Kansas Travel Blog

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's adventures while exploring and photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact Keith at sfreader@sff.net.

Saturday - January 31, 2009:  Saturday several friends joined me at WheatFields Bakery and Cafe in Lawrence, Kansas for lunch. Although I had purchased baked goods to go, I hadn't dined at Wheatfield's is a few years and it is due for mention on this site. I had fairly good acorn squash soup and a cordon bleu sandwich (shaved ham, fresh spinach, caramelized onions and Maytag Blue cheese grilled on fresh sourdough). The Sandwich was good, but could have benefited from an interesting mustard.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the restaurant.

Then we went to Allen Fieldhouse on the University of Kansas campus to tour the Booth Family Hall of Athletics before the KU-Colorado basketball game, The Booth Hall is a museum devoted to KU sports history. It is billed at 26,000 square feet, but the museum is less tha a quarter of that space which includes a smaller gift shop.

The display case with national championship trophies always had a large crowd packed in front of it and I will need to return on a non-game day to photograph that.

We had reserved seats, but they were only benches. Still it was nice not having to stand the entire game like we did in GA 2 weeks ago. KU was supposed to blow out Colorado, but went from a 21 point lead, to a 2 point lead, before recovering and winning by 5.

That was KU's 36th consecutive home win, which is the longest active streak in the NCAA. Most of KU players graduated last year (5 were drafted by the NBA), and there is only one player on the team who has lost a game in Allen Field House.

We were please to see Scott J. Jones, resident bishop of the Kansas Area of the United Methodist Church, and his wife Mary Lou Reece saitting just 3 rows in front of us.

Following the game, two of us had supper at Gran-Daddy's Barbeque in Lawrence. It recently relocated and shares its entrance with a liquor store. The menu was very limited, just ribs, sausage, 6 sandwiches and 4 sides. The sausage was spicy and good, band the ribs were probably the best item we tried.

The fries and BBQ pork were average.

 

WheatFields Bakery and Cafe - Lawrence, Kansas
WheatFields Bakery
and Cafe

Booth Family Hall of Athletics
Booth Family
Hall of Athletics
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gran-Daddy's Barbeque - Lawrence, Kansas
Gran-Daddy's Barbeque 

Friday - January 30, 2009:  Preparing to launch a new page devoted to Kansas City BBQ, I revisited LC's BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri. The ribs were slightly crunchy on the outside, but still juicy and well flavored. 

The fresh cut fries are big, perhaps three times larger than a typical French fry. They taste good, but I believe they would be better if they were smaller. The little slivers that were more cooked, were the best. I think they add a bit of sugar to their fries.

The sauce is too red. It looks almost like ketchup. At first taste almost too sweet. but I think the sauce does a nice job of complimenting the meat.

 

LC's ribs and French fries LC's BBQ ribs and fries
Thursday - January 29, 2009:  Lunch today was at the Stonewall Inn in Lenexa, Kansas. I last dined there in July, shortly after it changed hands. 

I have long loved the feel of the Stoneswall, which reminds me of an old English pub. I don't think there are two straight lines in the building. The building has a tradition of being haunted and staff have shared some of their stories in the past.

The food was always very inexpensive, but uninspired. During my last visit, the prices had crept up, but the food seemed the same. But that has changed.

I was very happy with the Signature Patty Melt which I had today. It was cooked to order correctly, and getting a medium rare burger in this area is not easy. The fresh cut shoestring French fries were also good. Not cheap at $7.95, but not out of line. Iced tea was only $1.50.

Looks like I will need to go there again.

Today's Kansas City Star reports that Amor de Brazil in Overland Park closed a couple of weeks ago and has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Amor de Brazil was created by the late Al Copeland, founder of the Popeye's Chicken chain. Former Kansas City Chief Neil Smith was one of the investors. 

I am sorry to see this steakhouse close. At $45 a person before drinks, I didn't go there often, but I thoroughly enjoyed the food and experience each time. 

The Star says there are nearly $50,000 in unredeemed gift certificates held by former customers.

 

Stonewall Inn - Lenexa, Kansas
Stonewall Inn
Monday - January 26, 2009:  My contributor's copies of a couple of publications arrived today.

