Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tour de Lawrence

In honor of school starting back up, I have decided to write a beginner's guide to eating (and drinking) in everyone's favorite college town: Lawrence. I was blessed enough to spend my college years in Lawrence and would like to impart some of the knowledge that I learned in my 4 short years there. In dining, much like in life, I did not learn all that I know in just 4 years, but have continued to learn more each time I return to Lawrence. I will try and make this post follow some logical order, but no promises.

Places to have a great dinner:

Nearly every time my wife and I go to Lawrence (whether it be for a football game, basketball game, or just on a whim on Saturday night at 9PM decide to go to Lawrence with an Australian coworker), we have to at least stop in to Free State Brewery. Whether we are there for dinner, drinks, or just stopping in to fill up a growler with beer from a newly tapped keg, Free State never disappoints. Starting out with the spinach artichoke dip is a must! From there, you cannot go wrong with any entree. My wife loves the chicken avocado wrap, while I will almost always get something from the Daily Savory Specials menu. From the Cuban pork sandwich, to the salmon, every menu item I have ever had has been phenomenal! If you live too far away and cannot make it to the brewery, do yourself a favor and pick up one of their 6 packs from your local liquor store, you will be amazed. The fact that they have 6 packs in stores makes me try a new seasonal each time we go. My favorites: Oktoberfest, Lemongrass Rye, and the Hop Jack Ale. Free State Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

Another great brewpub in Lawrence is 23rd Street Brewery. Also a great restaurant. Also has great beers. This restaurant was once owned by K.C. Hopps (under the name of 75th Street Brewery), but it has since been purchased by a local and renamed (appropriately so, as it sits on 23rd Street and not 75th Street). You cannot beat the pub chips on the patio on a Sunday (fishbowl special day), with a fishbowl full of great beer that is brewed in house. You can also take home a growler from 23rd Street. 23rd Street Brewery on Urbanspoon

Set 'em Up Jacks is probably the best place in Lawrence to go catch a game. They have the biggest screen in town! It is a great low key place to watch the game or grab a wrap and some sweet potato fries. They were even the last place around to sell out of Boulevard's Chocolate Ale, so we made a special trip to Lawrence just to have a couple (or 4) glasses of it. Set'em Up Jacks on Urbanspoon

Tortas Jalisco is an authentic Mexican restaurant on the north side of town. This is one of those places that I found on a trip to Lawrence after I graduated. They are the Lawrence home of my beloved street tacos, and they are quite good too! Tortas Jalisco on Urbanspoon

Back to Mass Street. If you have a craving for Asian food, then Zen Zero is your place! Zen Zero has a lively atmosphere and awesome Thai food. The noodles from the wok, the noodles in broth, and the curries are all amazing. Admittedly when I was in college and had a much less distinguishing palate (and sometimes still do to this day), I loved to order the Thai style sweet and sour chicken. I know that this is a super boring option, but the veggies that come in the dish are always fresh and go so well in the sweet and sour sauce. You can also get my favorite Asian dessert drink at Zen Zero, the Boba (Bubble) Tea! Zen Zero on Urbanspoon

Jefferson's Restaurant is somewhat of a chain, but the Lawrence location was only the second location to open, so we will give it a pass for today's purposes. It has always been known for its walls that were completely covered in dollar bills, multiple bills thick in some locations. That all changed when the previous owner got into a little tax trouble and the restaurant came under new ownership, the old owner took all the old bills, but the walls are slowly getting recovered. The menu is still the same, and dispite claims that it is not as good, it is 100% as good as it always was. The hot wings are awesome and so are all of the other southern favorites that are served up at Jefferson's. I love everything: the Jeffferson Burger, pulled pork, fried seafood, and the great big beer specials. Jefferson's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pepperjax Grill has the self proclaimed best Philly in America. I cannot attest to that, as I am not a Philly fanatic, but I can tell you that they make an amazing rice bowl! It is very similar to a Chipotle fajita burrito bowl, it is made with seasoned, steamed, long grain white rice. The chicken (you can also get the Philly meat or a veggie bowl, if you so chose) is sauteed on the flat top and seasoned right in front of you, with the onions and peppers. The seasoning is similar to seasoned salt, but has some extra kick to it. Top it with black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream and you have a fantastic dinner on your hands! Pepperjax has also expanded to KC, just to feed the rice bowl cravings of former Jayhawks now living in Overland Park. Pepperjax Grill on Urbanspoon

