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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St. Joseph Catholic Church - St, Joseph, Kansas
Monday - February 1, 2016: We added a new page of photos from Saturday's Freeze Your Buns Off at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge.

Linda and I had supper at Fireside BBQ in Overland Park. This was my second recent meal there as I prepare to write a new review.


Elk and bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Elk & bison at Maxwell 
Tuesday - February 2, 2016: We updated the review of 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, adding the new menu and photographs of the recent renovation.


Hays House Restaurant - Council Grove, Kansas Hays House Restaurant
Sunday - February 7, 2016: We added a new guide to Historic and Beautiful Kansas Churches, bringing together information from 25 previous reviews of houses of worship across the state.


Friday - February 12, 2016: We had our first meal at Johnny Cascone's Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas in several years. We were checking Open Table on a Friday evening to see where we could get a reservation on short notice.

The food was average, with my Steak of Italy being the best. It was cooked medium rare as ordered, but was seasoned with a little too much black pepper and was tough. The lasagna, chicken parmigiana, fettuccini Alfredo and asparagus, were all OK, but nothing special.

The salad was disappointing, but might have been better if our server had offered us fresh ground pepper and Parmesan like we saw other tables receive.

We were only offered beverage refills once, after a long time with empty glasses. We had empty glasses again later in the meal which were never refilled and our server was not checking on us, so we couldn't ask for more. When the entrees came out the salad plates were still on the table and we had to pile them on a corner of the table to make room for the food. The were removed about 5 minutes later when we had our one beverage refill.

The best thing I cam say is the servings were large. 


Johnny Cascone's Restaurant - Overland Park, Kansas Johnny Cascone's Restaurant

Steak of Italy at Johnny Cascone's Restaurant Steak of Italy - 20 ounce bone in KC Strip

Saturday - February 13, 2016: For lunch we drove to Kaw Drive and Kansas Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas where two restaurants were located that we were interested in. There were reviews and little information about either of them online, but there was enough that I wanted to check them out. We decided to drive there and decide which one we wanted to to have lunch at, after we looked at them.

With the temperature in the 20s, the decision was made for us when we discovered that Jones BBQ has no seating, you don't even go inside, but order at a window. 

Suzie Q's Restaurant is just a few feet away in an aging storefront. The kind of place which has character. As we walked in, we noticed a sign saying no outside food or drink, which we assume is directed at least in part at the customers of Jones BBQ.

While waiting for our food, we had a nice conversation with Suzie, who cashed in her 401K and bought the restaurant 7 years ago. Many of the staff are her family. When her husband can retire in two years, she plans to move to the Ozaks and let her children run the restaurant.

Linda had the $9.25 catfish dinner served with salad, potato, vegetable and bread. The salad was good, served with a generous serving of what appeared to be house made blue cheese dressing. The catfish was very lightly breaded and had a great flavor. The best catfish I have had in two or three years.

I had the $8.75 Suzie's Giant Tenderloin, "Biggest hand breaded Tenderloins in KC!" I don't know if it was really the biggest, but it is large and (more importantly) very good. I think this may be better than the tenderloin at Christy's Tasty Queen. It came with the choice of potato and I was delighted to discover that the curly fries were fresh cut. They were very thin and some were overdone, but the serving was generous and most of them were quite good.

We asked if the pies were made in house. Our server said that all of the pies they had this day were from Golden Boy, but some times they have pies of their own.

After lunch, I walked across to Jones BBQ to purchase smoked sausage to take with us. And older man and teen girl were inside at the window. When I asked how much meat was by the pound, they called in a woman who was sitting in a running car outside the building (I think to keep warm) and she said that meat was $17/pound including tax. She prepared a box to take with us and and went back outside to the free standing smoker to get the meat.

We had the sausage for supper. It was very smoky and a little spicy, course ground, more like the kind of sausage you have on a bun, than sliced as a stand along meat. The tomato based sauce was more vinegar than sweet, with a touch of celery and fairly hot.

We need to try both of these places again. I particularly want to find out what Suzie's hamburgers are like.



