Kansas Travel Blog

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

Asian sculptures and Buddhas at the Museum of World Treasures
Saturday - January 2, 2016:  Linda and I went to Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday afternoon for the opening game of the Big 12 basketball season, between KU & Baylor. Although Baylor was nationally ranked, KU got off to a 24-4 lead and it was never closer than 12 points for the rest of the game. KU won 102-74.

We had lunch before the game at a new restaurant in Lawrence, Hank Charcuterie. The menu is a little too limited and the prices were a little too high, but we really enjoyed the sausage we took home from there, garlic pale ale and garlic herb lamb. Both were good, particularly the lamb. We also have some chicken pate that I haven't tried yet.

Hank Charcuterie isn't going to make our unique Kansas Restaurants list, but will make the list of specialty foods.



Hank Charcuterie - Lawrence, Kansas Hank Charcuterie

Friday - January 15, 2016: We squeezed a Kansas Exploration trip into the first part of the weekend.

This trip was primarily to visit restaurants. We have reached the point where we have visited most of the significant Kansas attractions and it is harder to find new things to do between going to restaurants. Not only are there many times more restaurants than museums, but I need to revisit the ones which I have reviewed. A 4 year old restaurant review isn't very useful.

Linda picked me up from work on Friday afternoon and we headed down I-35 and on to Strong City to revisit Ad Astra. We last visited the Strong City restaurant with extended family in May, but it closed down in August, reopening with some of the same partners in November. 

The menu has been reprinted since we were there in May, but all of the dishes were pretty much the same. We couldn't spot any changes in the service, decor or food, which is a good thing, we liked this restaurant. Linda had a grilled salmon special, while I had the Prairie Burner Burger. The burger was a little too rare, but the side of chili ginger sprouts many have been the best Brussels sprouts I have ever had. We split a cream brulee which was also very good, putting to shame the cream brulee we had at a much more expensive Leawood restaurant last night.

After diner we drove a mile south to Cottonwood Falls for Emma Chase Friday Night Music. The Emma Chase Cafe closed over a year ago, but the music lives on. Local musicians come together every Friday night to share their music. Each Friday of the month is a different style and this night it was folk, country and bluegrass.

In nice weather, the jam session is held in the Main Street a half block from the gorgeous county courthouse, but in other weather it is held at Prairie PastTimes, a large Flint Hills Arts & Crafts Store selling work from many area artists. It was fun looking though the crafts for sale, while listening to the music. We particularly liked the wooded jewelry and boxes created by Spiritwood Jewelry. This night there were about 10 musicians and another 10 in the audience as others came to look at the art.

We finished the night about 35 miles farther west at Country Haven Inn in Hillsboro. I sprung for a King suite and it was very comfortable, though they could provide better toiletries and towels.



Ad Astra - Strong City, Kansas
Prairie Burner Burger & Brussels sprouts at Ad Astra

Emma Chase Friday Night Music - Cottonwood Falls, Kansas Emma Chase Friday Night Music at Prairie PastTimes

Saturday - January 16, 2016: Saturday morning we stopped to eat at the Breadbasket in Newton. I have been there before for the weekend lunch and supper buffets, but this was the first time having breakfast at the Mennonite bakery and restaurant. The food was good, though the only dish which stood out as special was the French toast.

It was about 30 more miles to Wichita. The management of the Museum of World Treasures had contacted me in the fall about the changes they have made since the last time we had visited and it was time to get new photos. We were met and shown around by Crystal Neihoff and her young son.

The museum fills the large, three story Farm & Art Market building in Old Town. It began as a private collection and contains a huge variety of items ranging from a T-Rex skeleton, to three thousand year old mummies to movie memorabilia such as a pitch fork used in the Wizard of Oz.

We drove about 30 miles farther west to Cheney, Kansas to try out a restaurant which had been suggested for its great hamburgers, Benny's Burgers and Shakes. At first glance it was fast food, but the food was not cooked in advance. The burgers were very good, particularly the buns which had been warmed on the griddle and had just the right amount of crisp edge. My favorite item was the chili fries, which were among the best that I have had. 

