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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Restored Phillps 66 in Paola, Kansas
Monday - August 6, 2018: This evening we revisited Fireside BBQ in Overland Park. The four year old barbeque restaurant has limited hours, open for lunch and dinner Monday - Friday, closing at 7:30PM each of those days.

We sampled pork ribs, house made sausage, onion rings and fresh cut fries. The ribs were our favorite item. The sausage reminds me of a sausage my brother used to make in his oven.

AUGUST 10 UPDATE: Today Fireside BBQ announced that the restaurant is for sale and that if it has not sold, it will close on September 28.

 

Fireside BBQ - Overland Park, Kansas Fireside BBQ
 
Tuesday - August 7, 2018: I had lunch at Sierra Grill in Lenexa, Kansas. Sierra Grill is a little over a year old and is one of our favorite places for for supper, the four evenings a week they are open. I arrived a few minutes before noon and the small restaurant was already crowded, but I was able to get a stool at the small counter.

This was my first look at the lunch menu, which like the evening menu is relatively short. There are 7 sandwiches, 3 house specialties and 8 side dishes. The menu may be limited in part by the compact kitchen. Space is a premium in this small restaurant which was built as a chain sandwich shop.

I've been a big fan of the rib eye on the evening menu and decided to try the wood fired steak sandwich with cheddar cheese, peppers/onion & chimichurri. It included the choice of one side. I went with the braised cabbage. It was OK, but I would have been happier with the roasted mushrooms.

The thick slices of steak were good, though I think I would leave the chimichurri off in the future, perhaps going with mayonnaise. 

Tonight we added a new page devoted to Field Station: Dinosaurs in Derby, which opened in May and we visited 2 weeks ago.

 

Sierra Grill - Lenexa, Kansas Sierra Grill steak sandwich
Friday - August 10, 2018: We drove to Paola in the evening to have supper at Beethoven's 9th: The Restaurant. We have enjoyed this German restaurant for many years, but this was only our second visit since the moved to a new location about a year and a half ago. 

We enjoyed both the grilled pork chop and the sauerbraten (marinated sirloin, braised and topped with a tangy brown sauce). The sides of corn and fries were OK, but we liked the bread and flavored whipped butter more. Before leaving, we took a long look at the large selection of desserts. They looked great, but we had already had a lot of food and we passed this time.

Before leaving town, we drove the nearby streets taking photos to post to our Facebook Page. Among other interesting things, we found two old gas stations. The Phillps 66 looked particularly interesting, but the Miami County Historical Society has not responded to our request for information about it.

 

Beethoven's 9th: The Restaurant in Paoloa, Kansas Beethoven's 9th desserts
 
 

Phillps 66 - Paola, Kansas Phillps 66

Saturday - August 11, 2018: I made a second visit to Conroy's Public House in Overland Park, continuing to work our way through the interesting menu. The fisherman's pie was good, but not exactly what I expected, more of a chowder with a puff pastry sitting in it, rather than what I think of as a pie.

We added a new page devoted to St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church is a historic Romanesque church in Colwich, which we toured three weeks ago. 

 

St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church - Colwich, Kansas St. Mark the Evangelist
 
Friday - August 17, 2018: We got an early start on three days of exploring Kansas, heading west on I-70 with our first stop at Berry Hill UPick Farm, southeast of Topeka. Berry Hill added a sunflower field in 2017 to bring more traffic and attention to the farm and repeated this year. The first plants which were planted this year were just coming to full bloom and WIBW News was also photographing the fields.

We headed to downtown Topeka to St. Joseph Catholic Church. The twin clock towers of the church are less than a block off I-70 and I have wanted to photograph the interior for some time, but other than for mass, it is only open by appointment on weekdays when the church office is open.

The 118 year old church is in the middle of a multi year repair and preservation project and I had photographed the exterior during work two years ago. Restoration has already been done to the brick, stone, glass, and decorative trim work. The interior walls, ceilings, and furnishings are all about to be redone and we will need to return in a couple of years for new interior photos.

Thank you to Teresa Ann Thomas, who showed us around!

We had lunch at Mr. K's Farmhouse Lena's in Abilene, Kansas. The onion rings were awesome and a huge serving. The fish and chips were also decent, though I was less impressed with the chicken fried steak.

We photographed the world's largest spur on the way out of town, but it doesn't have quite the same impact since it was moved from the entrance to the Abilene rodeo arena to Rittel's Western Wear on North Broadway. 

Before returning to the freeway, we visited the Talmage Historical Society and Museum in the small community of Talmage. The museum is in an former bank building and probably has the most to offer to people with connections to the community, particularly genealogy information. People who do not have that connection will probably need less than 20 minutes to view the collection.

