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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Spring River - Baxter Springs, Kansas
Saturday - August 26, 2011: I We drove to downtown Overland Park to have supper at Snak Shack on Santa Fe, but it appears to have closed. There is no sign, but checking their page on Facebook, customers have been complaining that it was closed when they visited, for three weeks and no one from the restaurant has responded.

We decided to try a new restaurant just across the street - Elsa's Ethiopian Restaurant. Linda was a little uncertain about trying Ethiopian food, but enjoyed it. I liked it a lot. It used to be that I didn't like the sour spongy injera bread that is used instead utensils, but either the flavor was different or my taste has changed. I still used a fork, but to limit my carbs, not to avoid the bread. 

The little restaurant is rather plain, but it is clean and neat. The staff were very friendly helpful, making us feel welcome and wanted. 

Linda had the Tilapia Tibs, The filets were marinated in rosemary and awaze, then pan fried with hot pepper, tomato, onion and greens. It had a good flavor and was not HOT. For $9.99 it came with a large house salad with a wonderful garlicky house dressing.

For $3.49 I had the second most expensive dish on the menu a Meat Combo with Doro Wat, Key Wat & Alicha Wat (spicy beef, spicy chicken and mild beef stews) and the choice of two sides. The Key Wat was my favorite meat, a beef stew simmered in berbere, garlic, onion and herbal butter served with ayb (a traditional Ethiopian cottage cheese). I will be hard pressed to decide between having a full order of Key Wat or trying something new o my next visit.

The Doro Wat is a chicken drumstick simmered in the same spices as the beef, but with a significantly different stronger flavor. It was served with a hard boiled egg covered with the sauce.



Meat Combo - Elsa's Ethiopian Restaurant Meat Combo served on injera bread

Friday - August 26, 2011: I had lunch at Dodge City Distillery which recently opened in Olathe. This was my 3rd visit and the 1st visit since they went to their full menu. 

Although the price points are still a little higher than I like to see at lunch, Dodge City Distillery has weekday lunch specials. Fridays that is chicken tenders prepared a variety of ways for $7 and served within 15 minutes. I went with the Blacksmith Jerk Chicken Tenders basted with bourbon & hickey grilled, served with serrano peppers, onions and bacon. My side was grilled zucchini. Both were good and a fair serving for the price, but I would have liked a little more food for lunch.



Chicken Tenders - Dodge City Distillery Blacksmith Jerk Chicken Tenders

Wednesday - August 24, 2011: I drove to Overland Park to have lunch at Thai Homeplace. For many years, this was one of the locations of the local chain of Thai Place restaurants. But the Thai Place at this location closed last year and this new similarly named restaurant was opened last October by Werachone and Supamas Singhai.

Although the Singhai's replaced most of the furnishings, other than the lack of fresh flower arrangements, the restaurant looks much the same today. The menu has changed and the price points are quite a bit higher, but I felt the old menu needed an update. 

I started with a $9.95 serving of calamari. I didn't find this tempura style squid as interesting as I did for the squid and egg dish the old Thai Place, but it still made a nice morsel to dip in the small cup of hot Sriracha sauce which came with the appetizer.

My entree was the stir fried jalapeno beef. It is usually $10.95 at lunch time, but was $3 less as today's special. It came with a huge serving of rice, a crab rangoon and the choice of soup or salad. The hot and sour soup wasn't as spicy as I prefer, but the rich soup was thick and enjoyable. The jalapeno beef dish was properly prepared, it just wasn't to my taste.

We made a second visit to Johnny C's Pizza & Family Restaurant in Shawnee. Johnny C's services St. Louis style pizza - thin crust with Provel cheese, cut into small squares. 

I started with hot wings - seven small wing sections for $4.95. The hot taste was in the batter, rather than sauce.

The pizza was over done, with one edge of the crust charred. We had pepperoni, onion, bacon and Canadian bacon. It was good, but not my favorite St. Louis style pizza in Johnson County.