The rest of the day was spent retracing the 235 miles we had driven up to then. We returned to Wichita, to Public at the Brickyard, which is literally next door to the Museum of World Treasures. The KU Alumni web site listed this as one of the places where Jayhawks gather to watch their team play basketball and we thought it would be a fun place to watch KU play TCU. It wasn't a very good choice. There were few TVs and they were poorly located, plus the bar played music rather than the sound of the game. On the positive side, KU won the game (though they played poorly), Public had a couple of hard ciders on tap and the apple crumble dessert we split was very good.

We continued to retrace our path to Newton, where we visited both the Harvey County Historical Society Museum and the Warkentin House Museum for the first time. I will be adding pages about them in the near future.

Heading toward home, the next stop was in Cedar Point, where a developer is restoring the 19th Century Drinkwater & Schriver Flour Mill. Our page devoted to the mill has been updated with new photos and information.

The final stop was just a block from where we had attended the Friday night music. I mentioned that the Emma Chase Cafe closed over a year ago. It has recently been replaced with the Keller Feed & Wine Co. which has a fairly limited menu posted on blackboards behind the counter.  I didn't care much for the selection offered or the BBQ which I picked, but Linda liked her smoked Italian sausage & pepper pizza.

We got back to Olathe about 28 hours after we left.


Breadbasket bakery and restaurant - Newton, Kansas Breadbasket bakery and restaurant

Musum of World Treasures - Wichita, Kansas Asian sculptures and Buddha

Benny's Burgers and Shakes - Wichita, Kansas  Double cheeseburger & chili fries

Drinkwater & Schriver Flour Mill - Cedar Point, Kansas Drinkwater & Schriver Flour Mill

Monday - January 18, 2016: This is Restaurant Week in the Kansas City metro area and tonight we tried out The Grille At Park Place in Leawood, which describes itself as a contemporary American Dining Experience. The service was very good.

I had the espresso ribeye which is one of the restaurants best known dishes. Linda had the Norwegian salmon. We started with The Grille Salad and deviled eggs and finished with mini creme brulee and mini key lime pie.

I really enjoyed the steak, but that was the only item which impressed me. The presentation was really nothing. The mashed potatoes were only so-so. The mini desserts were really mini and it was the first cream brulee I ever had which I didn't like. It had no flavor.


The Grille At Park Place - Leawood, Kansas The Grille At Park Place
Friday - January 22, 2016: We revisited Blind Box BBQ in Shawnee, which opened 5 months ago. The service and food have come a long way in this short period of time and Blind Box has become one of my favorite Johnson County BBQ restaurants.

I had the Belly Burger, which is ground Angus combined with smoked pork belly, topped with applewood smoked bacon, smoked Gouda, jalapenos, lettuce, onion and tomato. This may become a competitor for our Best Kansas Burgers page! Linda had the smoked chicken and was equally happy with her meal.


The Belly Burger - Blind Box BBQ The Belly Burger
Wednesday - January 27, 2016: I returned to Fireside BBQ in Overland Park, which has now been open a little over a year. The hours are still very limited, only 33.5 hours a week, but they are now open on Saturdays. They have added an old fire truck, parked in front of the restaurant.

The food at this restaurant has come a long way since we first tried it in October 2014. Tonight I had pork ribs and French fries. The fresh cut fries were very good. The ribs were even better - tender, but still clinging to the bone, with an excellent flavor from the smoking and rub. They were expensive - $2.45 a bone for very small rib bones.

You order at the counter and I found the menu board on the wall difficult to decipher. I asked for help, but the woman at the register was not helpful. I picked up a printed menu before leaving. It was easier to understand. I also learned that the woman at the register had given me a wrong answer.


Fireside BBQ - Overland Park, Kansas Fireside BBQ
Friday - January 29, 2016: After work I started another quick trip to central Kansas, stopping to photograph the wide Burlingame "main street." Santa Fe Avenue was part of the Santa Fe Trail which once went down the street. The 130 foot street has parking on the sides and in the middle of the street. It was paved with the red bricks in the 1920s.