Our last stop in the Abilene area was the Russell Stover Candies factory and store. We were each offered a free candy as we entered, which took the edge off, but we still made a few purchases while we were there. The best thing about the stop was learning that the "I Love Chocolate Teddy Bear" which was stolen a few years back, has been recovered, repaired and is back in place.

After passing through Salina, we visited a couple of interesting buildings which I had not been to in many years.

The first was the school in Smolan, Kansas, which housed the Hickory Tree Restaurant until 1911. The bushes along the side walk had grown up so high that we almost missed the building entirely.

The second building is the beautiful Salemsborg Lutheran Church, which is several miles south and west, but also has a Smolan address. The twin towered church was built in 1926. I've still not seen the interior of the church, but I think we have enough page to now do a page about it.

We took county roads west to Brookville, to photograph some of the many interesting abandoned buildings. We were surprised in Brookville twice, first by the goats running loose, feeding on the vegetation at Ell-Saline Middle/High School. The second surprise was finding a phone booth with a working pay phone outside the Wilson Communications building.

Then on to Ellsworth. Before dinner we photographed many of the old buildings in town, including those at the Ellsworth County Museum and two old jails.

We had supper at Pretty Boy Floyd's Steaks & Shine, a speakeasy themed steak house in the basements of three old businesses. You enter the restaurant through the back alley and go down a flight of stairs to a dark dinning room and bar with prohibition era decorations.

Our booth was very private. We could see no other tables and the only person we saw from our booth was our server. My rib eye was very good, as was Linda's filet. We liked having the option of getting smaller portions than many restaurants offer. The 10 ounce rib eye and 4 ounce filet were the right size for us and a bargain at only $21/each with salad, potato, bread & vegetables.

We went on to Great Bend, Kansas, where we stayed the night at Baltzell Lodge.

 

Berry Hill UPick Farm - Topeka, Kansas Berry Hill UPick Farm 

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

I Love Chocolate Teddy Bear - Abilene, Kansas
I Love Chocolate Teddy Bear
 
 

Salemsborg Lutheran Church - Smolan, Kansas Salemsborg Lutheran Church
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pretty Boy Floyd's - Ellsworth, Kansas Pretty Boy Floyd's Steaks & Shine

Saturday - August 18, 2018: I was out in the early morning to photograph some of the many murals in Great Bend before there was much traffic.

Our first stop of the day was the Brit Spaugh Zoo in Great Bend. They have done a lot of work over recent years and one of the things we hadn't seen before was the butterfly house.

There have never been any raptors in the Raptor Center when we have visited the zoo and today we confirmed that they only care for injured or young birds occasionally.

We took US-56 southwest out of town, making our next stop at Pawnee Rock, for a few updated photos. Then on through Larned and west to Burdett, Kansas to photograph the Discover of Pluto historic marker and to play miniature golf at Rediscover Pluto Miniature Golf Course. Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930, spent his teen years on a farm near Burdett and graduated from Burdett High School. 

Each hole at the Rediscover Pluto Miniature Golf Course has a metal sign with a "fun fact" about our Solar System. A family party was being held at the Golf Course in August 2018 and they graciously permitted us to include them to make some of the photos more interesting.

We had lunch at Moosette's Cafe in Burdett, The small restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch, plus a couple of hours on Thursday evening. Breakfast is served until 11AM. The lunch menu is only sandwiches, with three dinners: chicken fried steak, hamburger steak and chicken strips.

We both had burgers. My selection was the signature Moose's Burger (double patty, pepper jack cheese, house made BBQ sauce, jalapenos, mushrooms, grilled onions, bacon) for $11.90 with choice of potatoes. It was good, but not as good as it sounded. Grilling the jalapenos and cooking the home fries longer would have helped a lot!

On our way back through Larned, we checked on the new location of the Central States Scout Museum. The museum's original location had a fire in 2016 and the collection was largely destroyed, but it has reopened in a former gas station. Although we were there during their scheduled hours, the museum was closed so we only photographed the exterior.

Returning to Great Bend, we toured the Barton County Historical Society Museum & Village, which was unexpectedly closed when we visited it last fall. The main building of the large museum didn't take very long for us to tour, but the many other buildings had more to offer. 

I am a big fan of old painted advertising theater drapes and the Barton County Museum has the largest collection I have ever seen on display (6) and displays them without having them blocked by all sorts of other items.

The centerpiece of the Village portion of the museum is probably the "Lustron houses," a prefabricated enameled steel houses developed following World War II.

Our next stop was the Shafer Art Gallery, which is several miles northeast of Great Bend at Barton Community College. The museum is housed in the Fine Arts Building and displays works by Gus Shafer and a rotating series of exhibitions from regional and national artists. 

The late Gus Shafer grew up near Hoisington, Kansas and is known for his western theme bronze sculptures. 

It had started raining, but we thought we could still photograph City Cemetery in Hoisington. At least twelve previously unmarked graves are marked with hand crafted folk art concrete and wire gravestones which were created by local grassroots artist, Phil Webb. 