Thai Homeplace - Overland Park, Kansas Thai Homeplace

jalapeno beef - Thai Homeplace stir fried jalapeno beef

Johnny C's Pizza - Shawnee, Kansas Johnny C's Pizza

Monday - August 22, 2011: I made a second visit to the new Downtown Diner in Olathe. I tired to try the baby backed ribs and baked beans, but a torrential downpour that morning had cooled down their smoker and neither was available. The beef brisket was ready and really, very good.


Sunday - August 21, 2011: Much as we love the restaurant downstairs, we have mixed feelings about the Little Brick Inn. Our room was very nice, with high ceilings and old hardwood floors, but we discovered that we didn't have a thermostat and the room grew cold in the night. By turning off the ceiling fans, we got by, but it wasn't quite what we are used to.

Also, no one showed us to our room or even told us how to contact them while we were in the Inn. We could have looked up the phone number online and used our cell phones, but that isn't what I am accustomed to from B&Bs. If felt more like a motel than a B&B.

At check in, they asked what time we wanted breakfast and said it would be ready at that time in the breakfast room next to our suite. We went in at 9AM and found more plates of fruit (watermelon, strawberries & grapes) and orange juice waiting, There was coffee warming in a pot if we had wanted it.

We took our time over the fruit and about 9:15 the rest of the breakfast was brought up by a lady who proceeded t start cleaning the other rooms. Large, heavy pancakes and scrambled eggs. It was OK, but not the treat we had anticipated would come from the Cafe on the Route's kitchen. No meat, no bread, no pastries.

We started the morning with a short drive to the southeast corner of Kansas. A old stone Tri-State Marker which was built in 1938 by the Youth Work Administration. The metal plaques on the marker have disappeared over the years and I was surprised that they have never been replaced.

The marker is a few feet from the actual intersection of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. A flat maker on the ground at that spot gives visitors the opportunity to stand in all three states at the same time.

We made a brief detour to Schermerhorn Park, but there appeared to be no changes at the Galena park since my previous visit.

Back at Baxter Springs, we followed the route of the self guided Civil War tour. The Battle of Baxter Springs is sometimes called the Baxter Springs Massacre. William Clarke Quantrill led Confederate guerillas on a successful assault on Fort Blair in Baxter Springs in 1863.

Many of the markers along the way were far from the location where they appeared on the map, but we located every marker but one.  Near the first stop, we attempted to find the home plate marker for the ball field where the Kansas Whiz Kids played semi-pro baseball in he 1940s. The Whiz Kids was Mickey Mantle's first professional team.

The tour concluded with a stop at Baxter Springs City Cemetery Soldiers' Lot. The earliest burials in the plot include 132 Union soldiers and officers killed on October 6, 1863, during the Battle of Baxter Springs. In 1886, the federal government erected a large marble and granite monument to those soldiers.

On our way back north on US-69, we made another short detour on K171 to check on Zoomers Treasures a flea market and grassroots art environment which appeared on Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations and in the short film, Zoomer. The signs are now gone and it appears that the flea market has closed.

Continuing north, we stopped for a late lunch at Two Sisters' Cafe in Kincaid, Kansas which had been recommended by the Kansas Explorers. Two Sisters is the only restaurant in the small community.

Several of the items sampled (corn, chicken fried steak, fries, onion straws) were boring and ordinary, but we were both impressed with the fried chicken. I recommend only visiting Two Sisters on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which are the only days that fried chicken is served.

The final stop of the weekend was in Mound City. We stopped at Mound City Historic Park. The Linn County web site and a sign at the park say it is staffed on Saturdays  & Sundays from 1 - 5 PM from May through the second weekend in October, but every building was locked up and no one was around.

