We didn’t get too much time to hang out in Kansas (or Missouri) last weekend because the focus of our trip was attending the wedding of my niece Whitney in Manhattan, Kansas. But a family’s got to eat, right? So we stopped for lunch at Wheatfields in Lawrence, which was fairly quick in and out and had a solid selection of sandwiches (and excellent looking tomato soup). After a quick tour of his alma KU by Dirck, we drove another two hours to the Comfort Suites in Manhattan, which proved serviceable, as always. We stopped for coffee and iced tea at Arrow coffeehouse, where we also could have gotten cocktails as it doubles as a bar. The wedding was in Aggieville (the KState entertainment neighborhood), at a venue on Moro street next to…an offshoot of The Cozy Inn, the famous slider place in Salina, KS. (Who knew there was another Cozy Inn?) On the way home, after shopping for famous Kansas potato chips (Art & Mary’s) that we found out, sadly, no longer are made (Art & Mary went bankrupt about a year ago, we discovered), we ended up happily at Arthur Bryant’s. Emma, our pregnant daughter, was craving ribs and Rachel had never been to KC or for ribs (she was not long ago a vegetarian). One of the few things I’m not that keen on at Bryant’s is the sauce (yes, I know, the sauce is beloved by many). It’s too peppery. But we discovered Bryant’s offers two other sauces including, I believe, the President’s sauce, which – dare I say it – tasted much like the sweet and tangy sauce served by its competitor, Gates. We had hoped to go to Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) but found out it was closed on Sundays. Good to know.
Wichita Water Meter Covers As stepping stones in the garden of our Lawrence airbnb
We are on our long drive home from Dodge City (and even passed some cotton fields near Culliston, KS). We stayed for two nights at the Comfort Suites, which seemed very new and was very comfortable, despite the usual sterile chain feel. Our room was enormous. The Best Western seemed pleasant enough too.
In Lawrence, we stopped briefly at Wheatfields for morning pastries (and a killer coconut macaroon that ended up being our lunch in Lucas when we discovered the meat market was closed.)
In Dodge, we gathered with family at a new (to us) bar and grill called Guymon Petro Mercantile (the original name of the brick warehouse that was converted into a restaurant) that had good quesadillas and then dinner at Casey’s Cowtown Steak House. (Note to self: Next time order the Dodge City Strip, not the filet.)
In Wichita, we ate at our old favorite, Saigon Market for Vietnamese. Still going strong.
We are staying in a sweet little room off the garage in an old house on an old street in Lawrence. It’s described as a casita and it is sort of. Not freestanding like casitas I’ve stayed at in New Mexico but small, cheerful and well appointed so suits us just fine (and very reasonably priced. About $50 As I recall.) Sure beats a bland motel (we will have that tomorrow in Dodge City).
As we were barreling down Interstate 35 from Des Moines and getting hungry, we remembered a great little restaurant we’d gone to in a former drugstore in Smithville, Mo., just north of Kansas City. but when I looked it up, I discovered it had closed. Then I discovered the owner had just opened a restaurant in Kansas City, just south of the plaza, about two blocks from where we lived very briefly almost 30 years ago. The restaurant, Black Dirt, was very good. We had the much-lauded fried chicken which was as good as advertised. Somehow, the chicken breast meat was moist, the skin crispy but light, the sage gravy and potatoes creamy and flavorful and the stalks of broccoli rabe were bright green but well cooked and again, full of flavor (butter?cumin seeds). We also had a Missouri Caesar with tender chunks of fried catfish instead of croutons. The salty part was smoked trout rather than anchovies. Clever and good. Also enjoyed the duck confit fritters and the homemade bread with butter was worth the $5 Extra, Our waitress was a Drake U. Grad and big fan of DSM so that was fun. We will be back!
We are breezing down two lane highway 156 towards Ellsworth Kansas on ChristMas eve. Nary another car or soul in sight. The fields are snowy, the sky is a sunless white-grey, the temperature is up to 25, who hoo! Better than the frigid sunny 9 degree weather that greeted us this morning in the icy parking lot of the Baymont Inn in Lawrence (where I slept fitfully on a too soft mattress.)
Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ was indeed in a gas station in Kansas City, Ks, which added to its street cred and quirky charm. (Pix below) The ribs and brisket were, as reported, excellent. On a Mpnday night, the line to order at the counter was long but moved fairly quickly and everyone was in a cheerful, pre-holiday mood. The ribs were meaty and moist, well seasoned, good sauce on the sweet side, akin to Gates. Also had good sides …spicy coleslaw, beans with chunks of beef in them, seasoned fries. We will be back!
This morning we had an excellent breakfast at Milton’s in Lawrence, stopped to get some goodies at the bakery Wheatfield’s (surprisingly delicious rugelah, a rustic rosemary bread, pecan raisin bread) then hit interstate 70 west. man this road is empty (although behind us somewhere are our kids in another car). This annual road trip to Wright, Kansas, this time of year, always feels like we are driving to the end of the earth.
The sky has just turned hazy and we are not sure if there is fog or blowing snow ahead.
We splurged on dinner Friday night in downtown Kansas City at a cool new restaurant that harkens back to the 1920’s mob era and allegedly produced whiskey during prohibition. I have it on good authority that the Rieger Hotel Grill does indeed has in the men’s bathroom reading “Al Capone pissed here.” The food was very good – soft shell crab with lemon aioli and greens; pork cheek with “local polenta” ( according to the menu) and ” some kind of pea and carrot thing” (according to D.). it has a nice vibe, an old fashioned narrow high ceilinged storefront with nice impressionistic paintings of what appeared to be a symphony orchestra (bravo!). Good to see these kinds of places popping up in reclaimed once dying parts of downtown. must check out another newcomer nearby, Anton’s Tap Room.
In Lawrence, after staying at a tolerable (and cheap) Quality Inn, we breezed through the farmers market which had several guitar playing folk singers and lots of green onions. We ate breakfast at the brand new location of Milton’s, which moved to a bigger place around the block from its previous spot on Massachusetts Ave. (fun fact: Lawrence is was named after Lawrence, Mass. Outside Boston, which must have been a bigger deal in the 1850s when Lawrence Ks was founded as a Free State bastion…where John Brown hung out.) Good French toast at Milton’s although we were tempted to eat across the street at The Bourgeois Pig, for the name alone! Picked up a bread at Wheatfields Bakery, a couple of Jayhawks Basketball t-shirts ( because the males in this family cannot get enough of them) and hit the road again, heading West.
Our $49,99 ($57 w/tax) hotel room in Lawrence wasn’t bad at all – spacious, clean, sort of soft beds but sleepable. There were some loud party girls at 2 a.m. but that’s to be expected. So for the record, the motel is the Virginia Inn. I’d stay there again.
we ate breakfast at Milton’s on Massachusetts – good hearty omelette and strong coffee then walked along the street in the blistering heat, stopping in at vintage shops and KU apparel stores. Kids got the obligatory jayhawks t-shirts although lily got her’s at a vintage shop.
we’re now at the ramada inn in Salina, ks. for a family gathering and this is the only sight I’m likely to see here.