Kansas Travel Blog

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

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Chanute-Wright Brothers
Sunday - February 26, 2011:  We spent the night at The Peaceable Inn (B&B) on 15 acres in the outskirts of
Chanute. We liked almost everything about the Peaceable Inn, particularly the food. The only disappointment was that year around hot tub just outside our suite had been shut down for the winter.

A plate of very good chocolate chip cookies was waiting for us in the room and the breakfast was very good. The girls loved the scones, biscuits, egg soufflé and a dish made with whole grapes, cream cheese and granola. The bacon was the only thing that could have been cooked better.

We had a lazy start to the day, watching the birds during a leisurely breakfast and walking the grounds to enjoy the much warmer weather. 

We made one stop on the way out of Chanute, at the Chanute-Wright Brothers Memorial which honors engineer and city namesake, Octave Chanute, and the Wright Brothers. Chanute was a mentor to Wilbur and Orville Wright and very influential in the early days of flight exploration. The nice little park has a metal frame replica of the first airplane suspended on a mobile in the air.

Crossing southeast Kansas toward Pittsburg, we made a couple of stops. The first one was to confirm that Dinosaur Not So National Park near Erie was still there. Robert Dorris, who created the wonderful scrap metal sculptures died two years ago, but the family has left them in place.

They second stop was at St. Aloysius Historic Site in Greenbush where a church and church ruins sit side by side. The 1887 St. Aloysius Church was replaced by a larger building in 1907, but the newer building was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1982 and the congregation returned to the older building. It is very picturesque.

Many of the good locally owned restaurants in the Pittsburg are closed on Sunday. But we dined at one of the more famous restaurants in southeast Kansas, Chicken Mary's. Chicken Mary's has operated from this location since 1945 as one of several well known chicken restaurants in Crawford County. The restaurant has a great history and is a great value, but we were not impressed with the food or service.

To begin with, the presentation was poor, the food wasn't attractive and the plates have dividers like you might find in a grade school cafeteria and don't make the food more attractive. The sides were served in small disposable plates. The bread, mashed potatoes and onion rings tasted fairly good, but the fried chicken and fried chicken hearts were just OK. 

The worst part was the service. One of us was brought the wrong side dish. Each of the other three of us had to remind our server about dishes he never brought. He took one of our empty beverages to refill it and never brought it back. When we would flag him down and ask for things, he didn't even apologize.

On the road to Chicken Mary's we discovered the Mined Land Wildlife Area Bison Herd. Mined Land Wildlife Area Number1 is located at the junction of U.S. 69 and U.S. 160 just north of Pittsburg.

Our last stop at the Crawford County Historical Society Museum. This museum is much larger than the one we visited the previous day and more thought iss given to the displays, than at many of the historical museums across Kansas. 

It was nice and warm in Pittsburg, about 67 degrees when we started back home. But about 40 miles south of KC the temperature started dropping and it was only 38 when we got home.

 


 

Birds at the Peacable Inn in Chanute, Kansas cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Chanute-Wright Brothers Memorial Chanute-Wright Brothers Memorial
 

St. Aloysius Church - Greenbush, Kansas St. Aloysius Church ruins

Chicken Mary's -  Pittsburg, Kansas Chicken Mary's
 
 
 

Mined Land Wildlife Area Bison Herd American bison (Bison bison)
 

Crawford County Historical Society Museum Pittsburg, Kansas Crawford County Historical Society Museum

Saturday - February 26, 2011:  Four of us traveled to SE Kansas this morning.  There had been sleet overnight and our driveway was so slick that I had to hold on to the van to stay upright while scraping the windows. We passed many vehicles which had run off the road as we headed south out of town.

Lunch was at The Prairie Nut Hut in Altoona. In the two years since my last visit to the Prairie Nut Hut, one of the owners had died and the hours have greatly shortened. But I was pleased to discover that nothing else had changed. The burgers, home style fries and mountain oysters are still very good. Many of those restaurants which serve mountain oysters serve pre prepared meat that is tough, but these were tender and perfect.

We continued to Fredonia where we were met at the Stone House, an art gallery run by the Fredonia Arts Council. It is closed on weekends (everything in downtown Fredonia is closed on weekends), but I had arranged appointments to visit the Stone House and the nearby Wilson County Historical Museum. 

