Category Archives: Restaurants worth the drive

Where would Beccy Tanner eat?

Beccy and her pals on Thanksgiving Day at Johnsons Smokehouse BBQ in Great Bend.

No one, except maybe the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s Marci Penner, loves Kansas more than my colleague, Beccy Tanner, who has written about the state for 30 years for the Eagle.

Not only does she commute between her country and city homes, but Beccy can tell you an interesting tidbit about every county in Kansas and can share a fact from every year that the state has been in the union.

Beccy often regales with me delicious tales from her stops at little cafes, barbecue restaurants and bars all over the state, and we have a lot of them. Their specialties range from chicken fried steak to pan-fried chicken to burgers and fries.

In honor of Kansas Day, which was earlier this week, I gathered up a list of some of Beccy’s favorites from around the state. For good measure, I threw in a list from Marci Penner, too.

Save this story, which will also be printed in Friday’s Go! section, and use it to plan either your next day trip or your next meal stop when on your way elsewhere.

Fine dining nearby: El Dorado Chop House

A dish from the new El Dorado Chop House

El Dorado, the community 30 miles northeast of Wichita, has a new fine dining restaurant.

El Dorado Chop House opened last week in a building at 2529 W. Central, which sits in front of the Best Western Hotel. The building previously housed Double D’s Family Restaurant.

Owner David Key, who also owns the Huddle House in El Dorado, remodeled the restaurant, adding booths and linen-covered tables, a glowing bar and more. He hired executive chef Owen Moore, who grew up in the area but worked at Vail Resorts in Colorado.

The menu is a mix of appetizers, salads, pastas and entrees such as steaks, pork chops, chicken and more.

The interior of the El Dorado Chop House

Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant takes reservations and can be reached by calling 316-452-5004.

Hank is so wise, he’s adding barbecue

Hank is Wiser Brewery, a well-regarded family-owned brew pub that’s operated in Cheney since 2005, is in the process of creating  a menu that will include all sorts of barbecue offerings, including ribs, brisket and more. Founder Hank Sanford and his brewer son, Steve, acquired a smoker and at the moment are perfecting their rubs and sauces. They hope to have the new menu launched by the end of the year or early in 2012.

They’ve also been busy remodeling the restaurant, an upgrade that’s adding 1,000 square feet to the space at 213 N. Main in Cheney. This summer, they also added a patio out back.

A bottle of Sam Adams Utopias.

Hank also told me recently about a rare offering he has in his brewery that will appeal to beer aficionados. He carries Sam Adams Utopias, which he says is the strongest beer brewed in the United States. The alcohol contest of Utopias is around 27 percent, and it costs between $13 and $18 an ounce. Hank has the Utopias from 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. Very few businesses carry the beer, Hank said, and he believes his may be the only place in Kansas.

Hank is Wiser Brewery is open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays and from 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call 316-542-0113.

Dining adventure: The Red Barn

Michael Rodriguez and some Red Barn ribs.

On Friday night, a few friends and I decided we were in the mood for a dining adventure.

We decided to eat in a barn. The Red Barn, to be specific.

The Red Barn is a restaurant on the east side of Lake Afton (technical address: 24401 W. MacArthur Road, Goddard.) It was taken over by the Rodriquez family a year ago. Gerard Rodriquez, who had culinary training at Johnson County Community College, and his father, Michael open the place to the public a few days a week, selling barbecue, tamales, tacos and breakfast on weekend mornings.

Winter hours are pretty abbreviated, and when we arrived at 7 :15 on Friday, the place had just closed. But Gerard and Michael invited us in to enjoy the tamales and barbecue they still had left over while the family cleaned up the restaurant. It was all so good, we happily forked over $15 for a dozen tamales to-go.

Mmmmm. Tamales.

The inside of the barn was quaint, featuring a fireplace and a log cabin feel, with wood everywhere. It’s available for rental for weddings and other private parties.

I’m really looking forward to visiting this summer. In May, the family is planning an outdoor music festival. (Apparently there’s a zip line outside, too.)

For now, hours are 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 316-794-3320.

