, Kansas Huron Indian Cemetery

Mad Jack's Fresh Fish - Kansas City, Kansas Mad Jack's Fresh Fish

Saturday - July 21, 2012: I learned that today is the last day that the Mediterranean Market & Restaurant in Overland Park will be open.


Tuesday - July 24, 2012: I had lunch at Mai Thai, a Thai restaurant which opened a little over a year ago in Overland Park. There were many lunch combinations priced at $7.95 and $8.95. I selected the Massaman Curry, a thick, creamy southern Thai dish with chicken, potatoes, onions and roasted peanuts. I requested spicy and they hit just the right level. For $8.95 it came with hot and sour soup, steamed rice and two tiny crab Rangoon.


Mai Thai restaurant - Overland Park, Kansas Mai Thai
Wednesday - July 25, 2012: I drove to Overland Park to revisit the Thai Home Place, but discovered that it has closed since my previous visit. That is sad news. Thai Home Place was the best of the nice selection of Thai restaurants in Overland Park.

I substituted Talk of the Town Grill & Bar, which was so busy that I had to wait 5 minutes to get a menu. Today's special was half price burgers, so I went with the Patty Melt, which is usually $7.69, including a side of fries. It was good, but next time I would go with the mushroom burger with burgundy sautéed mushrooms, sour cream, green onions and Monterey Jack Cheese.


Tal of the Town Grill & Bar - Overland Park, Kansas Patty Melt
Thursday - July 26, 2012: Mary joined us in checking out Bo Lings, a Chinese  restaurant in Lenexa, across from Oak Park Mall. Although this is the first time I have been to this Bo Lings location, I have been to three of the other five locations in the Kansas City area.

We began with two appetizers, Crab Rangoon and Crispy Chinese Eggplant. I liked the soy garlic dipping sauce that came with the tempura eggplant. Our entrees were the Honey Walnut Shrimp, Shrimp & Lobster Sauce, and Sichuan Gon Bao. I thought that all three were good, better than Linda and Mary did. The Sichuan Gon Bao (stir fried chicken with chili, peanuts and hot peppers) didn't have that much flavor, and was my least favorite dish.


Bo Lings Chinese Restaurant - Lenexa, Kansas Bo Lings
Friday - July 27, 2012: Linda and I drove to Omaha to photograph the OSFest science fiction convention for our sister web site, the Fan Photo Archive

On our way out of the metro area, we stopped for lunch at a Kansas City restaurant which I had never heard of before today, R & J Barbeque on Parallel Parkway, a couple of miles from the Legends.

I really want to like every restaurant which I visit and look for things to like, but R & J really disappointed me. The onion rings were fairly good, but was the only positive. The meats (ribs, pork, beef) had no flavor from the smoking. I actually thought they had been cooked in a convention oven and had to confirm that there was a smokestack and wood pile on the back of the restaurant after the meal. There was.

The fries were limp and made from frozen. The slaw was cut extremely thin and and had a sour flavor which I found unpleasant. The "Texas Toast" was ordinary slices of toasted bread.

The service was inattentive, not checking if I wanted more pop or needed anything else. The server and chef both acted outright hostile.

Supper in Omaha was at a much more interesting restaurant. The Bohemian Cafe has been serving Czech food since 1924. They really went with the Bohemian theme, with elaborate hand painted tiles on the exterior of the building, music, interior decorations and server costumes.

We had Polish sausage and breaded sweetbreads. Those meats were the best part of the meal. We didn't care much for the dumplings, sauerkraut or potatoes.

The meals were much better the next two days. 



R & J Barbeque - Kansas City, Kansas R & J Barbeque

Bohemian Cafe - Omaha, Nebraska Bohemian Cafe

Saturday - July 28, 2012: Saturday's lunch was at Amato's Deli, about a mile from the hotel. The breakfast & lunch only Italian restaurant has appeared on Diners, Dinettes & Dives, and on Man Versus Food. They make their sausage and ricotta cheese daily. The ricotta pancakes with fruit and sausage were both good. The bacon was better. My favorite dish was the Gut Buster Omelet (hot Italian sausage, ham, pepperoni & pepper jack cheese). 

