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Olathe – El Panzote

If you had a dictionary with phrases instead of single words and it had pictures to match, and you looked up “hole in the wall Mexican place” in the book, it would likely have a picture of El Panzote next to it. El Panzote sits out in western Olathe on old 56 Hwy west of KS Hwy 7, pretty much right next to one of my favorite places to eat in all of Olathe; Johnny’s BBQ. Literally for years now I’ve driven by El Panzote and every time thought to myself “I should go eat there one of these days”.

Finally “one of these days” actually occurred, and I went to try El Panzote. Overall it was a pleasant surprise, as besides the basic Mexican foods you’d expect, they also have a bakery and serve ice cream too! It’s a nice little place that was very clean and well-kept inside.

The tamales are like nothing I’ve had around this area. They are wrapped in banana leaves before they’re steamed rather than corn husks. It makes for a slightly different (but good) flavor on the masa dough. It also makes for a much larger tamale, which neither me nor my stomach expected! The pork soft tacos and their salsas and sauces were really good too.

If you want to study up on El Panzote, they don’t have a website but they do have a fairly active Facebook page that you can learn quite a bit about their foods from. Now that I know what this little place is really like inside I plan on going back in the morning someday and maybe trying their breakfast, or at the very least getting a variety of the baked goods to bring home and sample!

Until next time,

Mike

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Mound City – Garrett’s BBQ Burgers & Tenderloins

Garrett’s BBQ Burgers and Tenderloins, located at 827 West Walnut Street Mound City, KS, is a cool little small town gem. Located right off scenic highway 7 in eastern Kansas, Garrett’s is just a leisurely drive south of Kansas City.

As the name implies, Garret’s BBQ Burgers and Tenderloins has all your typical small town café fare. What the name doesn’t imply is that they have a huge variety of ice cream desserts, including, floats, shakes, and cones in a myriad of flavors.

I visited on a hot June day, and my only complaint was that the air conditioning had a hard time keeping pace with the thermometer….but I guess this made the cold ice cream so much better!

I’m a barbecue lover, so besides ice cream, I was there for some pulled pork! I ordered The Mix Half Pounder, a sandwich with both a quarter pound of brisket and a quarter pound of pulled pork. The meat was juicy and delicious and full of the smoke flavor that I enjoy.  The service was good, and the atmosphere was like you would expect from a small town eatery.

I hope to get there again, (on a cooler day), and enjoy some barbecued ribs. You should make it a point to get there too!

Until next time,

Chris

Paola – Beethovens #9

 

Beethoven’s #9 is a musical masterpiece. It’s also a pretty darn good place to eat!  This fantastic mother/daughter-owned, German restaurant is Located at 2 W. Piankishaw St., Paola, Kan., and is open Thursday through Sunday for lunch and supper.  I like this place so much that I’d consider it one of my top picks for pork dishes in Kansas!

The menu features no less than seven pork schnitzels (thinly breaded and fried pork loin), and several sausages. They also serve a multitude of homemade desserts and a full menu of Bavarian beers! A visit to Beethoven’s #9 is like a trip to Europe at your table!

I stopped for dinner during a motorcycle trip through Eastern Kansas, and I’m sure glad I did. My meal consisted of the Cordon Blue schnitzel (because what goes good with pork…ham, of course!), two sides and a delicious over-sized roll.  I couldn’t finish it all, and nobody has ever accused me of being little….so that says something about the colossal size of the meal. Next time I’ll be sure to eat dessert first, so I have room to enjoy it, and then will try a sausage sampler.

I cannot wait to make a return trip. I hope to see you there!

Until next time,

Chris

Kansas City – Mason Jar

In the food world, Kansas City may be mostly known for Mexican food and BBQ, but there is now a slightly unique hidden gem in the western KCK area called Mason Jar”. Located around 78th and State Ave. (just south of Kansas City, Kan., Community College), it is quite easy to get to from I-70 if you’re passing through the area, or is very accessible if you’re looking to escape the crowds at Legends or the Speedway.

I found Mason Jar to be a real breath of fresh air, as it’s very clean and sharp inside, but still has a nice inviting and fun feel to it. In my opinion it’s an upscale sports bar/bar & grill. The “bar area” feels like a sports bar, but there is plenty of seating in the other side of the place that feels more like a family sit-down restaurant. They really pride themselves on their cocktail and beer menu, as well as their food. While I didn’t try any of the drinks, I did try one of their pizzas.