We located eleven of Phil Webb's gravestones, all of them were in the north half of the 15 acre cemetery and the unique painted figures on all but one of them made them easy to find.

We drove south and west to Ellinwood, Kansas for supper at Lone Wolf Restaurant. By coincidence, this was the second night in a row that we ate in a restaurant which is in a basement. Lone Wolf has a large, rather plain dinning room and a limited diner menu with just 12 items and a salad bar.

Linda had a grilled shrimp kabobs with baked potato for $18.99 and I had a 16 ounce rib eye with fresh cut fries for $25.99. At least that is how the steak was described on the menu. I think it was more like 20 ounces. It was served on a huge platter and still filled half the platter, along with an enormous serving of fries. I ate less than half of it.

The meals came with very garlicky toast which was very good.

Now to tell you about our experience at Baltzell Lodge in Great Bend. It is an older family owned motel and we had made a point of reserving one of the renovated rooms. 

When we checked in, the clerk warned me that the wifi was running slow, but when we connected to it, we could connect to the wifi, but it did not have internet access. That was the same later in the evening and again the next morning. When I checked at the office, asking when it would be available, they said they would call the owner. A little later we were told that we could use the office wifi which WAS working and we were given that password.

We also told the office that the room was not very clean when we checked in. There were open food containers in the kitchen area and refrigerator, we found a power cord between the sheets, suggesting that the sheets had not been changed, and there were things on the floor. I left the power cord with them as evidence.

There was never a follow up from the motel or apology. The sheets still were not changed when the room was cleaned that day.

 


 

Brit Spaugh Zoo butterfly house Monarch butterfly
 

Rediscover Pluto Miniature Golf Course - Burdett, Kansas Rediscover Pluto Miniature Golf Course
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Central States Scout Museum - Larned, Kansas Central States Scout Museum

advertising theater drape - Barton County Historical Society Museum Advertising theater drape
 
 

Shafer Memorial Art Gallery - Great Bend, Kansas Shafer Memorial Art Gallery

Phil Webb's gravestones - Hoisington, Kansas Folk art gravestone
 

Lone Wolf Restaurant - Ellinwood, Kansas rib eye steak
 
 
 

Baltzell Lodge - Great Bend, Kansas Baltzell Lodge room

Sunday - August 19, 2018: Rain came through in the night anc continued through the day, cutting short our explorations.

We did drive through nearby Quivira National Wildlife Refuge while the rain was light enough that we could get some good photos from the car. We saw a wide variety of water birds, but focused on the wading birds and the beautiful large, white pelicans.

The rain picked up as we headed west on the highway. We photographed some interesting old buildings as we passed through Roxbury, Kansas, but made no stops until we got to Hope, the town where the sign says "There will always be Kansas."

We had lunch at the Gridiron Cafe, which I visited 2 years ago and is on our list of Unique Kansas Restaurants. It was getting past lunch time and as things slowed down, the owner, Fred French, stopped by our table to chat for a while and to tell us that the town was in a bit of shock, as a couple of local men were killed in an accident the night before.

We had the chicken fried steak and a Lion Burger (named for the school mascot), which has grilled onions & mushrooms, bacon, and swiss cheese. We split a house made peach cobbler, which isn't a traditional cobbler, but a crumble with peach filling on top, rather than baked.

We had planned the trip to be Hope when the Hope Community Museum was scheduled to be open, but found it all locked up. We might have tried calling one of the numbers on the door, but the rain was not a steady downpour and w decided to cut our loses and head home.
 
 


 

white pelicans - Quivira National Wildlife Refuge white pelicans
 
 
 

Fred French - Gridiron Cafe in Hope, Kansas Fred French

Tuesday - August 21, 2018: In the early evening, I drove to Scranton, Kansas, where the Lyndon Leaders 4H Club from Lyndon, Kansas has had public sunflower fields since at least 2016. The first couple of years they were afraid of getting too big a response from the public and at their request we held off promoting their sunflower fields until this year. The sunflowers are now at their peak! We added a new page about the sunflower fields when we got home.

One the return drive, I stopped for supper at Green Acres Family Restaurant in Vassar, Kansas. I had broasted chicken and raisin cream pie. This restaurant might make it onto our list of Unique Kansas Restaurants., but I haven't had enough of their food to make a review. They are a little out of the way for most of our travel, so that may take some time. 

I took quite a few photos in the restaurant, which seemed to make the owner nervous. I explained that I blog about my meals, which satisfied my server, but the owner still was uncomfortable. If I go again, I will limit photos to one taken with my phone, rather than with a camera.
  
 

Lyndon Leaders 4H Sunflowers - Scranton, Kansas Lyndon Leaders 4H Sunflowers

Green Acres Family Restaurant - Vassar, Kansas Broasted Chicken

 
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