One of my photos of Rock City near Minneapolis, Kansas was included in the 2009 textbook Math Concepts Course 2 by McGraw Hill.

Meanwhile the entire article about the Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs was reprinted in the February Newsletter of the Western Plains Arts Association.
 
 


 

Sunday - January 25, 2009:  Each January I review and update every page on this website. As KansasTravel.org gets bigger, that takes more time and I may not be able to compete it in one month this year.

One of the interesting changes I discovered this day is that the U. S. Center Chapel at the Geographical Center of the United States was destroyed last summer when a car missed the turn at the T intersection. If anyone knows if it has since been replaced, please email me.

For supper, two friends joined me at Wallabys Grill & Pub Restaurant in Lenexa, Kansas. The food was good (if a bit slow) and my friends were impressed at how reasonable the prices were.

I had the Sydney Sizzler, a grilled to order filet with fried mushrooms, onions & peppers, which came with the choice of two sides and garlic toast for $8.99.

 

Geographical Center of the United States
Geographical Center
of the United States
Saturday - January 24, 2009:  I joined friends for supper at the newest pizza shop in Lenexa, Kansas: Mafia Mike's Pizza at 87th Street and Lackman Road. My friends were fairly happy with the Mike's All Meat pie and a custom pizza (olive oil, sun dried Roma tomatoes, and provolone) but we were a bit disappointed by the meat combination (pepperoni, canadian bacon, sausage & beef) and thought regular bacon might have improved it. 

Also there was only a little provolone on the build your own pizza, most of the cheese was mozzarella so it didn't have the flavor we were hoping for.

Mafia Mike's has a weekday pizza buffet.

 

Mafia Mike's Pizza - Lenexa, Kansas Pizza at Mafia Mike's
Friday - January 23, 2009:  Today I tried Ping's Chinese Restaurant in Olathe for the very first time. It is one of the few restaurants near the courthouse and downtown. There is no buffet, but they have many lunch specials at $4.95-5.50 complete. For only $5,25 I had General Tso's Chicken, choice of soup, choice or rice, crab Rangoon and egg roll. With iced tea and tax it came to only $7.26!

The soup was a bit bland, but the rest was all good. The service was also good.

They offer 38 different complete lunches for $5.50 or less. On Monday - Thursday, Ping's offers 16 carry out complete dinners for $5.99.

 

Ping's Chinese Restaurant in Olathe, Kansas
Ping's Chinese
Restaurant
Thursday - January 22, 2009:  For lunch today, a friend joined me in trying the Longbranch Steakhouse Saloon in Lenexa, Kansas. It was the first time I have dined there in about 20 years. I had the Thursday lunch special, an open face prime rib sandwich. It came with potatoes and green beans. My friend had a steak sandwich (1/2 lb. Sirloin on a sourdough bun).

The meat was properly cooked on both sandwiches, but the sides were only so-so. The service was very good.

 

Longbranch Steakhouse Saloon in Lenexa, Kansas.
Longbranch Steakhouse
Saloon
Wednesday - January 21, 2009:  For lunch today, I made a second visit to the Old 56 Family Restaurant in Olathe, Kansas. I tried the open face cheeseburger topped with chili and an order of waffle fries. The burger was fairly good. The fries are frozen and average. 

Old 56 doesn't bake its own pies, they are made by Golden Boy Pies in Overland Park. I tried the sour cream raisin, but wasn't impressed.
 

In the evening saw the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ted Neeley was reprising the role of Jesus, which he played in the movie 36 years ago. I was willing to overlook a 65 year old man playing someone half his age, but found his performance mediocre and the overall production disappointing. Even costumes and lighting were poorly done.

Craig Sculli (Pontius Pilate) was probably the best performer and Darrel Whitney did a good job with the very low notes sung by Caiaphas.

Mark Bartelli's performance of Herod seemed popular with the audience, but was my biggest disappointment. Herod's song was more spoken than musical and he was a just a stereotype. The number was so much fun in the original cast album and the movie.

Of the four people who saw the show with me, and another couple who went the same night. I probably liked it the most. Three said is was the poorest professional live show that they had ever seen.

Part of the audience did respond enthusiastically. I can only guess that they are fans of Neeley or have seen few professional theatre productions.

