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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Sifers Valomilk Candy Company Advertising Banner
Thursday - April 1, 2021: I the pleasure of visiting Sifers Valomilk Candy Company in Merriam, Kansas. The Sifer family started making candy in Iola, Kansas in 1903 and added a facility in Kansas City, Missouri about 13 years later. In 1931, the accidentally production of runny marshmallow was experientially dipped into chocolate cups and a delicious new candy, Valomilk Dips were created.

In 1970 Sifers Valomilk Candy Company merged with a larger candy company, but in 1981 the Kansas City factory was shut down and Valomilks were discontinued.

In 1985, Russ Sifer acquired his great grandfather's original copper kettles and other equipment and the family put the factory back together in Merriam. They now produce only the one candy and do not have on sight or direct sales. Due to strict quality assurance, the factory is not open to the public, but I was permitted to photograph and record the fascinating process of producing the candy for this web site. I was shown around by Russ' step son, Dave Swiercinsky, fifth generation of the family to make candy.

Candy is produced twice a week. Marshmallow is cooked by hand on Monday, candy is made on Tuesday morning and packaged on Tuesday afternoon. This is repeated on Wednesday and Thursday.

The fascinating old equipment makes an interesting percussion sound as 10 candies advance about every 2.3 seconds. Chocolate is poured the paper cups. Then a puff of air the pushes the chocolate up to make the sides of the cup. the runny mallow is added and then the candy is cooled for several minutes on the production line. In the next room, the chocolate top is added and a team of people pick up the trays of candy to gently swirl them and make sure the the top is uniformly covered. The racks are set aside so the candy will set up before packaging later in the day.

The factory office doubles as a virtual museum, with many photos of the company history, examples of packaging from over the years and old advertising.

It takes a little effort to purchase Valomilk, but it can be found at Cracker Barrel restaurants, Price Chopper & Hen House grocery stores, the nearby Merriam Hardware and several online sources.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 

Sifers Valomilk Candy Company - Merriam, Kansas Sifers Valomilk Candy Co production line
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sifers Valomilk Candy Co Advertising Banner - Merriam, Kansas Advertising Banner

 
Friday - April 2, 2021: I added a new page devoted to Woodruff Branch Falls, below Wilson State Fishing Lake near Buffalo, Kansas

 

 
Saturday - April 3, 2021: I added a new page devoted to Russell Sifers Candy Company in Merriam, Kansas.

 

 
Wednesday - April 7, 2021: I made a second visit to "Brown Sugar: Chicken & Donuts" in Kansas City, Kansas. The 4 wings, fries & a soft drink for only $6.99 is a bargain. The wings are a little small, but are so reasonably priced that you can order a couple more and still stay under $10 including tax.

The picture at the right shows two of the Nashville Hot wings and 4 of the Brown Sugar Blazing Sauce. I liked both, but the Nashville Hot was my favorite. The Blazing sauce reminds me of some sweet Thai sauces. The fries could use a little more cooking, but were good dipped in the sauce.

Almost all of the customers got carry out. There were two employees working. One wore a mask and one did not.

After lunch, I drove to The Legends Field, home of the recently renamed Kansas City Monarchs Baseball Club. Other than a couple of signs with the new name, it appears that little has been done to prepare for the May 18th season opener. 

But the KC Monarchs pop-up shop is now open at Legends Outlets (across the street) with apparel and a display from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. This will be open for just a few weeks, after which their will be apparel available at the stadium. I assume they will have old time Monarchs and Negro Leagues Baseball exhibits at the stadium.

The apparel has major league prices, with adult T-shirts and hats starting at $29.

 

Brown Sugar: Chicken and Donuts - Kansas City, Kansas Chicken wings
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monarch shop - The Legends in Kansas City, Kansas Negro Leagues Baseball exhibit

 

Friday - April 16, 2021:  Preparing to add a review of The Rub BBQ in Olathe to our Kansas City BBQ Restaurant Guide, I made a second recent visit here today. They do not have tables marked for social distancing, but arriving after the noon hour, there were few enough customers that I was able to have a table away from other customers.

