Overnight trip to central Kansas

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Sfreader
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2010/07/28 17:40:50 (permalink)

Overnight trip to central Kansas

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
 
   Keith
#1

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    buffetbuster
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/28 18:09:37 (permalink)
    Sfreader-
    Always glad to read one of your beautifully photographed reports, especially when it includes the Cozy Inn.  And that Steak Venato looks delicious.
    #2
    agnesrob
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/29 08:06:09 (permalink)
    That steak dish looked very good. Thanks for taking the time to post this report.
    #3
    1bbqboy
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/29 09:53:27 (permalink)
    Keith, nice report.
      Here's an interesting article I think you'll enjoy that showed up in my inbox. :)
     Visiting the Flint Hills, Kansas, for Brisket and Riding - The Daily Beast
      

    #4
    DirtDude
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/29 19:36:43 (permalink)
    Thanks for the pictures of some Kansas BBQ.

    Cozy Inn is a nice name just based on the building!
    #5
    Sfreader
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/30 17:19:18 (permalink)
    Please forgive me if I include one non-restaurant in this report. My favorite stop of this particular trip was south oj Junction City where at Geary State Fishing Lake. This beautiful waterfall had been recommended to me and was well worth a visit.

    More photos of Geary Lake Falls are posted at http://www.kansastravel.org/gearylakefalls.htm

    But on to the food. Today's restaurants were a bit disappointing. No disasters, but no special treats. However negative date is useful as well.

    I drove back up to Junction City and then to the adjacent community of Grandview Plaza to Stacy's Restaurant. Stacy's is just a couple of blocks off of I-70. The oldest part of Stacy's Restaurant started as a Valentine Diner. I attempted to eat at Stacy's in May of 2009, but when I entered the dining room, it was filled with cigarette smoke.

    I searched for a table or booth away from the smoke, but the three vacant tables were each next to people that had lit cigarettes. I knew I wouldn't enjoy the meal if I stayed and quietly left. Even that brief time in the restaurant left my clothes smelling smoky for hours

    But Kansas went non-smoking on July 1, so it seemed like a good time to return.

    This photo was taken on a previous trip. The parking lot was full today. As you can see, the restaurant has been expanded several times and is maybe 4 times the size of the original Valentine Diner structure.

    This building is neat and the people are friendly, but the food was boring. The homemade vegetable beef soup ($2.99) was the best part of the meal by far, but I didn't finish my chicken fried steak ($8.99) with country gravy and salad. The steak was preprocessed and mostly breading, with gravy that had no flavor.

    They do serve breakfast until the early afternoon closing - perhaps that is the strong part of the menu.

    Later in the day in Manhattan, I stopped for a burger and onion rings at the Vista Drive The family run burger place  has been in business since 1964.

    I love the classic look of the building and its sign, and appreciated the clean well maintained interior, but I can't see why this was voted Manhattan's best hamburger. There was nothing special about the quarter pound Vistaburger, or the onion rings. The fries were OK for frozen, but it was just average fare.

    The rest of the trip was uneventful, but in evening back in metro KC, I had supper at Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Q in Mission, Kansas. It was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and I wanted to try the chicken which is briefly deep fried after smoking.

    I already explained in the BBQ forum that as we approached the door, there was a sign saying they were out of chicken. While we were being seated, the owner said they had sold 800 servings of chicken since Friday. They were also out of onion rings and ran out of ribs just after we got our order in.

    Service was another issue. Though the owner was hurrying around trying to make sure things didn't get too far out of hand, we had to wait a long time for our food and were pressed to hurry our eating when it finally came. One of us had ordered burnt ends, but was brought pulled pork instead. We couldn't take the time for them to correct the order.

    This is the pulled pork.

    Some of us split a slab or ribs, which were on special at $12.99. This time, they had sauce already on them (they were served with sauce on the side when we previously got them to go) and weren't up to the quality of my previous visits to Johnny's.
    #6
    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/07/30 19:10:04 (permalink)
     There is a thread along these lines in the RF Media section, but I must say that too much business can certainly mess up a good thing... Matt's Bar here in Mpls. is another good example; Used to be a place that you could just drop by and get a darn good Greasy Lucy, Now the lines go down the block and the staff seems exhausted and a wee bit surly. 
         Sorry 'bout the food mishaps; The dinner roll from Stacy's looked pretty good! 
    #7
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/01 15:36:31 (permalink)
    Yeah, I'm sorry you had so much sub-par food on this trip.  That steak above is a beautiful photograph--so how was it plated before that you preferred?
    #8
    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/01 19:15:29 (permalink)
        Yes the steak!   
           If I had the know-how, I would have posted that steak saying  " Mushrooms, shallots, cognac ,mustard, cream!!!!