Jones BBQ - Kansas City, Kansas Jones BBQ

Suzie's Giant Tenderloin - Kansas City, Kansas Suzie's Giant Tenderloin

Sunday - February 14, 2016: We added a new review of Suzie Q's Restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas.


Monday - February 15, 2016: We added a new page about the Stockade Museum and Carry Nation's Home in Medicine Lodge.  
Tuesday - February 16, 2016: We added Jones BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas and Fireside BBQ in Overland Park, Kansas to our Kansas City BBQ Restaurants Page.


Thursday - February 18, 2016: Hayward's Pit BBQ recently moved to Lenexa. We waited a couple of weeks, but tried them tonight. Hayward's was a solid BBQ restaurant for many years, but has slipped in recent years. The restaurant changed hands two years ago, but really had not improved, so we were hoping that this might be a reset, with a good new start.

Overall, I rate our experience slightly below average. The best dishes were the onion rings, followed by the cheesy corn. The fries were underdone, slightly oversized, and apparently cooked from frozen. The Texas toast was what the new owners had served at the previous location. Just barely toasted, more like dried bread.

The smoked chicken and sausage were both good. The burnt ends were average, with some of them being overcooked. The ribs were our least favorite dish. They were smoky, but the smoke did not taste good at all. It left and unpleasant taste in my mouth which lingered for hours.

I rate the experience a C-. It isn't the worst BBQ around, but it is well down the list. I will be returning to give them a second try after a few months to write a review, but wouldn't be returning otherwise.


Hayward's Pit BBQ - Lenexa, Kansas Hayward's Pit BBQ
Friday - February 19, 2016: We headed to central Kansas after work today, going to Asaria to what has been one of my very favorite Kansas restaurants, the Renaissance Cafe. Executive Chef Kevin O'Brien left the restaurant in December, after 9 years and the restaurant closed for a few weeks. 

On January 21, the Renaissance Cafe reopened with a new menu under Shana Everhart, who also operates the Swedish Crown Restaurant in Lindsborg, and we waited a month to try out the new menu. The menu has just ten entrees (same as # as the previous menus) and there were a couple of specials. There was a steak special which sounded good, but since I can only get to this restaurant a couple of times a year, I went with items off the regular menu.

My favorite dishes from the old menu are gone. They were the crispy calamari steak, gorgonzola salad and the steak Venato. Tonight we sampled the fritto misto (shrimp, artichoke, red onion & saffron-red chili aioli), both of the salads, chicken Saltimbocca (prosciutto wrapped airliner chicken breast with roasted butternut squash & garlic sage Jus), porcini dusted filet (6 ounce filet with Madeira sauce & mascarpone whipped potatoes), and limoncello-ricotta cheesecake. 

All of it was good, but nothing blew me away. My favorite part of the steak entree was the Madeira sauce which went well with both the steak and the potatoes. The chicken breast had a good flavor, but the prosciutto added nothing and might as well be left off. 

The Renaissance Cafe continues to get our recommendation, but not as enthusiastically as before.



Renaissance Cafe - Asaria, Kansas porcini dusted filet

Saturday - February 20, 2016: We wanted to do as much as possible before meeting family in Topeka at 5PM to watch the Jayhawks - Wildcats basketball game on TV.

Heading north out of Salina, the first stop was in Glasco, to photograph the 1910 stone St. Mary's Catholic Church. We also took some current photos of the main street, though it does not appear to have significantly changed since 2008 when the first ever Bring Your Own Lawn Chair (BYOLC) meeting of the Kansas Explorers was conducted there. Held on the sidewalk next to the Glasco post office, the BYOLC was designed as a opportunity to support and encourage the tiny community's dream to save three derelict old buildings by turning them into a National Highway 24 Museum. So far, that has not happened.

Heading farther north, we passed through Concordia, to POW Camp Concordia which added a museum last summer. The World War II prisoner of war camp does not have regular hours, but one of the volunteers, Paul Rimovsky, met us there to open the museum. The museum occupies a small room in one of the four original buildings, with additional displays in the area they do not think of as the museum.