The site of a Union Army camp during the Civil War, the historic park has a number of old buildings which have been moved to this site from around Linn County.



pancakes at the Little Brick Inn pancakes & scrambled eggs

Tri-State Marker - Kansas, Oklahoma & Missouri Tri-State Marker

Spring River - Baxter Springs Site where Quantrill forded the Spring River

Baxter Springs City Cemetery Soldiers' Lot Baxter Springs City Cemetery Soldiers' Lot

Zoomers Treasures - Pittsburg, Kansas Zoomers Treasures

Two Sisters Cafe - Kincaid, Kansas Two Sisters' Cafe

Mound City Historic Park - Kansas Mound City Historic Park

Saturday - August 20, 2011: We are off to southeast Kansas, for our first (brief) exploration this month.

Passing through Trading Post on US-69, there wasn't time to tour the museum, but I did take advantage of the nice weather to take some photographs of the cemetery at Trading Post. The granite obelisk in the photo to the right commemorates the people who were killed at the nearby Marais des Cygne massacre, a "bleeding Kansas" event in 1858.

Several friends joined me for lunch at Harry's Cafe. A family owned restaurant in downtown Pittsburg which has been open since 1934. My meal was the least impressive that any of us had. The liver and onions could have used a little spice. The burgers, chicken tenders and sirloin tips were much better. The fries were hand cut, but weren't cooked quiet enough. 

The chocolate cream and apple pies were good and the server surprised us by cutting the slices in half and serving them to both of the people who had said they were sharing each slice.

At 2PM I met Delia Lister, Pittsburg State University Nature Reach Program coordinator, at Heckert-Well Hall, across from the Pitt State football stadium. Nature Reach is closed on weekends, but she had graciously agreed to show me around the Biology Department's Life Science Education Outreach Program. 

Nature Reach offers interactive small group programs both on the Pitt State campus and in schools. The campus location has a collection of wild animals which exceeds the size of most nature centers. Although there are many reptiles and amphibians, there are also fish, ferrets and a talkative Catalina macaw.

We then traveled about 10 miles away to the Pittsburg State University Natural History Research Reserve. The reserve is located on 79 acres of partially reclaimed abandoned mine land, southwest of Pittsburg. Among other things, the Natural History Reserve is the home of the Nature Reach raptor rehabilitation program. I toured the facility and photographed owls, hawks, a vulture and a crow.

I met up with Linda and we continued south so I could share some of my favorite spots on Historic Route 66. They included the Empire Power Dam Falls, 4 Women on the Route, the Galena Mining & Historical Museum
and Eisler Brothers Store where we bought some postcards.

We discovered a new place which has opened since my last trip down Route 66: Steve's Candy. The year and a half old store makes and sells beef jerky and a wide variety of hand made candies. Steve Jenkins was working today and gave us free samples of several of the products. Steve purchased the recipes from two old candy shops in Galena, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri.

The prices are very reasonable and we purchased several small packages to take with us. My favorites were the Mine Run candy and the Texoma Red.

We passed the 1923 Brush Creek Rainbow Bridge and took the old road into Baxter Springs where we checked into the Little Brick Inn - a bed & breakfast above Cafe on the Route. I had sprung the $85 for one of their largest suites. It has a large separate setting room and private (somewhat old) bathroom. It felt like a lot of room for the money. More about the B&B in tomorrow's blog.

After unpacking and freshening up, we went downstairs to have supper at Cafe on the Route. The Cafe is one of my favorite unique Kansas Restaurants, but although this was my fourth visit, it was the first time I have managed to be there at supper time. They have different menus at lunch and dinner.

The Cafe was busy, but timing is everything - every table was full most of the time, but I never saw anyone having to wait for a table. Our server was efficient, friendly and helped us decide what items we wanted. When we left, she made us promise that we would come back.

The menu is one of the most interesting ones I have found in Kansas, and we started with a $5.75 appetizer of battered artichoke hearts stuffed with crab. It was very good, but when I return, I will be trying other items.