You order at the food preparation counter, reading the menu above. Today I had the Friday special of a half rack of pork ribs and side for $10.99, which seems like a pretty good deal.

I selected onion straws for the side. They were good, but a bit saltier than I like. I like salty food, so it may be too much for some. I do like their house cut fries even better.

The ribs were a a generous serving and I took 3 home with me. They were tender, with what I think is about the perfect amount of still clinging a little to the bones, rather than falling off. They have quite a bit of flavor from the rub, but I still enjoyed adding some of their hot sauce.
 

 

The Rub BBQ - Olathe, Kansas The Rub BBQ
 

Ribs and onion straws - The Rub BBQ Ribs & onion straws

Saturday - April 17, 2021:  We drove to Leawood, Kansas to have brunch at Rye, Linda had a ham, cheese & green pepper omelet with hash browns and greens. The onset was fine, but nothing stood out. The hash browns were crispy rectangular patties - not the style we care for, though we know there are people who prefer that type.

I had the pecan fried chicken and French toast, which looked impressive. It has been several years since I've had French toast and I enjoyed the thick toast topped with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. The chicken tenders were lightly seasoned and I would have liked some kind of dipping sauce.

The servers and customers walking through the restaurant were masked. The tables were not spaced very socially distant.

 

Fried chicken and French toast at Rye in Leawood, Kansas Fried chicken & French toast
Sunday - April 18, 2021:  We revisited Grinders Stonewall in Lenexa, Kansas. It moved into the former Stonewall Inn location several years ago and we tried them that first year, but had not been back.

We ordered a West Clubber, 6 smoked wings and half ass fries with chili. The West Clubber sandwich is House smoked turkey, thinly sliced & piled high with Grinders Candied Bacon, Mild cheddar cheese, leaf lettuce, garden fresh tomatoes & complimented by a zesty garlic mayo on toasted ciabatta bread. The sandwich was quite good, but had a little larger ratio of bread to filling than we would have liked. The house made potato chips which came with it were quite good.

Half Add Fries is a half order of krinkle cut fries with chili added for $1.50. The fries should have been more crispy, but the slightly sweet chili was quite good. The smoked version of the chicken wings was daily special and had a nice flavor and no sauce, just blue cheese for dipping.

All were items we would get again and it will not be 8 years before we dine at Grinders Stonewall again. There is a large, shaded deck and we will probably return on a warm evening.

 


 

Smoked wings and half ass fries - Grinders Stonewall in Lenexa, Kansas Smoked wings and half ass fries

 
Tuesday - April 20, 2021:  The temperature dropped into the low 30s overnight and we received 2-3 inches of wet heavy snow this morning. the pavement and roads were warm enough that they remained clear.

The snow started thawing immediately and when the sky started getting brighter about 10AM, I headed out for some photos, first at Shawnee Mission Park and then at Craig Crossing Park in Lenexa.

I paid another visit to The Rub in Olathe, where I continue to work through the menu. The dining room was more crowded today, but I was able to get a place away from other diners in the overflow/private dining room. They don't offer much in the way of combination dinners, but I went with chicken, sausage, beans and corn bread.

The sausage is awesome, the best meat offered since they dropped meat loaf years ago. The chicken was dry and did not have much flavor. I rarely put  sauce on chicken, but this needed it.

When I looked at the beans and saw that they were a mix of three kinds of beans, I thought, "I'm not going to like this," but I was wrong. The beans are really very good! The corn bread didn't excite me as much. If would have helped if it had been warm and butter was available.

 

Craig Crossing Park - Lenexa, Kansas Craig Crossing Park
Thursday - April 22, 2021:  I drove to Kansas City, Kansas to have lunch at Big Q Barbeque. Big Q is the only surviving restaurant which grew out of Quick's family Barbecue which started in Kansas City, Kansas in 1953. I have dined here a couple of times before, but it has been several years.

Big Q doesn't offer much in the way of combination meals, so to try several meats I had to order way too much food. I got a half chicken, rib plate with steak fries & BBQ beans, and sausage plate with waffle fries and coleslaw.