I did appreciate Neeley breaking character and speaking to the audience for a couple of minutes at the end of the curtain call.

It has been a while since I have been in the Midland and I was sorry to discover that the comfortable seats have been replaced with folding chairs. It is still a beautiful building, but the seats are inferior, are crammed together and have no arm rests.

BTW: ACDC was performing at the nearby Sprint Center the same night and all of the parking garages had signs saying "Event Parking $10." But the person who took our money asked us where we going, and when we said "the Midland" only charged us $2 to park.

 

 
Monday - January 19, 2009:  This evening I attended my first basketball game at the University of Kansas' Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. Prior to the game, I toured part of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, a 26,000 square foot museum attached to the east side of the arena. The museum is only three years old and is a must visit for serious college basketball fans. 

Although I took a number of photographs, there wasn't time for me to properly tour the facility.

The game against Texas A&M was expected to be close, but Kansas dominated from the start. I enjoyed observing the many traditions of a KU basketball game, though I would have preferred not having to stand to watch the game over the tops of the many students standing in front of me in the general admission section.

The half time featured Krystal Liu of The Red Panda Acrobats on a tall unicycle. Her brief performance was very good and received a standing ovation. 

 

Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas
Allen Fieldhouse
Tuesday - January 13, 2009:  I was going to have lunch today at Tannahs Asian Fusion in Olathe, Kansas. But when I arrived at the restaurant, there were signs saying that Tannahs would be closed temporarily starting Monday, January 12.

But it doesn't look encouraging. When I looked in the window, I could see that the furnishings were gone - and I think this place was too new and nice to need a remodeling.

 

 
Sunday - January 11, 2009:  I had lunch at the Kansas City Public House in Overland Park, Kansas. This used to be WJ McBride's Irish Pub & Restaurant, but McBride's closed 18 months ago and this bar and grill opened just before St. Patrick's Day. They are still going for Irish in the decor, but a little less so.

When I learned that Public House has half price appetizers all day on Sunday, I changed my order and ended up with three appetizers: Public House Wings, Public House Buffalo Queso, and shepherd's pie potato skins.

The potato skins were my favorite and a dish I want to have again. 

The wings were available in Guinness BBQ, mild, medium, hot and wild. They were big wings like those at the Peanut and the flavor was good. I had hot, but think next time I will try the BBQ. They were 3 for $5.50, or $2.25 on Sunday.

They describe the queso as aged cheddar cheese with a touch of hot buffalo sauce, topped with apple wood smoked bacon, and served with fresh homemade kettle chips. The chips were great, but I didn't think the queso had much flavor. Perhaps it would have better with the bacon (which was missing).

The service was good.

 

Kansas City Public House in Overland Park, Kansas
Kansas City
Public House
Saturday - January 10, 2009:  Saturday morning was cold but clear.

My first stop was at the 1887 St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hays, Kansas. But a service was in progress, so I left without taking photos.

Next I went to First United Methodist Church of Hays. Although much newer (1949) this church is large and beautiful. A brochure about the churches in and around Hays said First United Methodist Church was open daily, but the brochure was wrong. However, I got lucky and the pastor was in the building and let me in. Pastor Jerry showed me around the main floor and turned on the sanctuary lights for better photos.

Then I traveled about 3 blocks to the Stone Gallery where the artist Pete Felten showed me around his two story gallery and studio. Felten is a self taught artist who sculpts, makes pottery, paints, takes photographs, and works in other media.

Felton moves from project to project with many things going at once. Two of the most interesting current projects are a bathroom that he is decorating with tile, and a fence on the edge of the property that he has been working on for years. Pete is interesting as well as creative.

Leaving Hays, I headed southeast, stopping briefly in Munjor, Kansas to photograph the exterior of St. Francis Catholic Church. This lovely 1890 stone building is only open for mass or by appointment.

Then farther southeast to Pfeifer, Kansas where the magnificent 1918 Holly Cross Church towers 165 feet above the 20 or so homes surrounding it. Although the parish was dissolved in 1993, the Pfeifer community still maintains the building and keeps it open daily.

There was some scaffolding in the sanctuary for painting to be done, but it did not take away from the beauty of the structure. I was particularly taken with a smaller stain glass window which showed the church, wheat, and a sunflower.