I went with the “Loaded Up” pizza, but subbed jalapeños for the red onion. The pizza had bacon, sausage, meatballs and pepperoni, so it served up a healthy dose of pork. I almost ordered the “Hog Bones” too, which are bone-in pork shanks in an sweet Asian chili sauce, but I figured a 12” pizza was enough food for me.

If you do find yourself in this area for a meeting or an event, or are just passing through, go check out Mason Jar. It really bucks some of the stigmas that might surround Kansas City and provides a perfect environment for food, drinks, and fun for adults, or the whole family!

Until next time,

Mike

Overland Park – Lemongrass Thai

My latest trip to go sample some pork took me back to one of my favorite places in the Kansas City area– old downtown Overland Park. When searching out great places to sample pork in various dishes, it’s easy to get stuck in the BBQ and pizza rut, so I busted out of the rut this time and went to “Lemongrass Thai Cuisine” in Overland Park.

I had the egg rolls as an appetizer and then went with the Yellow Curry Fried Rice with pork. The egg rolls were seriously the best I’ve ever had. They had ground pork and all the vegetables you’d expect inside, and the outside wrapper was fried to a perfect crispiness. The sweet & sour sauce put to shame the neon pink stuff you get at a Chinese buffet.

The Yellow Curry Fried Rice with pork was delicious as well. I decided to ask for “mild” on the heat scale just to be safe. At Lemongrass they let you choose from “no spice” on up to hot. I’m glad I chose mild, as it really let me experience all the flavors of the dish. The fried rice with yellow curry, pork, onion, and cilantro together were simply impeccable.

I will for sure be going back to try other dishes there, in time. Part of the reason I look forward to going back is I get to experience old Overland Park more. Once there, a person can check out Upper Crust pie bakery, Clock Tower Bakery & Café, or The Tasteful Olive, which has many infused olive oils, vinegars, and other unique ingredients for sale. I might even go check out the used record shop again too!

Until next time,

Mike

Overland Park – Costa Vida

 

As Overland Park rapidly sprawls south down Highway 69, the ensuing rush to put in eateries around all those new housing developments leads to some unexpectedly nice food options. One of those places, “Costa Vida,” is now up and running at the intersection of 159th St. and Antioch Rd. which is just east of Hwy 69 on 159th St.

Costa Vida is a fast Mexican place that reminds you a lot of Chipotle or Qdoba, but maybe has a few more options for the customers. It was started in Utah of all places by a husband and wife that had enjoyed their trips to Cabo San Lucas so much they thought the foods they loved there needed to be shared with the masses in the U.S. In 2003 they opened their first place, and the rest is history!

Then menu quickly shows they cover all the basics of Mexican food. You can get tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas, a “baja bowl”, and of course a salad. On/in these things are your choice of a variety of meats that include their “sweet pork” and their green chili pork (which isn’t shown on the menu). I went with a nacho bowl and the “sweet pork” as my meat. Wh at can I say other than it was delicious. The meat quality and flavor are both through the roof. You can get all the fixings you could possibly want with it. I kept it pretty simple with just some beans and 2 types of cheese (shredded and of course some queso dip).

In general, the place gives you a ton of options, yet keeps things simple. The food quality is excellent as far as I can tell and they love to give out samples to help you make your decision. My 3 year old daughter said “I wanna eat all that” when I was showing her the pictures on the online menu, and I can’t say I disagree with her logic!

Hays – Trio Tap House

While traveling to western Kansas for meetings, I passed a billboard advertising the Trio Tap House. I’m always looking for great  restaurants so I had to try the place on my way through!  I was pleased to find a couple menu items featuring pork, including a pulled pork sandwich and a bbq beer brat. As you would expect, the place had an above average beer selection, with about eleven brews on tap, and many other selections available in bottles and cans. For this visit, I skipped the brews and went straight for lunch.  I chose the bbq brat which included grilled onions and peppers. My brat came on a tasty toasted bun with a tangy barbecue sauce. The pork brat was really delicious! In fact, I wish I could have bought a pack of them to take home.

Since I was by myself, I opted to sit at the bar. A cool feature of Trio Tap House is their unique copper sheeted bar top. Large copper sheets are joined together with brass to create a bar top unlike what you see in other places.

As other restaurant reviewers have mentioned, Tro Tap House is a small restaurant. I would say it is less than half the size of a regular Applebee’s. Also, it’s not the cheapest restaurant in Hays, but the owners acknowledge this. Being the largest or cheapest restaurant in the area is not the goal. Providing more of an upscale dining experience in the Hays area is.  If I lived in the area, I probably wouldn’t eat here frequently, but I would certainly come back for date night or on other special occasions.