The meats all came slathered with a lot of sauce. The sauce appears to be made from tomato paste, rather than ketchup and tastes like tomato paste with just a little seasoning. Rather than using a dry rub in the smoking, Big Q smokes the meat covered with sauce and I think the meats have less flavor from the cooking than most KC BBQ.

My favorite meat was the chicken. I think the skin on the chicken takes up more flavor from cooking in sauce, than the other meats did. I didn't care as much for the ribs, but Linda (who tried the meats as leftovers) really enjoyed them. She is not as big a fan of spice. The sausage was very mild, almost like a hot dog.

By far, the waffle fries were my favorite side. I think they may be fresh cut. The thick steak fries appeared to have been commercially frozen and I think they needed to be much crisper. The BBQ beans tasted like the sauce. The slaw had the faintest coating of a sauce which reminded me of marshmallow.

Each meal came with pickle and two slices of dry commercial bread.

 

Big Q Barbeque - Kansas City, Kansas Big Q Barbeque
 
 
 

Sausage and rib platters - Big Q Barbeque Sausage and rib platters

Saturday - April 24, 2021:  With warm weather and the sun forecast to come out in the afternoon we are off on a day trip to southeast Kansas. We headed south on US Highway 60 and drove straight to Pallucca's Meat Market and Deli in downtown Frontenac, Kansas. The sign said that masks were required and all of the customers wore them though only one of the 5 men behind the counter wore a mask. 

I have been looking forward to trying the specialty items at Pallucca's for some time and today we bought their frozen chili, Italian sausage, pimento cheese spread, beef stick, ham salad and smoked sausage from Schroeder's Custom Butchering in Arma, Kansas.

We had cookies from Sweet Creek Diner & Bakery in Galena, Kansas last year and today we tried them for lunch. They were missing quite a few items from the menu, including several of their more popular. After looking though the remaining dishes, we selected a Turkey Griller sandwich and a cheeseburger. The cheeseburger was rather average, but the Turkey Griller with sun dried tomato. turkey, bacon, lettuce, red onion, Swiss cheese & pepper jelly on grilled sourdough was a real treat. The pepper jelly really made the sandwich!

We each had Curly Q French fries and thanks to a minor error in the kitchen, got to try them the three varieties of Curly Q's they offered: cajun, ranch & salted. I preferred the salted & ranch, but think that the cajun may have been accidentally under seasoned.

When we ordered desert, we had a totally unexpected surprise. The server told us that although she would have to charge for the desert, the rest of our meal had already been paid by a woman who had been sitting at the next table. That is something that we have never had happen before!

We decided to split a slice of the only pie available today, peanut butter. It was very rich and had been precut and placed in individual plastic boxes to keep it fresh. The pie was fabulous! One of the best I have ever had.

With lunch behind us, it was time to explore Historic Route 66. I get back to the Mother Road at least once a year and there are always new discoveries. Last year we were there in February and September.

One of my discoveries this time was that the driver's door on the "Sheriff" car at Luigi's Pit Stop has been signed by Michael Wallis who voiced Sheriff in the movie Cars.

Aaron Perry continues his restoration of the 1939 Texaco Station at Gearhead Curios on Historic Route 66 in Galena. Since I was there in September, gas pumps, an island with an awning made from car hoods and signs on the building have been added. 

We saw that the front door wa open and discovered that his wife, Kelly was there, talking with visitors and selling shirts about the station. She said that at 8PM they were going to officially turn on the recently added neon for the first time. She also showed us the "tag flag" on the side of the building, an American flag made from license plates.

After a brief stop at Eisler Bros. Old Riverton Store in Riverton, we drove past Empire District Electric Company Power Dam Falls to photograph Shoal Creek Bridge. The 400' long bridge was built in 1918 and once carried a since abandoned Interurban railroad. I have passed next to this bridge a couple of times in the past, but did not see it before. I had found it online a few weeks ago.

Back on the route, we drove over the 1923 Brush Creek Rainbow Bridge and on into Baxter Springs. In Baxter Springs we learned that the most recent version of Cafe on the Route is no more and the sign now says Event Center on the Route.