Linda had the $10.95 Main Street Chicken (8 oz. chicken breast stuffed with herb cream cheese and topped with bacon) with twice baked potato. The meals all come with vegetable, choice of potato and choice of salad, fruit or soup. Linda went with the fruit, which was a large plate with watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries.

I had the $12 Flap Jack Ribeye (8 oz. steak grilled to order and stuffed with onions, mushrooms and Provolone cheese and served with concassé sauce) and fried potato salad. The steak was perfectly prepared, but I would get it without the stuffing and sauce if I was doing it again. The fried potato salad was wonderful - hot, crisp potato wedges in a mustard sauce. I went with the house salad, which was exquisite. If the house salad is this good, I want to find out what their cobb salad is like.

Neither of us had room for dessert.

The small TV in our room had a built in DVD player, but the Brick Inn doesn't have any movies, so we went out to rent a movie after supper. When we came out the sunset was spectacular and we hurried west of town for a photograph. The shot at the right was taken at the National Cemetery Plot.


Trading Post Cemetery - Kansas Trading Post Cemetery

Harry's Cafe - Pittsburg, Kansas Harry's Cafe

Delia Lister, Pittsburg State University Delia Lister & Charlie

Steve's Candy - Galena, Kansas Steve's Candy

Cafe on the Route - Baxter Springs, Kansas Fruit plate with one strawberry already gone

Flap Jack Ribeye - Baxter Springs, Kansas Flap Jack Ribeye

National Cemetery Plot - Baxter Springs, Kansas National Cemetery Plot

Thursday - August 18, 2011: Rich and Sue Caines who used to operate the restaurant at the Double Nickel in Olathe have opened a new restaurant called the Downtown Diner. I learned about their new place just yesterday, in Johnson's County Gazette, and tried them out for lunch today. The new place is a few blocks east of the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. 

Downtown Diner appears to have the same menu the Caines had before and the first item I tried (the Heart Stopper) was a real treat. The intentionally unhealthy sandwich  uses grilled cheese sandwiches for each bun, with 2 hamburger patties, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, bacon & BBQ sauce in between. For $9.99 it comes with an order of fries. For the record, I ate only about half of the sandwich and a small portion of the fries. I think some grilled jalapeno slices and onion would take this sandwich to the top.

It was great seeing how busy the new restaurant (it opened on August 9) was. They managed it well and service was still very good.


Downtown Diner - Olathe, Kansas Downtown Diner
Wednesday - August 17, 2011: After work, I drove to Kansas City, Kansas to have supper at Mr. Epp's K.C. Barbeque, which I hadn't been to since last October. Although it was before 6PM on a week night, when I got to the counter, they were already out of the meats I wanted and I decided to revisit another area BBQ restaurant.

So I drove a few miles west to Roscoe's Barbeque in Edwardsville. I first visited Roscoe's a year and a half ago, when Mr. Epp's had closed early. Roscoe's opened in November of 2009. Little has changed since my first visit. The prices are reasonable and the food is a good value, if uninspired. This is the kind of place worth visiting if you are in the neighborhood, but with so many good BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, I haven't found a reason to go out of my was to eat at Roscoe's.

The pork ribs were fairly good. I didn't care for the sour taste of the coleslaw, but that is a mater of taste. The best item was the cheesy corn.



Roscoe's Barbeque in Edwardsville, Kansas Roscoe's Barbeque

Monday - August 15, 2011: I returned to Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Olathe to try the burnt ends. Joe's only offers burnt ends on Wednesday evening, Saturdays and (now) lunch on Monday. Joe's has grown extremely popular and there are almost always long lines, but there was pouring rain and arriving at 11:15 AM, the line was only about 15 people long.

The burnt ends really were worth a special visit: tender, juicy, with one darkened edge and a wonderful flavor.

For supper, we traveled to Lawrence to try Esquina, which was highly recommended by my step-daughter, a University of Kansas student. There is a small bar at the front of the restaurant, but food is ordered at a much smaller counter at the rear of the dining room.