               Alas, I do not possess internet- picture transferring skills...  
              Just scroll back up people!  See the steak, BE the steak.  
                                                                                      So very, very pretty.
    #9
    zeebaneighba
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/01 20:44:09 (permalink)
    SFReader, thank you for the Central KS update!  That really is a bit surprising about the vote for a Vistaburger as Manhattan's best hamburger.  We used to have a Vista here in Emporia, and IIRC, there is still a Vista in Topeka.  Ours was a nice hangout when I was a teenager back in the dark ages of the late 1970s...but never a standout in terms of burgers.  I need to check out Assaria -- my, that steak looks good!

    Bill, thank you for that link about the Flint Hills!  If anyone is ever in our area,  I can highly recommend a drive through the Flint Hills; esp. Highway 177 or even I-35 south toward Wichita will both give you a wonderful sense of their beauty.  My boyfriend and I love the Grand Central Hotel restaurant for a really special evening.  And, every Friday evening, the Emma Chase Cafe features a catfish dinner plus live music from local bands (country; 50s rock and roll; gospel; bluegrass).  I am thrilled to see small towns build from within and create cultures of communities. 

    Not exactly Central KS...but for Roadfooders, definitely consider a detour off I-35 or I-335 (KS Turnpike) here to Emporia!  We have super brisket and ribs at Bobby Ds, and a great RF atmosphere at J's Carryout for burgers, fries and a free ice cream cone after your meal.  For the best steak in Emporia,  head to the Wagon Wheel Bar and Grill.  Huge ribeyes cut to order, served with smoked baked potatoes.  My BF and I often order one ribeye with two plates of sides...we are still full even after just half a steak.
    post edited by zeebaneighba - 2010/08/01 20:47:09
    #10
    Sfreader
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/02 11:45:46 (permalink)
    Nancypalooza,

    This is how it was plated before. I'm not sure I like the photo better, but in person, it had more impact.

    #11
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/02 13:35:00 (permalink)
    Oh, I see.   It is more dramatic for sure.  I wonder where they got those weirdo flute-handled plates from, huh!
    #12
    6star
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/02 14:21:36 (permalink)
    I have come across them before, though I don't remember where.  Here is one source for them:
    http://www.basequipment.com/Ceramic_Serving_Skillets_s/471.htm
    #13
    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/02 18:07:04 (permalink)
      Once upon a time (mid 80's) 
           I was a cook at a place that used those dishes for both "Meatball bake"  An appetizer served with super crispy garlic toast. sub italian sausage, it's delish!
       But the best use for those dishes was thin sliced prime rib and au jus- into the oven or broiler for a minute or two, then drain the hot au jus into a soup cup, stack the prime on a hoagie roll with provalone cheese and VOILA, 
     Prime rib french dip that is NOT dry and chewy...   
           They are totally oven safe and sturdy, even hungover dishwashers can't harm them.
        The built-in drainage feature would most likely lend itself to many, many things....
                                      
    #14
    Cheezy
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/03 09:31:33 (permalink)
    Nancypalooza

    Oh, I see.   It is more dramatic for sure.  I wonder where they got those weirdo flute-handled plates from, huh!

     
    LOL!! I love those weirdo flute handled plates.  I bought some not too long ago - they are great for gravy laden meals (not for me, I am not much of a gravy fan), or saucy dishes (of which I am most certainly a fan) or a good loaded egg scramble. And especially a Kentucky hot brown.
    post edited by Cheezy - 2010/08/03 09:33:17
    #15
    Art Deco
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/08 21:06:50 (permalink)
    sfreader - Next time you are in Salina, check out a Mexican joint called Cotijas.  Doesn't look like much from the outside (think strip mall) but the food and the family running the joint were both great.  I was highly impressed, their handmade corn tortillas were excellent as was the flavor of the grilled carne asada that inhabited my burrito!!  Highly recommended!!
    #16
    mlooney56
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    Re:Overnight trip to central Kansas 2010/08/08 22:38:54 (permalink)
    There's a Doe's Eat Place in Manhattan the next time you're there, and really hungry.
    #17
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