When you’re ready for a night out, and want to try something different, be sure to put Trio Tap House on your list!

Until next time,

Chris

Manhattan – Gordo’s

Anytime a good new restaurant opens up, the foodie community takes notice. After seeing several good reviews for Gordo’s Restaurante Mexicano in Manhattan, Kansas, I knew I had to check the place out! Gordo’s is located at 1116 Moro Street, in the popular Aggieville shopping district, near the Kansas State University campus.

The front of Gordo’s has a quaint seating area and large bar, with the kitchen and restrooms separating the front of the building from a larger seating area in the back. Gordo’s also features an upstairs patio, which I’m sure I will go back and enjoy on a warmer day.

As for the food, the obligatory chips and salsa were good. I liked the thick chips that didn’t break when I loaded them up with the fresh salsa! For my meal, I ordered one of my favorites, the carnitas (tender bites of tasty pork). Upon first bite, I was pleasantly surprised by a citrus flavor. At first, I was caught off guard by this flavor profile, but the more I ate, the more I enjoyed it. By the end of the meal, I wished I had more. Citrus flavors pair well with Mexican foods. For another great example of this paring, check out the blog of El Camino real in Kansas City Kansas!

Additional pork menu items include molcajete gordo, burrito roqueta, and quesadilla Hawaiian (which include chorizo, bacon, and pineapple).

To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised with my visit to Gordo’s Restarante Mexicano and I look forward to trying their other pork dishes on the patio, during warmer weather!

Until next time,

Chris

Shawnee – Big Bam’s Burgers

In the older parts of Johnson County, you are prone to running across some old-school feeling burger joints and diners that still have some character. Big Bam’s pretty well fits that description. It’s a small, non-descript burger joint on the west side of Nieman Road (just south of Johnson Drive) in Shawnee, KS. As a burger shop they are obviously known for their beef burgers, but if you check out the menu you’ll see some nice pork options too.

I went in with the goal of trying the pork tenderloin. I figured if the tenderloin was as good as how people describe the burgers I would not be disappointed. It turns out I was right! The tenderloin was excellent. The breading was some of the crunchiest breading I’ve had on a tenderloin, which was different, but also very good. I went with the ‘Que Pork (you’ll see several “styles” of tenderloin on the menu) which is the tenderloin with BBQ sauce, pickle and onion. While the BBQ sauce flavor was not my favorite, it went pretty well with the juicy and crunchy tenderloin and pickles! The onion rings I had as a side were excellent too.

I’ve heard this place has some of the best tater tots around, and I also took note of the pork burger on the menu. I think it’s just a matter of time until I get back up there and try that combo, because if that pork burger is as good as the tenderloin, I know I’ll be in for another treat.

Until next time,

Mike

Kansas City – Los Alamos Market y Cocina

If you’ve ever had the urge to experience pretty much the closest thing to actually being in a small Mexican market and cocina somewhere down in old Mexico, without actually going to Mexico, then I believe “Los Alamos Market y Cocina” is the place for you. You can have that whole experience without leaving Kansas City! Simply walking through the door of Los Alamos leaves you with a feeling you’ve managed to travel decades back in time into Mexico.

Located at 1667 Summit St, Kansas City, MO 64108 (NE corner of 17th and Summit), Los Alamos is just a short jaunt across the line into Missouri. It is more or less right between downtown Kansas City, MO, and the West Bottoms (old stockyard area). It may not be the easiest place to find, but is worth the short deviation from the beaten paths of I-35 and I-670.

When fellow blogger Chris Petty and I stopped in there awhile back, I tried the taco platter which consisted of 3 tacos, rice, and beans. In an effort to sample the plethora of pork they offered for the tacos, I chose the pork in red sauce and some of the pork in green sauce. Both tasted outstanding, as it was some of the best red sauce I’ve ever had and the hunks of pork were perfectly tender. Moreover, the freshly fried corn taco shells alone almost stole the show because they were so good!

Also, the shelves of the store contain about everything you need to make a traditional Mexican meal, and the coolers are stocked with a variety of both bottled Mexican soft drinks and Mexican beers to wash down what you’re eating in the restaurant. If authenticity means anything to you, and you don’t mind small adventures when looking for something to eat, then absolutely go check this place out if you’re in the area.

Until next time,

Mike