The Latin American Restaurant is known for its tacos and I tried three kinds: pastor, fish & Kobe. I liked the Kobe best of the three. I usually love fish tacos, but didn't care for this one at all. I was happier with elotes, a grilled corn on the cob with chili lime mayo & queso. which I loved from street vendors in Cozumel. 



Esquina - Lawrence, Kansas Esquina

elotes at Esquina in Lawrence, Kansas elotes

Sunday - August 14, 2011: Four of us made a second visit to La Bodega in Leawood. The original La Bodega is near downtown Kansas City, Missouri and this second location is a year or so old. While the food was good, I didn't think it was as good as the KCMO location. The decor is also more suburban at this site. If the KC location was in Kansas (its less than a mile from the state line) it would make this site's list of Unique Kansas Restaurants.

The service was very good and some of the dishes appealed a lot. The first bite of the Gambas a la Plancha (sautéed shrimp with garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes) was spectacular, though the succeeding bites seemed more ordinary. The chorizo in the Pincho de Pollo y Chorizo was my favorite meat by far and I would enjoy a meal featuring more of the Spanish sausage.


chorizo at La Bodega in Leawood, Kansas Pincho de Pollo y Chorizo
Saturday - August 13, 2011: Linda and I had lunch at City Fish and More Restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas. Although I can't think of this place without thinking of Mad Jack's Fresh Fish a few miles east on the same street, City Fish is strictly a restaurant, while Mad Jack's is a fish market which also sells cooked fish.

City Fish and More has smaller selection of seafood: catfish, basa, cod, tilapia, whiting, ocean perch, buffalo and shrimp. They also offer hot wings, tenderloin, Italian steak, angus burger and a wide selection of southern side dishes.

Everyone entering the restaurant is invited to sample fried basa. It is a type of catfish from Vietnam and less expensive than their other types of fish. After sampling it, Linda ordered the basa #2 dinner, which was a huge 3/4 pound serving with the choice of two sides for $9.99. Although they offer many side dishes, only a limited selection is available included in the meals and Linda selected hushpuppies and fries.  I thought the slender fillets were good with Louisiana hot sauce. The fries were properly prepared, but appeared to be the cheapest kind of frozen fries.

I had the three fish tacos for $4.50. It turned out that they were prepared from the same base fillets. I was surprised to find cabbage on the fish tacos, but they were really very good. I had a side of corn that was much better than I am used to getting at a fast food style restaurant.

I will probably eat at City Fish again. It is clean and much more comfortable than Mad Jack's. If you are trying just one, I would recommend Mad Jack's, it is more interesting and unique. But City Fish is worth a try if you are looking for variety.


City Fish and More Restaurant - Kansas City, Kansas City Fish and More Restaurant

basa fish dinner basa #2 dinner

Friday - August 12, 2011: Revisited Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q in Olathe and updated its web page. The food at Smokin' Joe's has been inconsistent, but it was right on today. The garlic coleslaw was very good and short end of pork ribs was among the best I have had this year.

Supper was at another Kansas City BBQ restaurant, Brobecks Barbeque in Overland Park. It had been over a years since our last visit. We sampled sausage, hot wings, onion rings and Texas Toothpicks (breaded and deep fried pieces of onion and jalapenos). The sausage was good and distinctive, reminding of Slim Jim's only better. The wings were small and served at just above room temperature. I returned them to be warmed up, and I never return something to the kitchen.


Smokin' Joes Bar-B-Q - Olathe, Kansas Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q

Brobecks Barbeque - Overland Park, Kansas Brobecks Barbeque

Thursday - August 11, 2011: Added a new page about the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at the University of Kansas Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.


Sunday - August 7, 2011: Added a new page of photographs of the First Presbyterian Church in Topeka, Kansas, which was organized in 1859. The present (1884) building is very handsome, with hand carved furnishings which were installed in 1935. The best known features of the building are the 100 year old Tiffany windows.