Returning to Concordia, we photographed the National Orphan Train Complex, which is dedicated to the preservation of the stories and artifacts of those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement from 1854-1929. The movement relocated 250,000 children from New York City to rural locations across the country.

Although over 4,000 children were relocated to Kansas, Concordia was not one of the locations where the orphan train stopped.

Heading west out of Concordia, we made a brief stop in Rice, where the huge cottonwood tree no longer stands next to the 1899 Stone Arch Bridge. Continuing on, we pause briefly to photograph a number of sights, including the miles and miles of railroad cars stored along the highway.

We knew there was a beautiful old church in St. Joseph, Kansas, but had found nothing but its location online. It was locked up, but Jolene Girard, who lives across the street, saw us and asked it we would like to see the interior. While I took photos, Jolene explained that St. Joseph Catholic Church is no longer consecrated and that a few years back, the diocese was going to demolish the building, but the community came together, pleased with the the diocese and formed the Guardians of The St. Joseph Church Foundation which is preserving the church.

We continued on to Clay Center, to tour the Clay County Museum, which occupies a building which was the hospital in 1925. It was later a nursing home and has been the museum since 1975. They museum gift shop sells T-shirts which say, "I was born in a museum!" The museum is preparing to move into a large building which had been a furniture store, across from the County Courthouse, downtown.

Before leaving town, we checked on the Utility Park & Zoo, which was built as a WPA project and does not meet the standards of animal care expected today. There was a recent drive to raise $500,000 to bring the zoo up to standards. The drive fell short by $170,000, but work supposedly has begun. We could see no signs of change at this time. The work is projected to take five years.

We had planned to have lunch at Nelson's Landing in Leonardville, which had been recommended for its burgers. We were running late and it was after 2:30PM. Pulling up in front, we discovered that it was a Kansas State University sports bar. We were wearing University of Kansas shirts, and KU was playing KSU in just a couple of hours, but we went in anyway. Everyone in the building was wearing K-State apparel and when I sat down, the wall in front of me was covered with K-State memorable. The wall which Linda faced was covered with Green Bay Packers memorabilia.

As we waited to order, we noticed that there were items on both walls with the last name "Nelson," so we asked the server if he was connected to the bar. I think she was a little taken aback that we asked (we do not follow football). The football player is Jordy Nelson and his mother owns the bar. We found three Sports Illustrated covers with his photo on the wall, so we figured out that he isn't just any player.

Although the Nelson's Landing isn't going to make our Kansas Best Burgers List, the food is good and it will eventually appear on the Unique Locally Owned Restaurants page. My favorite dish appears to be Green Bay Packers influenced - fried cheese curds.

We asked where the pies were made and told that they were made in a second kitchen in the same building, by the owners parents. I think that the raisins and been flavored with something and the sour cream and raisin pie wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but the chocolate peanut butter pie was very good.

Driving on to Topeka with a couple more stops for photos, we listened to the first few minutes of the game on the radio and saw the rest on TV. The game was closer than expected, but KU won 72-63. 



POW Camp Concordia - Concordia, Kansas Camp Concordia

St. Joseph Catholic Church - St, Joseph, Kansas St. Joseph Catholic Church

Clay County Museum - Ckay Center, Kansas Future home of the Clay County Museum

Jordy Nelson memorabilia in Nelson's Landing Jordy Nelson memorabilia

Tuesday - February 23, 2016: We added a bew page devoted to the unusual Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Concordia, Kansas. The castle like church was once a cathedral.  
Wednesday - February 24, 2016: Although the website and recorded message on the phone for Hillsdale Bank BBQ in Hillsdale, Kansas says that the restaurant is normally closed for winter and will reopen in the spring, there have been continued reports that it is closed permamently.

 Checking the building today, the signs are still in place, and there is no notice that it has closed. The windows are covered. That may be normal when closed. It is possible to see a little of the main diningroom. It appears that the chairs are gone and possibly some of the tables. The decorations are still on the walls.


Hillsdale Bank BBQ - Hillsdale, Kansas
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