Kansas Travel Blog
September 2008

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

Trail Days Bakery Cafe in Council Grove, Kansas
Tuesday - September 30, 2008:  Added a page devoted to Cafe Venezuela.

Tried out the newest Smokehouse Bar-B-Que restaurant, which is located in Overland Park, Kansas. This was the second Kansas city area Smokehouse I have visited in the past few months.

Smokehouse seems to be filling much the same niche as Jack Stack Barbecue, but is just a little less expensive or polished. The meats were heavily covered with the sauce, which tasted like ketchup with celery seasoning. No sauce is on the table or served on the side.

I ordered the Chef's Special for $15.55: It was a large serving of food including one beef rib, two pork ribs, 1/2 of a small chicken and sausage served with coleslaw & French fries. The chicken was my favorite item.

Although smoke can be smelled through out the restaurant, the meat had little or no flavor from the smoking process. Overall, I found the food slightly above average and the service slightly below. I think Smokehouse is more likely to appeal to the casual BBQ eater than to BBQ aficionados. There are far too many other good BBQ choices in metro KC for me to return here soon.


Smokehuse BBQ dinning Room - Overland Park, Kansas
Smokehouse BBQ

Saturday - September 27, 2008:  Added a page devoted to the Big Well in Greensburg, Kansas.

Saturday I visited a couple of restaurants in Kansas City, Kansas. 

The first was Cafe Venezuela, a restaurant that is only about 12 by 45 feet. There are two tables and a long counter where about a dozen people may sit. The menu has items from many Latin American countries including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica. 

The owner, Jose Garcia, told me that Cafe Venezuela will be remodeled this fall, adding a couple more tables and a doorway to the rest room so that customers will no longer have to pass through the kitchen. The name will also be changing - Jose says that too many people assume that he serves only Venezuelan food. He also intendeds to expand the menu, but I think he has been intending to do that for a long time.

I can't recall the name of the daily special that I tried, but it was fried plantain shaped like a long boat, with spiced ground steak. It came with beans, rice and a coleslaw like side salad. It was very good.

I am looking forward to revisiting Cafe Venezuela in the late fall.

Later in the day, I stumbled across Mr. Epps Barbeque while driving along Kaw Drive in western Kansas City. The small interesting restaurant has been open about 3 years, but until Terry Epps recently quit his former job, the restaurant was open only irregularly.  Although Halloween was still over a month away, Mr. Epps already had many decorations.

I ordered "Randy's Mini Mix Plate." For $10 it was supposed to be 2 ribs, 2 chicken wings, sausage and fries. Terry was out wings, so I substituted beef. It was much more food than I could eat in one setting (and I had eaten only a couple of hours earlier), so most of it went home with me. The best items in the combination were the fresh, seasoned fries and the beef. But the sausage was also very good. But the ribs were nearly charred - dry, tough and so smoke flavored that the taste stayed in my mouth for hours.

The other stop in Kansas City, Kansas was the Grinter Place State Historic Site near the Kansas River. The two story brick house was completed in 1857 by Moses Grinter, who operated a ferry across the river. The building has had significant recent restoration and is currently only partially furnished.



Cafe Venezuela - Kansas City. Kansas
Cafe Venezuela

Mr. Epps Barbeque - Kansas City, Kansas
Mr. Epps Barbeque

Grinter Place State Historic Place
Grinter Place

Thursday - September 25, 2008:  Added a page devoted to Brobecks Barbeque in Overland Park, Kansas. Restored the page devoted to the Smoky Hill Museum in Salina, Kansas which had accidentally dropped off this website.

Received my contributors copy of the fall issue of Kansas Traveler. It has the first article in a series that I am writing about Kansas Waterfalls.


Wednesday - September 24, 2008:  Added a page devoted to Grandma Hoerner's Foods in Alma, Kansas.
Tuesday - September 23, 2008:  Added a page devoted to Kroegers Country Meats & Deli in Lecompton, Kansas. This is the 4th recent addition to the page devoted to Kansas Specialty Foods.
Monday - September 22, 2008:  Added a page devoted to Rees Fruit Farm near Topeka, Kansas. Restored missing links to Bow's Studio and Gallery in Abilene, Kansas. Somehow that page had become an orphan with no pages pointing to it.
Saturday - September 20, 2008: I went exploring Saturday morning, starting at the Lawrence Farmer's market, then on to Topeka, Kansas. I stopped by First Presbyterian Church to photograph their Tiffany windows, but the building was closed, so I just took some exterior shots.