Jesi joined us for supper at The Dover, which was even closer to the convention hotel. It is one of the many Omaha steakhouses which are only open in the evening. We began with the grilled bacon wrapped shrimp garnished with small whole mushrooms. They were good, but I thought the best part of the dish was the creamy citrus horseradish dipping sauce.

The Dover is an old style restaurant, feeling very 70s. When we went to the salad bar, we were amused to spot large piles of plates with apple rings on them waiting for entrees to be plated.

My bone-in ribeye was very good and cooked exactly has ordered. The skin-on fries were good. The baked potatoes were good and huge, piled high with sour cream.

The evening at the OSFest convention included some of the best photography opportunities. There was an art auction, followed by the Masquerade (a costume contest held at most science fiction conventions). The Masquerade was followed by something more unusual, a Klingon wedding. Not a performance of one, an actual marriage. I've attended perhaps 5 or 6 weddings at conventions and was in the wedding party of one that was pirate theme, but this was the first Klingon wedding which I have attended. More photos of the wedding and links to other photographs from the convention.


Amato's Deli - Omaha, Nebraska Amato's Deli

The Dover steakhouse - Omaha, Nebraska The Dover

Klingon wedding at OSFest in Omaha, Nebraska Klingon wedding

Sunday - July 29, 2012: Our final meal of the trip was at Shirley's Diner. Shirley's is in a very plain strip mall, but the interior is filled with 50s memorabilia and toys. Every dish tried there was very good, including French toast, chili, hash browns and onion rings. Linda was happy with the Canadian Sunrise of homemade biscuits piled with grilled ham steak, scrambled eggs and country cream sausage gravy.

I really wanted the chicken fried steak, but decided on a Omaha regional dish - Cheese Frenchees. They were originated by a Lincoln, Nebraska chain called King's Food Host. They start as an American cheese sandwich with mayo, the crust is trimmed and it is cut in quarters, frozen, coated with French dressing, rolled in corn flakes and deep fried. They were very good! 

I've since learned that there was once a King's Food Host in Olathe, Kansas.


Shirley's Diner - Omaha, Nebraska Shirley's Diner
Tuesday - July 31, 2012: At lunch I paid a second visit to Mai Thai in Overland Park. Mai Thai does something at lunch time which I think many restaurants should copy - they offer lunch priced appetizers. At many restaurants an appetizer at noon costs more than a complete meal.

So I started with the Fried dumplings. There were six dumplings stuffed with minced pork & vegetables and served with homemade dumpling sauce. It was my favorite part of the meal (particularly the tasty, but simple sauce) and something I would order again.

The Thai Herbs Beef (which name they have trademarked) is described as a touch of hot, healthy Thai herbs made with red curry sauce, wild ginger root, green pepper, bell pepper, green beans, bamboo and sweet basil leaves. I ordered it spicy and it was near the limit of what I still find enjoyable. Unfortunately, there was a spice which I really didn't care for. It might have been the specific kind of ginger which they used.

The meal including rice, two small crab Rangoon and hot & sour soup cost $8.95 without the dumplings.

For supper, Linda joined me in revisit of Elsa's Ethiopian Restaurant in downtown Overland Park. There had been a couple of changes since are last visit, last fall. There was a new menu and their was a change in servers. The previous two times, the server had very poor English and communication had been difficult. This server had perfect English, in fact she wasn't sure how to pronounce some of the Ethiopian dishes.

The fine chopped salad with house garlic & oil dressing was good and I loved the Doro Wat (spicy beef). Linda's chicken Pasta BeSiga was described as being marinated in rosemary and awaze (spicy sauce), then pan fried with hot peppers, tomato, onion and greens. But it just tasted like spaghetti with chicken.


Thai Herbs Beef - Overland Park, Kansas Thai Herbs Beef

Pasta BeSiga at Elsa's Ethiopian Restaurant in Overland Park Pasta BeSiga

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