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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Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park - Lenexa, Kansas
Saturday - February 1, 2020: This was our first full day of exploring for 2020. We were on the road earlier in the morning and headed south to Baxter Springs, Kansas, where our first top was Decade of Wheels, a car museum which had a grand opening in 2018, but didn't start being open until 2019. It occupies multiple store fronts in a block on Historic Route 66 which is now under common ownership.

The museum displays about 35 vehicles at a time and rotates the collection roughly quarterly. The displays are attractive and the vehicle descriptions are interesting,. The collection doesn't seem to have a theme or be arranged in a way to tell a story. To my uneducated eyes the layout is haphazard and over a 10th of the displayed vehicles are replicas  fictional vehicles, including the Batmobile, Flintstones car, Back to the Future DeLorian, and Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.

We visited a number of other locations in Baxter Springs for photos, then had an early lunch at the latest incarnation of Cafe on the Route, Rita's Cafe on the Route, in the same building as Decades of Wheels. I was disappointed to see that the wonderful Cafe on the Route Mural on the outside has been removed.

The menu at Rita's Cafe on the Route has a lot of details about the breakfast items, but says little about the rest. Most of the listings just say things like 12 oz Ribeye $19.99 or Meatloaf $8.99, no info to make the food sound more interesting. Or tell you that the French fries are fresh cut (they are). The good news is that the prices are bargains.

We had the County Ham Steak with mashed potatoes and green beans ($12.49) and Chicken fried steak with fries and cucumbers & onions ($8.99). There were three slices of good, grill ham. The green beans had bacon and onion. The masked potatoes and gravy were pretty standard.

The fries could have been cooked a bit longer but were good. The chicken fried steak could have been cooked a little less and was tough. It was hard to cut even with a steak knife.

The service was very good.

We were going to try the house made desserts at Rita's Roost on the other end of the block, but it doesn't open until 2PM.

We drove the short Kansas length of Historic Route 66, taking pictures and looking for changes since our last visit about a year ago. Our first stop was at the little over a year old, Sweet Creek Diner & Bakery in Galena. We sampled the excellent peanut butter fudge and bought chocolate chip and Heath cookies. The cookies were also very good and we want to try a meal there soon. 

Our only other stop for more than a picture or two, was at Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store in Riverton, Kansas. The General Store serves sandwiches and has a side room selling Historic Route 66 souvenir. We made a couple of purchases and had a nice chat with the owner, Scott Nelson. The store opened in 1925 and got its current name when Joe and Isabell Eisler purchased the business in 1973. Scott is their nephew and purchased the store in 2011.

We drove north, with a pass through Cherokee, Kansas to check on the Idle-A-While, then on to Girard to tour the Girard History Museum before it closed for the day at 2PM. The museum is in the 1888 St. John's Episcopal Church, which was transformed into a museum in 1975. The museum reopened last year, after being closed for 20 years. Two local history groups combined to spend over $100,000 to repair the building and make it available again.

A very knowledgeable docent told us the history of the museum and the community as we wandered through. The museum has a lot about the history of the Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company, "Little Blue Books," and "Appeal to Reason.

Appeal to Reason was a Socialist newspaper which was published in Girard from 1895 until 1922. Its peak circulation was nearly 700,000. Little Blue Books were small, inexpensive reprints of classic literature. Several hundred million of them were printed in Girard from 1919 through 1978. Both of these were published by the Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company.

A few miles north of Girard, we visited Crawford State Park, Where there is a memorial statue, quarter mile memorial trail and a museum dedicated to the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The museum is is in a building which once held up the water tower and is kept unlocked so it can be visited anytime. 

Before leaving the park, we also photographed the Farlington Fish Hatchery. 

After additional photo stops in Arma, Franklin and Fort Scott National Cemetery, we had supper at the new Luther's BBQ in Fort Scott, which opened in December. The large restaurant is in the century old Stout Building, which once held The Buffalo Grill,

We had smoked baloney, sausage, ribs, burnt ends, smoked beans, hand cut fries, onion straws. Prices are reasonable and everything was uniformly good. This restaurant should have a good future.