The Stone House was between special exhibits, but there was still a modest display from the permanent collection. Some of the art was quite interesting, but the works were not labeled.

The historical museum was more interesting than I expected. Not so much for the typical collection of whatever people had donated, but for the building itself. It had been the home of the county sheriff and the jail until the 1960s. The cells now contain collections of items that don't tell much of a story, but they are interesting for the cells themselves.

But both the museum and art gallery are housed in fine old buildings.

We took advantage of our time in Fredonia to visit some of Linda's family, joining her uncle to watch the KU men's basketball game. We visited an aunt after the game, but in between the two stops, we had a snack at the Tri-Mee Drive In. The girls had ice cream and I had onion rings and the "beef burger" which the restaurant is known for. The beef burger is kind of a cross between the loose hamburger of a Maid Rite or Nu-Way, and potted meat. Given a choice between the three, I would pick Nu-Way.

Supper was late, in the tiny town of Toronto, Kansas where Courtney's Places fills an old hardware store building with an ice cream parlor, pizza shop, tea room, bakery and pasta house. Reservations are required on weekend evenings. They had suggested 7PM. I asked for 7:30 and they offered 7:45 because they had a party of 10 arriving at 7:30. We should have gone with the earlier time - they were extremely slow and our food didn't come until 9:15. But the food was good. The girls liked the pasta diner specials (meat & 3 cheese manicotti and chicken parmesan on a bed of pasta).

There wasn't enough filling in my stromboli (chicken with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, ricotta and mozzarella cheese) and, left much to itself, the crust was not that good. The bread - fresh baked herb sticks - came with a "ranchero" sauce which worked well with the bread. 

The desserts were a hit - raspberry, chocolate cheese cake and a very rich dish with ice cream on a slice of gooey peanut butter fudge sheet cake.

 

The Prairie Nut Hut in Altoona, Kansas The Prairie Nut Hut
 
 

Stone House - Fredonia, Kansas Stone House
 

Wilson County Historical Museum - Fredonia, Kansas Wilson County Historical Museum
 

Tri-Mee Drive In - Fredonia, Kansas Tri-Mee Drive In
 

Courtney's Places - Toronto, Kansas Courtney's Places

Saturday - February 19, 2011:  We had lunch at Smoke'N Babes BBQ in Gardner. The indoor dining area is small, with 4 tables, but we were there early and able to snag a table.

The meats here are a little spicier than most KC are barbecue restaurants and I think that works well. The best items sampled were the chili sweet chicken wings, onion rings and cheesy corn bake. 

 

Smoke'N Babes BBQ - Gardner, Kansas Smoke'N Babes BBQ
Friday - February 18, 2011:  We had supper at the Longbranch Steakhouse Saloon in Lenexa, Kansas. There turned out to be a country band, which made it hard to have a conversation. I could tolerate the music, but the teens in our party were less pleased.

The potato skins and onion rings were good. The shrimp/chicken kabob was good as always. The spinach salad looked great, but wasn't as satisfying.

 

Longbranch Steakhouse Saloon - Lenexa, Kansas Longbranch Steakhouse Saloon
Thursday - February 17, 2011:  We had supper tonight at Café Augusta in Lenexa, Kansas. Café Augusta bills itself a New World Bistro and has a great concept, but has been inconsistent in the execution. I am delighted to say that this is the first time at Café Augusta where everything went perfect. The dishes tried were baked tilapia & shrimp, wild sockeye salmon, and two items from the new $7 small plate menu: coconut shrimp & beef satay. All of the dishes were interesting and good, with the salmon being the most popular.

The real standout of the meal was the curried squash soup (Indian spiced vegetarian soup with roasted butternut squash). It gets high points for both taste and appearance!

I was pleasantly delighted to discover the photographic are by fellow Kansas Explorer, Frank Thompson. I hope that Frank gets some sales out of the exhibition.

 

curried squash soup - Cafe Augusta curried squash soup

Café Augusta - Lenexa, Kansas Café Augusta

Sunday - February 13, 2011:  Today's lunch was at Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue in Overland Park. Fiorella's is a Kansas City chain with three locations on the Missouri side of the state line. At least at this location, they no longer have table service, but still have cloth napkins.

We started with the fire seared wings - 10 smoky chicken wing pieces which were served with hot sauce and a single whole jalapeno on the side for $7.95. The server also brought some regular BBQ sauce, but the meat had enough flavor from the cooking that sauce was unnecessary. 

