After only daytrips for several months, I finally had time to spend one night on the road and headed west on I-70 on Saturday morning.
I had lunch at a new restaurant to me - Hickory Hut Barbecue in Salina. I had found a recommendation of Hickory Hut here on Roadfood. It started business as a drive-through only restaurant, next door, about 30 years ago. It appears that the majority of their business is still done at the drive-through window today.
Wanting to try as many dishes as possible, I ordered the sampler platter ($19.99) which included 2 ribs, a sausage, chopped pork, BBQ brisket, fries, baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw. No I didn't eat all of that, though I did eat most of the meat.
The potato salad and (frozen) fries were OK, but the sweet coleslaw was better. The beans were sweet, loaded with sausage and a little bacon. They were definitely my favorite side dish.
The meats were all above average, but none really stood out. There was a choice of regular or hot sausage. I went with the hot and it may have been my favorite meat.
There were two sauces in squeeze bottles. One was labeled "barbecue sauce" and the other was labeled "hot." A third sauce was in a dispenser labeled "intense BBQ sauce" but it was intermediate between the other two. The sauces were all sweet, tomato based sauces and I didn't notice a big difference between the three. A bottle of hot sauce was also available to give the BBQ sauce more kick.
I drove on to Lincoln, Kansas to visit a historical museum, waterfalls and a couple of art galleries that might be off topic here, but returned through Salina to have supper at one of my favorite Kansas Restaurants - the Renaissance Cafe in Assaria. Located in an old school building, the Renaissance Cafe has typical lunch fare for weekday lunches. The restaurant was started to feed workers at Great Plains Product Development which occupies the rest of the building. But three evenings a week, a different chef comes in and the restaurant serves fine Italian food.
I decided to retry the steak Venato which I enjoyed so much on my first visit to the cafe three years ago. The 10 ounce ribeye is dredged in seasoned bread crumbs, grilled, and smothered in a savory sauce of brown mustard, shallots, mushrooms, cognac & cream. They have changed the plating since my other visits, and I didn't care as much for the presentation, but the steak was still wonderful. $21 with potato, vegetable, and the choice of soup or salad.
I highly recommend the gorgonzola romaine salad - romaine hearts topped with spicy pecans, dries cranberries and a rich homemade gorgonzola cheese dressing. A few other restaurants try something similar, but I have never had one that I like as well.
My final stop before calling it a night was the Cozy Inn in Salina. The only dish the 88 year old restaurant prepares is burgers with grilled onions and it is an icon, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine. For me, the Cozy Inn has always been more about the atmosphere and the tradition, then about the burgers, but this is the first time that I didn't really enjoy the burgers.
The burgers are tiny (16 to the pound), but this time they seemed even tinier. There was hardly anything between the slices of bun - a sliver of meat one pickle, the tiniest dab of grilled onions and a couple of drops of ketchup and mustard. I'm not going to condemn Cozy Inn based on one poor experience, but I will be little more cautious about recommending it.
Sundays balance of the trip will follow.
My pages devoted to the last two restaurants listed are: http://www.kansastravel.org/renaissancecafe.htm http://www.kansastravel.org/cozyinn.htm