Decade of Wheels - Baxter Springs, Kansas Decade of Wheels

Rita's Cafe on the Route - Baxter Springs, Kansas Rita's Cafe on the Route

Sweet Creek Diner and Bakery - Galena, Kansas Sweet Creek Diner & Bakery

Girard History Museum - Girard, Kansas Girard History Museum

CCC Museum - Crawford State Park CCC Museum

Luther's BBQ - Fort Scott, Kansas Luther's BBQ

Tuesday - February 4, 2020: Added a new page devoted to the Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial Trail & Museum in Farlington, Kansas.


Thursday - February 6, 2020: Added a new page devoted to Sierra Grill in Lenexa, Kansas.


Saturday - February 8, 2020: On the way to Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, I saw a Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway train stopped beside Santa Fe Trail Drive, just east of Old Town in Lenexa, Kansas. It was nicely framed by trees and I stopped to take a few photos.

I went to Oak Park Mall because the giant Chiefs marquee sign which had been at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri for the Chiefs celebration was moved to the mall this morning. The installation is available to the public for photography during normal mall hours until 6 p.m. on Sunday, February 16. There were several families with small children taking photos. 

While at the mall, I spotted an interesting art installation. At first glance, it looked like giant Lego models, but on a closer look, the art was created from cans of nonperishable food. Canstruction Kansas City is an annual event to benefit Harvesters - The Community Food Bank in Kansas City. When the exhibit closes, the cans, bottles and boxes are donated to Harvesters. Additional food contributions are invited as well as online cash contributions while voting for your favorite Canstruction. This is the 19th year of the event. We have added a new page devoted to Canstruction Kansas City.

In the evening we returned to Lenexa Public Market, a food hall which opened next to the Lenexa City Hall a little over two years ago. After walking past all the food stands, we decided to try Sohaila's Kitchen. It offers a limited menu of  Pakistani and Indian dishes. It had caught our eye before, but was out of most foods when we were there before. 

We had a butter chicken bowl, a kabob and naan. I enjoyed the flavors of the butter chicken, though it didn't seem like much food for $10. The $7 kabob was much like a long sausage and spicier. The naan made as think more of pita bread. They don't have a Tandoori oven here, so we don't know how it was prepared. I would consider having the chicken again.

We ate our meal in front of Kate Smith Soirée, which specialize in French macaroons and pastries, so we were eyeing the treats all through our meal and considering either baklava or the berry cheese cake. Kate was cutting Oreo brownie while we ate and we decided to try one of the large $4 brownies. It was a rich chocolate brownie with an Oreo on top. Very nice and plenty for the two of us.


Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway - Lenexa, Kansas BNSF

Kansas City Chiefs marquee sign Chiefs marquee

Canstruction Kansas City - Overland Park, Kansas Canstruction

butter chicken - Sohaila's Kitchen butter chicken

Oreo brownie - Kate Smith Soirée Oreo brownie

Tuesday - February 11, 2020: Added a new page devoted to Decades of Wheels, an automobile museum in Baxter Springs, Kansas.


Wednesday - February 12, 2020: We did the 2020 update to our Kansas Best Burgers list. One came off, three were added and the there was a shifting of positions since last year, but Bomber Burger in Wichita, Kansas still holds the #1 spot. 


Saturday - February 15, 2020: We drove to Lawrence, Kansas to revisit the Watkins Museum of History which is managed by the Douglas County Historical Society. It had been quite a few years since my last time at the museum and they update the displays pretty often. The exhibits which interested me the most were related to race relations in Lawrence and at the university of Kansas, and "Opening Doors: A History of Accessibility in Lawrence."

The cart shown in the photo to the right was used by the late Leo Beuerman, who has a monument devoted to him, a few blocks up Massachusetts Street. Leo was 36 inches tall, deaf and unable to walk, but determined to be independent. He had a modified tractor which he would drive into Lawrence and then transfer to this cart to sell pencils on the sidewalk in the 1950s and 1960s.