I selected Jack's Best, a combination platter which included a beef rib, burnt ends and three small pork spare ribs, along with the choice of two sides for $25. The cheesy corn bake (corn, ham and cheese casserole) was the best of the items I ordered, but the beef rib was also very good.

The best item which any of us had was hickory baked beans. The least appealing was the sliced pork sausage.

 


 
 
 

Jack's Best - Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue Jack's Best

Saturday - February 12, 2011:  We had lunch at The Peanut in Overland Park, Kansas. The neighborhood bar and grill was mostly full of people watching college basketball on TV. 

We started with a large order of great freshly made onion rings. I had a half dozen of the peppery hot wings which The Peanut is famous for, while Linda tried the triple BLT. THe Peanut is big on BLTs, offering them in two sizes and with options such as extra bacon, no bacon, and fried egg. The BLT was good, but not outstanding.

 

Tripple BLT at The Peanut in Overland Park, Kansas Triple BLT
Friday - February 11, 2011:  This evening we drove to Lawrence, Kansas to revisit ingredient restaurant (lack of capitalization is intentional). This was the first location of the chain which now has 8 locations in 4 states. The concept of ingredient restaurant is to offer high quality gourmet food which is ordered at a counter like a fast food restaurant, but delivered to the table with regular china and silverware.

Linda ordered The Bricks, a fairly large personal pizza with pepperoni, italian sausage and green peppers with tomato sauce and a blend of three cheese. I ordered coup and Mahi Tacos with crispy mahi mahi, charred pico de gallo, cilantro, and mexican queso fresco in a grilled soft wrap. We were warned that the food would take at least 20 minutes and settled down at a table where we could enjoy the jazz being played by Blueprint Jazz, a band made up of University of Kansas students.

When the food came out, it was just the pizza and soup. The server said that the tacos would follow, but after a wait of 10 minutes, we had to inquire where the tacos were and wait another 5 or 6 minutes which they had apparently forgotten. This seems to be a flaw in the service scheme at ingredient, they forgot my order and then didn't even apologize.

Over all, the food was average, not worth the drive. The best item was the pizza, but it didn't have many ingredients, just a few items scattered around - perhaps one taste of meat or green pepper in every three bites. The fish tacos sounded much better than they tasted and the two tacos weren't very large for $11.

 

ingredient restaurant - Lawrence, Kansas ingredient restaurant
 

Blueprint Jazz band Blueprint Jazz

Thursday - February 10, 2011:  Updated the review of the Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette, Kansas.

 

Wednesday - February 9, 2011:  Here is a disappointing follow up to my meal at the Blue Nile in Overland Park at the end of December. The restaurant had overcharged my credit card ($17.69 instead of $11.69) When I contacted the Blue Nile, they were slow to respond and it took until now to get the charge corrected.

After all this time and repeated efforts on my part, all they did was refund the $6. Nothing at all was offered in compensation for the inconvenience.

 

Tuesday - February 8, 2011:  Added new pages devoted to Fort Michilimackinac in Winter and to Dog Sledding at Boyne Highlands.

 

Sunday - February 6, 2011:  Today was mostly a travel day, but we circled around to Harbor Springs, where we had booked a dog sled tour at Boyne Highlands ski resort. The dog sled rides are provided by Nature's Kennel of McMillan, Michigan.

We had a great time. A half hour ride was $75/person and the 3 mile ride was about right. It was close to 30 degrees, so with the exception of wind on our faces at the start, it was quite comfortable. The dogs love to run and when our team prepared for their first run of the day they started jumping and barking. The other team joined in on the excitement.

Several of the dogs in our team will be competing in the Iditarod in a few weeks. Our musher was a young woman named Jessica, but we also met Ed Stielstra, who is one of only 8 mushers from the lower 48 states who will be in this year's Iditarod.

Continuing on down state, we had lunch at the Big Buck Brewery in Gaylord. I was less impressed with this restaurant on this, my second visit. It is pricey and the only item on the menu which really jumped out at me was the sautéed perch which I had the previous time. Linda had an OK burger with overcooked homemade potato chips. We split a huge order of onion rings. They were good, but really had too much beer batter. I took about 2/3s of the batter off the rings I ate and my plate had a huge mound of batter at the end.