The sun was finally out and we headed north to Big Brutus in West Mineral, Kansas. We have had a page devoted to the 160' tall electric mining shovel for 15 years, but the photos from 2006 were dated and not very attractive. The page devoted to the former strip mining shovel has been reworked and every photo has been replaced.

It was 4:30PM when we pulled into Cherokee, Kansas. Idle-A-While has cut back on their hours and it was my first chance to get back there in several years. We expected we would be the only ones wearing masks in this old bar & grill, but out of respect for the safety of others, we put on our masks before going in. As we walked in, the owner shouted across the dinning room, "Load the shotgun, we are being robbed!'

We took the joke with good grace, but he followed us across the room to our table making insults about democrats and Covid not being real. He slammed the menus down on the table. He continued yelling at us as we got up and walked out. I wished him a blessed day.

We decided to have supper at Jim's Steak House in Pittsburg, Kansas, but there was a sign on the door saying that the restaurant was closed until further notice.

We have since learned that the present owner of the 82 year old restaurant has walked away from it and stopped making payments. The Castagno family, who had sold the restaurant 7 years ago, own the restaurant again and are looking for buyers. They will not operate the restaurant themselves.

We drove north and finally had supper at Nu-Grille in Fort Scott. We had started to have supper so early that it was still only 5:30 when we sat down. Linda had an all white broasted chicken dinner and I had their Philly cheese steak and onion rings. It was a great meal and came to less than $18 before tax & tip.

 

Pallucca's Meat Market and Deli - Frontenac, Kansas Pallucca's Meat Market
 
 
 

Sweet Creek Diner and Bakery in Galena, Kansas Turkey Griller and cheeseburger
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sheriff car fromt he movie cars - Galena, Kansas Sheriff from "Cars"
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gearhead Curios - Galena, Kansas Kelly Perry
 
 
 

Shoal Creek Bridge - Riverton, Kansas Shoal Creek Bridge

Big Brutus - West Mineral, Kansas Big Brutus - West Mineral, Kansas
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nu-Grille - Fort Scott, Kansas Philly steak sandwich

Monday - April 26, 2021:  I made my 4th recent visit to The Rub BBQ in Olathe, Kansas as I prepare to review it for our Kansas City BBQ Guide

Today I had the $10.99 Fat Boy (Jumbo sausage and pork sandwich topped with Carolina slaw, homemade fries and buffalo hot sauce). I didn't know it came with a few fries and ordered a side of fresh cut fries. In the picture at the right the few fries on the right side of the tray came with the sandwich and the left half is the separate order.

I enjoyed this sandwich a lot! This was one of my favorite sandwiches at a Kansas City BBQ restaurant. The richly flavored sausage was the star of the sandwich and I think it would be even better without the mild pork.

 

Fat Boy sandwich - The Rub BBQ Fat Boy & fries
Tuesday - April 27, 2021:  I had my first meal at Bangkok Pavilion Thai Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas since before the start of Covid. I really love their lunch buffet, but it has not returned yet, so I ordered the $12.95 Spicy Squid which is served in a chili sauce with onions, celery, bell peppers, and basil. It is one of the spicier dishes, but I am a fan of spicy food and had a selection of hot sauces brought to the table, adding Thai peppers in fish oil to the squid.

It was quite good, but I look forward to the return of the buffet when I can enjoy a variety of dishes at the same time.

 

Spicy Squid at Bangkok Pavilion Thai Restaurant in Overland, Park, Kansass Spicy Squid
Wednesday - April 28, 2021:  Today I checked out the small museum at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, Kansas. The collection is mainly a long wall covered with historic photos. My favorite part of the collection is the "Old Menorah Clock," which occupied the lobby of the first Menorah Hospital when it opened on Rockhill Road in Kansas City, Missouri in 1931. This was the master clock and all the other clocks in that hospital were synchronized to have the same time. The hospital moved to Overland Park in 1996. Menorah Medical Center Museum - Overland Park, Kansas Menorah Medical Center Museum
 
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