The next stop was Elegant Temptations, a bakery at Gage and 3rd that was recommended by Bob and Inga Bow who have the Bow Studio and Gallery in Abilene. Carlos Serrano may do a wonderful job, but all that he had to offer were cakes, which wasn't what I was looking for. 

Since I was in the neighborhood, I visited Gage Park to photograph the animal statues at Animaland (not a typo), across from the Topeka Zoo.

Next was a stop at the Topeka farmer's market, where there were a number of vendors that interested me and I got some leads for specialty food makers in Kansas.

And on to the Cider Days Fall Festival at the Kansas Expocentre. This was the 26th year for the festival, which was originally held at Lake Perry, 30 miles away, and later at Lake Shawnee near Topeka. There are two halls of arts and crafts exhibits/ Outside there are pioneer demonstrations, food and entertainment. Many of the craft booths appeared to have items the exhibitors had purchased and I didn't spend long in that crowded space.

The outdoor area interested me more. included 2 or 3 food vendors that I might have tried, but they had very long lines and I decided not to stay. I saw only one apple cider vendor, but they were getting $8/half gallon.

On my way back to Lawrence, I decided to stop at Kroeger's Country Meats & Deli in the small community of Lecompton, Kansas. They had a stand at the Topeka Farmer's Market, and I decided to check on the local market which makes its own sausage and beef jerky. It is a neat little place and I had a Polish sausage, and a bacon sandwich. The bacon and some of the sausages came from Fanestil Packing in Emporia and I may need to check them out.

In Lawrence, I met friends downtown. Saturday was the annual mass band day at the University of Kansas, and the bands were having a parade down Massachusetts Avenue. A great way to expand the appearance by the bands. I was surprised how many of the bands appeared no larger than the tiny high school band that I was in 36 years ago in northern Michigan.

That evening we watched KU defeat Sam Houston State 38-14 at football.


Lawrence Farmers' Market
Worm casting tea seller
Lawrence Farmers

Topeka's Gage Park
Gage Park

Exhbit Hall at Cider Days Fall Festival in Topeka, Kansas
Cider Days Fall Festival

Friday - September 19, 2008:    Friday I slipped out of work a little early to join friends. We drove to Lawrence and had a early supper at the Free State Brewery - one of my favorite places in Lawrence.

We split an order of onion rings as an appetizer. The order was so big that we had to struggle to finish it. My beef Wellington was good. The scalloped potatoes were even better. Everyone enjoyed their meal and (perhaps because of the onion rings) we all had more than we good eat.

Then over to the stadium at Haskell Indian Nations University where Shawnee Mission West High School was playing Lawrence. Lawrence scored on their first possession, but West responded with 35 unanswered points. This was the first HS football game I have seen in years and I had a great time.


Monday - September 15, 2008:    Added a new page devoted to the Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe.


Saturday - September 13, 2008:    Spent the previous night at the Ramada Inn Downtown in Topeka, Kansas. When preparing for the trip, A couple of people had suggested that the Ramada might have declined and/or be in a seedy neighborhood. I had no problem with either of those. Everything was fine except the bed, which was way too soft.

The breakfast buffet included with the room included bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes as well as the usual continental breakfast items. All were good.

This would be a day of visiting specialty food places and I found several that will be added to the Kansas Specialty Foods page. The first stop of the day was a revisit to C.W. Porubsky Grocery and Meats to pick up some of their wonderful horseradish pickles. I got a gallon for myself and a smaller container for a friend.

Then on to Alma, Kansas, where the first of three stops was a revisit of Grandma Hoerner's. I was accompanied by a friend who had never been to this factory and store, and she ended up filling a case with various preserves, jellies and apple sauce. I limited my purchases to pumpkin butter. At least 30 items made on premise were available for sampling. Almost too many. By the end, my friend was selecting items to buy, without sampling.

The second spot we visited in Alma was Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe. It smelled wonderful! The owner and her son were friendly and we left with cookies, various types of nut brittle, cinnamon buns and bread. The prices are very reasonable!