Help an Ol Stuga sandwich win national fame

The Brent Nelson

The Brent Nelson

A Kansas sandwich will be featured tomorrow morning on “Good Morning America Weekend,” and as my friend Katie Grover will tell you (repeatedly), it’s not just any ol sandwich.

The Brent Nelson is the most popular sandwich made at the Ol Stuga, the main tavern/pub/hangout in Lindsborg. Owner Mark Lysell’s creation — which features grilled and split Polish sausage, Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, smoky sharp cheddar, hot pepper cheese and onions — is in the running for the show’s “Best Bites Challenge: College Edition.”

“Good Morning America” weekend anchor Ron Claiborne was in Lindsborg on Monday to eat a Brent Nelson and film the segment.

The Ol Stuga is one of four finalists — another one is Shakespeare’s Pizza in Columbia, Mo., which I can personally attest is fabulous. But I can also vouch for the Brent Nelson. Though I’ve never had the real thing, Katie and her husband Travis made me a replica a few months ago, and it was mmmmm mmmmmm good.

Ol Stuga owner Mark Lysell

Ol Stuga owner Mark Lysell

The finalists, which also include the Camellia Grill in New Orleans and Sandwich U in Morgantown, W.V., will be featured on Saturday morning’s “Good Morning America,” which airs at 7 a.m. on KAKE, Channel 10. After the finalists are featured, viewers will have until 6 p.m. to vote for the best. The winner will be announced Sunday.

Tapas in McPherson?

Crab cakes with aioli sauce at Amics in McPherson.

Crab cakes with aioli sauce at Amics in McPherson.

Apparently, I missed a biggie in my recent stories about good restaurants in nearby communities.

Reader Carol Skaff wrote to recommend a restaurant called Amics Mediterranean Cafe and Tapas  Bar, a spot in McPherson that serves Spanish tapas and other dishes.

Amics is at 204 N. Main (620-241-1833) and is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays for lunch and from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays for tapas, which include chicken empanadas, crab cakes, curried meatballs, gourmet pizzas and more.

“We had the crab cakes and the Valencia orange salad, and the paella, some wonderful wine and flan for dessert,” Skaff said. “Marvelous, marvelous.”

Food worth driving for: Radio version

Lots of teeny tiny burgers make Salina a Cozy place.

Lots of teeny tiny burgers make Salina a Cozy place.

I blame it on my 5-year-old daughter. She wouldn’t go to bed last night, so I took away her morning cartoon privileges, so I let her listen to the Taylor Swift Pandora station this morning instead, so I apparently MISSED a whole segment on B-98 that was about my story in this morning’s Go! section.

Brett and Tracy’s producer, Kathy, was kind enough to let me know what I missed, which apparently was a loooong addendum to my list of restaurants in towns around Wichita that are worth driving for.

Keep in mind that I’m planning a Part II to the story, since I couldn’t fit everything in the paper today. But B-98 listeners came up with a few I probably won’t be able to fit into the second list either, so I’ll share some of them here.

Cozy Inn, 108 N. Seventh, Salina: The only reason I’m not including Salina’s famous tiny burger hut is because it’s already very well known, sorta like Carriage Crossing in Yoder and Luciano’s in Mulvane.

Bogey’s, 1417 S. Ninth St., Salina: Tasty burgers and shakes.

Nieves Mexican Restaurant, 119 E. Nineth, Winfield: Though several people suggested this place, I’m not including it only because I have another tasty Winfield nominee to feature.

Lumber Yard Steak House, 311 N. Main St., Zenda: Is it bad that I’ve never heard of this restaurant or of Zenda? Must change that.

Puffy’s Steak House, 215 Main St., Maple Hill: Thanks to TopekaDad for correcting me on this one. BTW, where’s Maple Hill?

Guy and Mae’s Tavern, 119 Williams St., Williamsburg: Home of world-famous ribs and sandwiches

Two Doors Down, 307 Baird St., Cuba: Burgers and other cafe food worth driving for.

Enrique’s, 2213 Waverly St., Ponca City, Okla.: Great Mexican food south of the border. The Kansas border.

Thanks, B-98 listeners. Part II will be published on Aug. 13.