Before leaving Pfeifer I stopped at the Holy Cross Church Cemetery, a couple of blocks away at the edge of the community. The neat small cemetery has grave markers dating back over 100 years. Many of them are ornate Volga German iron crosses. The "Wolgadeutsche" who settled much of this area of Kansas were German speaking people from the Volga River area of south Russia.

Driving north to Victoria, Kansas, I made a point of visiting more of the community, not just the Cathedral of the Plains which I had photographed the night before. The first stop was a tiny cemetery with memorials to railroad workers who were killed by Cheyenne Indians in 1867, and to the 5 brothers and sisters in the Seth family who died of Typhoid Fever in 1873.

Although I hadn't planned on visiting quite so many cemeteries, I next visited Victoria's slightly larger English Cemetery which includes a large memorial to George Grant who founded Victoria and brought the first aberdeen angus cattle to the United States. In addition to the monument with a cow on top, there are two head stones for Grant. One says he lived from 1823-1879. The other says 1822-1878. This might make a good Kansas trivia question.

Then across town to a cemetery I had planned to visit, the much larger St. Fidelis Cemetery. Although this one had many more of the Volga iron crosses, I think the Holy Cross Cemetery setting is worth driving farther (from I-70).

All of that was done by 1PM!

Now back on the freeway, I drove east to Wilson, Kansas where I had lunch at Made From Scratch. This was my second visit to Made from Scratch and I enjoyed the food more this time.

The Saturday German buffet lunch was already being taken down, so I ordered from the menu. The hot roast beef sandwich was good. The mashed potatoes that came with it were homemade, but they were lumpy and I didn't care much for them. For dessert I had a slice of raisin cream pie. The pie wasn't very fresh, but the flavor was great and I would get it again.

I visited two specialty food businesses in Wilson. Wilson Family Foods is a small market and hardware that has its own specialty smoked meats. I purchased beef stick, spicy beef stick, ring bologna, and die alte landjaeger. The die alte landjaeger was my favorite meat of the bunch. Although I haven't cared a lot for milder German sausages, this one had great flavor.

The other stop was a few doors away at Sincerely Yours Gift Shop. It is a combination flower shop and bakery, but I was disappointed to learn that the bakery is only open on weekdays. The nice young woman, in the flower shop, unlocked the bakery to show me around. They had a few frozen baked goods and I purchased a scone which proved very good when I ate it later in the weekend.

Back on I-70, I photographed the Smoky Hills Wind Farm which runs along the north side of I-70 for many miles in Lincoln and Ellsworth Counties.

East of Salina, I turned north to drive to Longford, Kansas. I followed back roads southwest of town to photograph Smithalo, a 60 ton concrete buffalo crowning a ridge. Ray Omar Smith built this monument and some other oddities that cannot be seen from the public road. I hope to get permission to return and take closer photos on another day.

My last stop in Longford was the Coachlight Restaurant. The restaurant currently has no sign, and I drove past it twice before finally picking it out on the south side on the main street. I liked their fried chicken much more than the chicken I had the night before, but the French fries and roll were just average

 


 
 
 
 
 
 

Pete Felten
Pete Felten reflected in
the bathroom mirror
 
 
 

Holly Cross Church - Pfeifer, Kansas
Holly Cross Church
 
 
 
 
 
 

Volga German iron crosses - Holly Cross Church
Volga German
iron crosses 

Friday - January 9, 2009:  Friday afternoon I left work a little early and headed west to Hay's Kansas (260 miles). I made only one stop along the way in Bunker Hill, a community of about 100 people, that is just a mile north of I-70.

The Bunker Hill Cafe was one of my first discoveries when I started exploring Kansas. It is a steak house in a somewhat disreputable looking old limestone building. The Cafe is open just 4 evening a week and specializes in beef, elk, buffalo, and seafood. Cuts of meet are available from 2 ounces to over 16 ounces and it easy to add a second meat to a meal.

I was planning on sampling a second restaurant later in the evening, so I settled of a 7 ounce elk filet. It was well done, rather than the medium I requested. But it was still juicy and I have no complaints. The fresh baked bread was hot and wonderful, as usual.

