Ah, Kansas – the land of dramatic sunsets, wide-open prairies, amber waves of grain and a whole lot of chicken-fried steak and cheeseburgers worth driving for.
In addition to an abundance of natural beauty, our state also is overflowing with a good home cooking. And few know that better than Eagle reporter Beccy Tanner, who has written about Kansas for the newspaper for 30 years.
In honor of Kansas Day, which was on Tuesday, we gathered up a list of some of Beccy’s favorite small-town eateries. The story was inspired by the recent closing of Café on The Route, a dining destination in Baxter Springs. Throughout the reporting of this story, we found that several other favorites had closed their doors recently, from Al’s Chickenette in Hays to the Curtis Café in Stafford.
Following is a list of some Kansas dining gems you’ll want to visit while you can, whether by making a day trip of it or stopping in while passing through.
Where: 112 N. Main St., Hudson (110 miles northwest of Wichita in Stafford County), 620-458-4761
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
This little café is open only one day a week, serving Sunday brunch. It’s known for home-cooked items that it sells each year at the Kansas State Fair. The rest of the year, owners Darrell and Shannon Bauer serve their weekly diners home-cooking such as pan-fried chicken, bone-in ham, mashed potatoes and more out of a red brick building that dates back to 1914.
Beccy’s review: “I do the chicken wings. I also liked the mashed potatoes and gravy and creamed corn. It’s like the old-time potluck church dinner with Jell-O and cucumber salad. They also have this strawberry dessert that is like ice cream.”
Two Doors Down Café
Where: 307 Baird St, Cuba (166 miles north of Wichita, near Concordia), 785-729-3633
Hours: Roughly 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, with sweet rolls in the morning and lunch from about 11 to 2; 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays with rolls in the morning, lunch from 11 to 2 and dinner from 5 p.m. until everyone’s fed; 6 to 11 a.m. Sundays with homemade cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy and more.
The 13-year-old café is owned by Dale and Laverna Huncovsky, who have the Cuba Cash Store grocery, well, two doors down. Their manager, Karis Breeding, keeps the café running as a local hangout spot with flexible small-townish hours. It’s known for specials such as burgers, liver and onions, roast pork with kraut and dumplings, baby back ribs, steak and prime rib. Its most popular item is pan-fried chicken, which is on special on Wednesdays and draws a packed house from open to close.
Beccy’s review: “In the mornings they will sometimes do kolaches. I just think fresh kolaches are always wonderful.”
Johnsons Smokehouse BBQ
Where: 1624 10th. Street, Great Bend (118 miles northwest of Wichita), 620-792-4700
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays
Jonathan Johnson and David McKown (whose mother’s maiden name was Johnson) opened their homey barbecue place a year ago and now are known for their ribs, pulled pork, turkey that’s slow smoked over a wood fire every day. Popular side items include cheesy potatoes, barbecue beans and more, and they also make sweet potato pie and pecan pie.
Beccy’s review: “They’ve got really good ribs. Their meats are wonderful. Very moist and succulent. Their sides are also very good. The beans have got some heat to them.”
Where: 104 W. Main St., Sun City (105 miles southwest of Wichita), 620-248-3215
Hours: Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
The local hangout in this tiny town serves food throughout the week. The new owner, Harry Dawson, took over in December and is slowly expanding a menu that now includes hand-pattied burgers, fresh-cut fries and specials such as smoked pork loin, barbecued smoked ribs and beef brisket. Owners plan to branch out into chicken-fried steak and the like soon.
Beccy’s review: “I definitely like the fish bowl-sized steins of beer. It’s great for the ambience. It’s great to see all the old-timers coming in.”
Mom’s Bar & Grill
Where: 420 Lincoln, Seward (115 miles northwest of Wichita), 620-458-3554
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday’s and Saturdays with food served until 9 p.m.
Mom’s serves steak and shrimp as part of dinners that include salad, potato and vegetable. They’re also known for chicken-fried steak sandwiches and delicious pie.
Beccy’s review: “I like it just because it seems like home. It’s extremely clean. Their beer is so cold, it’s almost slushy. And they have great home cooking.”