The second stop was on another main street which was part of the Santa Fe Trail, Main Street in Council Grove. The historic Hays House Restaurant in Council Grove was opened by one of Daniel Boone's grandsons in 1857 and is believed to be the oldest restaurant west of the Mississippi River. It had been over 3 years since my last visit and I needed to update the review with photos of its recent renovations, the current menu and finding out if there were other changes. I had the $26 12 ounce ribeye, chili and Brussels sprouts. The steak was so tender that I could cut it with my fork and was cooked exactly as ordered (medium rare). It was the best steak I have had in several months.

For the second time this month, I spent the night at Country Haven Inn in Hillsboro. 



Hays House Restaurant - Council Grove, Kansas Hays House Restaurant

Saturday - January 30, 2016: I was up early and arrived at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton around 7 AM to participate in a nature photography event called Freezing Your Buns Off (FYBO). It was a cold morning, about 32 degrees, but fairly comfortable until the second hour when the wind came up. 

Maxwell is home to one of the few surviving wild buffalo herds. At the time of FYBO there were about 200 buffalo and 85 elk on the refuge. Each fall surplus buffalo are sold as the park's available habitat can support only a certain number of animals. 56 buffalo were auctioned at the annual fall sale a couple of months earlier and 10 elk were scheduled for sale in February. 

I am happy with many of the photos which I took, though my equipment didn't measure up to what the other photographers were using.

A little late getting away from Maxwell (because of flat tires on the trams), I drove straight to Pilsen, Kansas where Harriet Bina met me at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church. Like many of the large beautiful rural churches of Kansas, it was the third church and was built in 1914 & 1915. Following photography of the church, Harriet showed me the museum devoted to Father Emil J. Kapaun in the rectory.

Father Kapaun grew up in Pilsen and served this church briefly before going to Korea as a chaplain. He died while ministering the other prisoners in a POW camp. The Diocese of Wichita and the Vatican have begun the formal process that could lead to Father Kapaun's canonization, and the tour including hearing the story of the miracles attributed to Father Kapaun in great detail.

After nearly 2 hours in Pilsen, I was now running late and hurried on to Hope to try out the burgers at Gridiron Cafe to see if they quality for our Kansas Best Burgers page. I went with the Lion Burger, which was 1/3 pound burger with sautéed onions & mushrooms, bacon & Swiss cheese, plus a side of skin on fries for $6.29. The fries were OK, but the burger was really very good and I think this restaurant will make the list.

The owner couldn't tell me exactly how old the restaurant is, but she and her husband have had it for a year and her sister had it for about 6 years before that.

There were two stops in Topeka on the way back home. The first was to photograph 431 S.W. Roosevelt Street, the home where the rock band Kansas had their "band house" in the early 1970s. The band members, crew and a few girlfriends lived in this house and it is where Kansas wrote "Can I Tell You" and several other songs. 

The second stop was to check out another burger which was nominated for our Kansas Best Burgers page. Larry Short Stop is a gas station convenience store on Wichita's south side. Larry's started by selling chicken in 1985 and the menu has slowly grown. The dining area isn't very nice, but there are three tables and three tiny booths. 

I ordered fried chicken gizzards, curly fries and a half pound cheeseburger. The fries and gizzards were nothing special. The burger was good. Good enough that I understand the people who come across town to get them, but not at the level where I would consider them for a "best of" list.


Elk and bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Bull elk & bison along the ridge

St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church - Pilsen St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church

Gridiron Cafe - Hope, Kansas Gridiron Cafe

Kansas Band House - Topeka, Kansas Kansas Band House

Larry's Short Stop - Topeka, Kansas Larry's Short Stop

Sunday - January 31, 2016: We revisited one of my favorite spots for chicken wings, The Peanut on Santa Fe in Overland Park. There have been no significant changes, but the new menu is now added to this page and the one devoted to The Peanut on 127th, which is also in Overland Park.


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