We went joined a group of friends at RPG (Restaurant, Pub, & Games), which opened last summer. Overall, we were more impressed with the bar than the food. After a couple of hours of talking and noshing, we walked to the other end of Mass, to the new location of Sylas and Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream. After 22 years, they moved to a more spacious building which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The "Rock Choc. Jayhawk" with brownies, fudge pieces and fudge swirl was great.

We finished the day with a real meal at Bigg's BBQ. There was a fairly long wait for a table big enough for our party and an order of onion rings that another table had, so I ordered a large onion ring appetizer as soon as we sat down. The rings were great, sweet onions with just the right batter. The $9 serving was so big that 7 of us couldn't finish it. They were so good that one of us took the left over rings home. The rings came with two special house sauces, but I found that they went well with the house Carolina Style BBQ sauce.

The burnt ends were good, as were the baby back pork rings. The smoked quarter chicken which was finished in the fryer was particularly good, but the flavor and the crispiness of the skin. The cheesy corn was fabulous. The best I have had in several years.


Leo Beuerman pencil cart - Lawrence, Kansas Leo Beuerman pencil cart

Sylas and Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream - Lawrence, Kansas Sylas and Maddy's

onion rings at Bigg's BBQ in Lawrence, Kansas onion rings

Sunday - February 16, 2020: We had tickets to see Come From Away at the Music Hall in Kansas City, Missouri and decided to revisit a Kansas City, Kansas restaurant before the show. We hadn't been back to Mad Jack's Fresh Fish for several years and it was time to update its page. Mad Jack's is an interesting little hole in the wall that opened in 1984 and has been run by the current owner, John Reed, since 1987.

The castle shaped building has adjacent counters for fresh fish or cooked. We ordered fried shrimp, frog legs & oysters, along with hushpuppies and onion rings. Everything was good, though I wish that there was more variety in the coating of the fired fish. They all have corn meal coatings, like most catfish served in this area.

There was still a little extra time before the show, so we stopped by Big Eleven Lake, where a small saxophone shaped metal sculpture in the amphitheater serves as a memorial to the legendary Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, who was born just a few blocks away, 

The hundredth anniversary of Parker's birth is coming up on August 29th.


Mad Jack's Fresh Fish - Kansas City, Kansas Fried frog legs & oysters

Charlie Yardbird Parker Memorial Charlie Parker Monument

Friday - February 28, 2020: We learned a few weeks ago that the ownership of Downtown Diner in Olathe had reverted to  Rich and Sue Caines who operated it from 2011 to 2018. It reopened while we were out of state, earlier in the month, and this was my first chance to revisit. The Downtown Burger with Swiss Cheese, coleslaw, corned beef and bacon was as good as I remembered and it returns the restaurant to our Kansas Best Burgers list.

At the last minute we decided to go somewhere fun for dinner. Sierra Grill in Lenexa is one of our go to places for a special meal and they were able to squeeze us in with 45 minutes notice. I had already been in the mood for salad, so I forgoed the ribeye that I usually get at Sierra Grill and had the entree salad with grilled chicken. It was good, but I would have liked a little larger serving and a bit more dressing.

The chocolate cookie and peanut butter sandwich I had for dessert was very good and large enough to take a little home.


Downtown Burger - Downtown Diner in Olathe Downtown Burger

Sierra Grill in Lenexa, Kansas Entree salad at Sierra Grill

Saturday - February 29, 2020: We had heard some good things about Viona's Italian Bistro, which recently opened in downtown Overland Park. The food and atmosphere were good, though nothing really stood out. My favorite thing was the bread and dipping sauce. I liked the meats and mushrooms in "Niki's Special" - Meatballs, sliced sausage, peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms in marinara sauce with penne pasta topped with mozzarella cheese and baked.
Viona's Italian Bistro - Overland Park, Kansas Chicken Parmigiana & Niki's Special
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