As I neared Hays, I decided to make a quick stop at the Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria to take some night photos of the church. I was disappointed to find that no flood lights light this beautiful structure, but did experiment with photos of the church and nearly full moon.

After checking into my motel. I visited Al's Chickenette in Hays. The little 58 year old chicken restaurant has a wonderful old neon sign and a lot of history. The chicken was a bit better than I recalled from my last visit in 2006, but not a real standout. I thought the spicy chicken wings were a bit better than the fried chicken. The fresh cut, shoestring French fries were my favorite part of the meal.

 


Bunker Hill Cafe
 
 

Cathedral of the Plains in moonlight
Cathedral of the Plains

Fried chicken at Al's Chickenette in Hays
two piece fried chicken
meal

Wednesday - January 7, 2009:  Finally tried Smokin' Guns BBQ in North Kansas City. Some people have suggested that this is the best BBQ in the metropolitan area, but their limited hours 10AM - 6PM Monday through Friday had kept me from getting there before.

The neat old building is filled with trophies and ribbons from many BBQ contests the owners have won. I ordered at the register and the food was brought to my table within 3 or 4 minutes. 

I had a combination of baby back ribs with two meats and two sides. I chose beef & sausage, and French fries and beans. All of the items were good, but none were real stand outs. The baby back ribs were my favorite item.

There were two sauces on the table - regular and mild. I found both of them mild, with little to tell between them. In addition to salt and pepper, there was a shaker with Smokin' Guns rub on the table. The rub has brown sugar, paprika, salt and spices. It did add flavor to the meal. The rub and sauce are available to order on Smokin' Guns web site.

The BBQ combination meal was $14, which seemed a bit high for a meal that you eat with a plastic fork.

Following the meal, I went to the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow at Bartle Hall. This show has shrunk in recent years. It appeared there was a bit less than 1/2 the exhibit space there was 2 years ago. I found only 4 booths with Kansas related displays.

 

Smokin' Guns BBQ - North Kanas City, Missouri
Smokin' Guns BBQ
 
 
 


Combination meal

Tuesday - January 6, 2009:  Added a new page devoted to the Animaland children's playground near the Topeka Zoo.

For lunch I returned to the Thai Treasure Restaurant in Overland Park. This is definitely the best Thai food I have found in metropolitan Kansas City. Although it lacks the features that would place it on the Unique Kansas Restaurants list, it will receive a separate page and be added to the Overland Park Restaurant Guide.

Only problem is they are shorthanded. Service was extremely slow through the whole meal. After waiting a very long time, I still hadn't received my bill, so I went to the bar to get the server's attention. It still took another 10 minutes to pay.

 

 
Saturday - January 3, 2009:  Visited Bilski's Bar and Grill near the intersection of Merriam Drive and Johnson Drive in Merriam, Kansas. Although I haven't seen any reviews of this neighborhood bar and grill, Charles Ferruzza has said nice things about Bilski's on the Walt Bodine radio show.

He has particularly recommended their daily Polish specials, but there was none this day. So I had a cup of chili, pork tenderloin and French fries. The tenderloin was hand breaded, but not really special - very thin and the coating was a bit too hard.

The best things were the quirky local atmosphere and the chili. Although I added hot sauce to spice up the chili, I would definitely get it again.

The most unusual feature was hanging on the wall behind me - a divorce decree from March 2006. When I asked my waitress about its significance, she said it was hers. She put it on the wall at her brother's suggestion.

Added a new page devoted to the Henderson family Christmas display in Lawrence, Kansas.

 

Bilski's Bar and Grill - Merriam, Kansas
Bilski's Bar and Grill
 

Bilski's Bar and Grill dinning room

Friday - January 2, 2009:  My first meal of the new year was going to be at Big Bubba's BBQ in Olathe, Kansas, but I arrived only to find that Big Bubba's has permanently closed. Although Olathe still has three fine BBQ restaurants,  I am sorry to see any restaurant fold.

This is a reminder to make a point of at least visiting a few of your favorite restaurants during these poor economic times. Otherwise, they may soon close.

Instead, I had lunch at Austin's Bar & Grill. The Friday special was a generous serving of chicken tenders and French fries. I chose to have the tenders Buffalo style with bleu cheese dressing on the side. This is one of my favorite meals at Austin's.
 

 

 
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