We arrived in the Detroit area with a time cushion in case the roads had been bad. We had time to kill, so we drove to downtown Detroit to have supper at the ultimate Coney Island restaurants. Lafayette and American Coney Island were founded by Greek brothers in 1917. The restaurants are side by side and are still owned by their descendants.

Linda isn't a big Coney Island fan, but I found the chili dog and chili fries to be a nice, nostalgic treat. I don't see much difference between the product at the two restaurants, but selected Lafayette, because of the fixtures which look to be at least 60 years old. The restaurant was packed, but we were quickly served by one of the many Greek men. (I've never seen a woman working there) After helping us, he was serving a large hockey team, and walked past with at least 7 plates of conies on one arm. 

 

Dog Sledding at Boyne Highlands
Dog sledding
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lafayette and American Coney Island - Detroit, Michigan Lafayette & American Coney Island

Lafayette Coney Island - Detroit, Michigan Lafayette Coney Island

Saturday - February 5, 2011:  In Mackinaw City, we stayed at the Deer Head Lodge. A B&B where we stayed in the winter 2 years ago. We were their only guests this weekend and they upgraded us to their nicest suite with a 2 person whirlpool, gas fireplace, and TV with DVD & VCR. One evening we took advantage of their small movie library, to watch Somewhere in Time, which Linda had never seen before. It was filmed 9 miles away on Mackinac Island, back when I was a Mackinaw City police officer.

The breakfasts were huge and very good. The first morning was my favorite with stuffed French toast and a mixture of sausage and scrambled eggs. I definitely had too many carbs during this trip. 

We drove down to Harbor Springs to visit The Pier, a nice upscale restaurant where I have a lot of history. We had a table by a large picture window with a good view of the water (ice). The soups (French onion and seafood chowder) were spectacular. The sandwiches and salad were good. Other than in the Detroit area, I had perch or whitefish at every meal during this trip.

 


 
 
 
 

The Pier - Harbor Springs, Michigan The Pier

Friday - February 4, 2011:  Although this trip to Michigan was mainly about visiting family, I did manage to do some photography for my other web site devoted to the Straits of Mackinac area: Mightymac.org.

Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City is no longer open at all in the winter, but Mackinac State Historic Parks generously allowed to do some winter photography in the Fort. This is been a mild with and the snow drifts aren't very deep this winter, but I think I still got a few good shots of snow and reconstructed 18th century buildings. 

Other winter photography around Mackinaw City involved mainly the frozen Straits. the Mackinac Bridge and the 290 feet long United States Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw. The Mackinaw (WAGB 83) was retired in 2006 and moved to Mackinaw City, where it became the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

Today's lunch was at the Dixie Saloon, one of the 8 or 9 restaurants which stay open in Mackinaw City in the winter. Supper was at the nicest restaurant in Mackinaw, the Chippewa Room at Audie's Restaurant, which has a different menu from the rest of the restaurant. The fired perch were superior and the prime rib special was also very good. The Chippewa Room has excellent bread and each meal comes with a flavorful beer cheese spread.

 

Fort Michilimackinac - Mackinaw City, Michigan Fort Michilimackinac
 
 

United States Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw Mackinaw (WAGB 83)

Thursday - February 3, 2011:  Today we flew into Detroit and rented a car to drive 300 miles to Mackinaw City.

We stopped for two meals on the way north. The first meal (in Novi, Michigan) was at an Olga's Kitchen. My first wife and I fell in love with the Michigan based chain when we lived East Lansing in the 1970s and I hadn't been to one for at least 10 years. The primary menu item is a high quality gyro sandwich, though they were not called that back then. Olga's also served fresh, natural cut fries at a time when everywhere served frozen. The original Olga sandwich (served on their own fresh basked bread) still had the taste I remembered and this was a treat.

Supper was at Vivio's Northwoods Inn Restaurant in Indian River. It had been 35 years since the last time I ate at Vivio's. The 73 year old restaurant still looks much the same. The food (Linda had pizza and I had whitefish baked in lemon juice & topped with tomatoes & onions) was good, but I was disappointed that the pizza sauce did not have the unique flavor that I remembered from years ago. 

 

Original Olga - Olga's Kitchen Original Olga & curly fries

Vivio's Northwoods Inn Restaurant - Indian River, Michigan Vivio's Northwoods Inn Restaurant

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