Last of all, was a revisit of Alma Creamery. The first time I visited Alma Creamery, the only item available for sampling was pepper jack cheese, which I do not care for. The prices seemed a little high at that time, and I decided not to buy high price cheeses that I didn't know what they tasted like.

But this time there were several cheeses available for sampling. The prices have remained about the same, but dairy products have gone up other places and Alma Creamery's prices seem more reasonable. We left with bags of cheeses plus some summer sausage & elk jerky that came from a firm in Alta Vista, Kansas.

As we approached Alta Vista on Kansas Highway 4, we saw an elk herd on a farm next to the highway. I wonder if it is the same place the sausage and jerky came from.

At Alta Vista, we turned off for just a couple of minutes to confirm that Ag Heritage Park is still operating. This private collection of hundreds of farm implements and much more is only open by appointment.

Then on to Council Grove, Kansas to Trail Days Bakery Cafe which I was unaware of, until a recent email from one of the staff. The small complex of old buildings is a combination museum, cafe and bakery. The staff wear period costumes and are friendly and enthusiastic. I found the dishes we tried at lunch to be average, but very reasonably priced. We didn't try any of the dishes recommended by our server, so I might have been more impressed with things we didn't try.

We had to hurry back to Topeka for an appointment, but tried one more place on the way out of town. Rees Fruit Farm. Rees has been operated by the Rees family since 1901. We had apple slushes which a friend told me she loved to get at Rees 35 years ago. In addition to cider, we purchased preserves made for the farm and I bought a wonderful rhubarb pie which came from Washington, Kansas. 

Sadly, Rees apple cider is pasteurized and has preservatives. I have been unable to find a cider mill that will sell natural cider, closer than Iowa. If you know of any places in eastern Kansas, please email me.



Grandma Hoerner's
Grandma Hoerner's

Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe
Alma Bakery and
Sweet Shoppe

Alma Creamery
Alma Creamery

Trail Days Bakery Cafe
Trail Days Bakery Cafe

Friday - September 12, 2008:    Drove to Topeka, Kansas on Friday evening where a group of us had supper at Boss Hawg's Barbeque on 29th Street. All of the food was good, though none of the 4 meats I sampled were outstanding. My favorite items were the corn bread and the French fries. The baked beans were also good.

Prices were a little high, but not too far out of line. Service was good, with one exception. The server brought one of the items with the wrong ribs (spare instead of short) and resisted correcting the bill to reflect the difference in price.

I will definitely eat at Boss Hawg's again, though I probably wouldn't go far out of my way to stop there. It will probably be added to the list of other restaurants were visiting on the Unique Kansas Restaurants page, but there was nothing to place it among the unique.


Sunday - September 7, 2008:    Revisited two Kansas City area restaurants, Granny's Chicken Ranch in the Legends complex in Kansas City, Kansas and Fiorella's Jack Stack BBQ in Overland Park, Kansas. 

Fiorella's was already listed on the list of other restaurants worth visiting on the bottom of the Kansas Travel Unique Kansas Restaurants page and keeps its status. After this second visit and the chance to sample 2 more entrees, Granny's will soon be added to the "unique portion of the list.


Saturday - September 6, 2008:    Made my annual visit to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in Boner Springs, Kansas. This time I was accompanied by several friends, so we were able to sample a wider range of foods. Those that seemed the most popular with our group included turkey legs, apple fritters, apple dumplings, crepes, pickles (only $1!), and fish & chips. I enjoyed the hard cider available on tap.

It wasn't the best day for taking photos  The day started overcast and turned rainy, but we still stayed for about 7 hours. Purchases were limited to jewelry, wax hands and items to complete a Halloween costume.

We saw several of the free shows that are continuously running. Those most popular with our party were Bob the Incredible Juggler and Dr. Dumpe the Fire Eater.


Kansas City Renaissance Festival
 Renaissance Festival
main entrance

Dr. Dumpe the Fire Eater

Thursday - September 4, 2008:    Added new page devoted to the Meade County Historical Museum in Meade Kansas.


Tuesday - September 2, 2008:    Added new pages devoted to the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade Kansas, the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Goessel, Kansas, and the Kauffman Museum in North Newton, Kansas.

Tried a new Chinese restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas: Mandarinism. The restaurant has had quite a bit of positive buzz from the Kansas City area reviewers. The food was good, but pricey. I look forward to trying Mandarinism again.


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