First Presbyterian Church - Topeka, Kansas First Presbyterian Church
Saturday - August 6, 2011: Updated the pages devoted to Mushroom Rock State Park and Smoky Hills Wind Farm.

Our lunch was at Char House Barbeque and Fried Chicken in Shawnee. I was very impressed with their pan fried chicken a few weeks back and wanted to give them a second chance. We were surprised to discover they have made some changes in the past few weeks. They now provide table service instead of ordering at the counter.

Our fried chicken came quickly. Too quickly. It was warm rather than hot and not nearly as good. More like the fried chicken you pick up at a supermarket, but with a better coating.

The rest room smelled bad and there was water on the floor outside the rest room. It was a much inferior experience.


Smoky Hills Wind Farm Smoky Hills Wind Farm

Char House Barbeque and Fried Chicken - Shawnee, Kansas Char House Barbeque & Fried Chicken

Friday - August 5, 2011: I made another second visit to a new Johnson County restaurant, this time to Mai Thai restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas, which opened  in April. After consulting their web site for their hours, I had gone there on Tuesday, only to find a sign on the door saying they were closing on Tuesday in August.

But I am glad I went back. The food was very good!

I started with the $5.95 fresh spring roll appetizer. There were three spring rolls, each cut into thirds, made from green leaf lettuce, bean thread noodle, fresh herbs, bean sprout and tofu rolled in fresh rice paper and served with homemade sweet chili sauce and crushed roasted peanut. The sweet sauce just tasted like sugar water to me, but I liked the peanut sauce. It was also a chance to try the four house hot sauces that were on the table.

My entree was the $8.95 (lunch) chili chicken which came with hot & sour soup and two tiny crab Rangoon. The soup was a bit blander than I expect for hot & sour, but had more ingredients.

The chili chicken was crispy fried chicken strip, then stir fried with homemade chili sauce, pineapple chunk, onion, bell pepper, roasted chili, cashew nut and green onion. It was sweeter than I expected but tasted great.

For supper, Mary & Jesi joined us at Saints Pub in Lenexa. I continue to be impressed by this bar and grill. They have a large menu and do a good job on the food. The $9.99 fish and chips comes with potato chips rather than the fries that are normally served. The house made potato chips are much better than the ordinary fries. The cod had a very nice batter.

I had the $19.99 Saints strip. The 12 ounce Angus strip steak was cooked exactly the way I ordered (medium rare). It was topped with mushroom demigaze and served with whipped mashed potatoes and vegetable. The strip was very good for an inexpensive steak, tender and well marbled. The corn had an unusual flavor, reminding us of truffle fries.


chili chicken at Mai Thai restaurant chili chicken

Saints Pub - Overland Park, Kansas fish & chips

Thursday - August 4, 2011: I paid a second visit to the new Dodge City Distillery, in Olathe, which open two weeks ago. The restaurant was much busier this time. They are now offering about 85% of their planned menu. They plan to unveil the complete menu next Monday.

There were no lunch specials and the first thing I noticed was the lack of non sandwich entrees that were less than $11. There are a couple of large salads, but if you are not having a sandwich or burger, it is going to be an expensive lunch.

I chose the KC BBQ appetizer and a side salad. The large, $3 garden salad of mixed greens, dirty croutons, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomato, cheese and onion was very good. The ingredients were first quality and there was plenty of blue cheese dressing.

The $9 baby back ribs appetizer was very meaty. It was served on a small bed of fries which had not been mentioned on the menu. Unfortunately the fries appeared to have been sitting for a while. The ribs were good for coming from a non BBQ restaurant. Service was a bit off. After waiting  a long time with an empty glass, I had to flag someone down and ask for more soda.


Dodge City Distillery - Olathe, Kansas Dodge City Distillery
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