Wheat State Pizza is another local chain that got started in Lawrence, now they have restaurants all over Kansas. They have the best pizza in town, in my opinion. The crust is what makes the pizza, something about that wheat crust just enhances the other flavours in the pizza. You cannot go wrong with any pizza from Wheat State, but I highly recommend the BBQ Chicken on hand tossed wheat crust with any of their desert pizzas as a finisher. Wheat State Pizza on Urbanspoon

Yellow Sub is a sub shop (thank you Captain Obvious) that gets its name from the popular Beatles song. Yellow sub was the first branch of what later became the Planet Sub chain. Are you seeing a pattern here? If you can make it in Lawrence, you can make it anywhere. Yellow Sub has great great sandwiches that they put on daily fresh baked bread that they toast when you order your sandwich. If you like Planet Sub, go check out where it started (although the real original Yellow Sub was town down, along with The Crossing, to build the new Oread Hotel, may they RIP). Yellow Sub on Urbanspoon

Places to grab a drink after dinner:

Quinton's is a great place to go get a sandwich before a KU basketball game. It is also the best place in town for a college kid to grab a drink after dark. I have spent many a night feeding singles into the jukebox upstairs at the ice bar. Quinton's Bar & Deli on Urbanspoon

Sandbar is a bit of a locals spot, so it will get super busy and be "one in, one out" at 9PM, but will be dead by 1AM. Go for the Shark Attack and the Dirty Banana (the specialty drinks) and stay for the hurricane (the specialty... well... I don't really know how to describe the hurricane, you just have to see it for yourself). If you are lucky, you may even spot former Jayhawk basketball star and NBA veteran Scot Pollard.  Sandbar on Urbanspoon

Fatso's, 4 words: Long Island Iced Tea! Fatso's is also a good live music/DJ venue. Random story: We also watched a door guy get fired (mid-shift) at Fatso's one night. He was on his phone and not paying attention to time. For some reason he turned the OPEN sign off and shut the door an hour before closing time, the manager came over and ripped him a new one and sent him packing and then had no one to work the door. Only in Lawrence. Fatso's on Urbanspoon

Red Lyon is your place to go to down some Guiness and some popcorn while catching a soccer game with the Mass St. Mob (Sporting KC Fan Club, Lawrence Chapter). They get most of the major games, you may however be on your own if you are trying to watch your favorite German Bundesliga II team. Red Lyon Tavern on Urbanspoon

Jazzhaus is one of the more chill atmospheres you will find on Mass. Street. They have open mic nights, jazz jam band nights, and then just straight chill nights. Order a Stoli Blueberry & Sprite and thank me later, it tastes exactly like a blueberry muffin. Jazzhaus on Urbanspoon

Louise's Downtown is another chill bar in downtown Lawrence, grab a schooner (giant goblet-shaped glass that holds about 3 1/2 beers) and shoot some pool. Louise's Bar on Urbanspoon

Henry's Upstairs has the best Sangria around, bar none! They will also occasionally have other specialty drinks on special (for instance, a hot apple cider and brandy in the fall), I have not had one that was not fantastic. Henry's Coffee on Urbanspoon

Eighth Street Tap Room is another place you can go for specialty drinks. There is a drink that you order there solely by brushing off your shoulders and then holding up the number of them you want. I do not know what exactly is in this drink besides Gin, but ordering it is probably one of the most interesting things I have done in a bar. Do not however try to order any type of "car bomb" drinks at this bar, they have a sign on the board that says "Car bombs kill people, we do not make them here". Eighth Street Tap Room on Urbanspoon

If you are looking for more of a dance party atmosphere, then Abe and Jake's is your place. Go there, grab a vodka/Red Bull and dance the night away. Do however watch out for the obstacles, as I call them, in the middle of the floor that could be a tripping hazard. Abe and Jake's always has good theme nights and contests. A friend of mine even met his wife on the smoking patio out back that over looks the Kansas River (for anyone who may be wondering which river that is running back there, random inside joke). Abe and Jakes Landing on Urbanspoon

Places to eat off what you just drank:

Pyramid Pizza is always the first stop after leaving the bars on Mass Street, and for good reason. The pinched style crust dipped in honey is amazing. Pyramid Pizza on Urbanspoon

If you get back to your apartment or hotel room and are still not satisfied after your Pyramid Pizza, or if you forgot to stop for it, Pizza Shuttle will deliver a large pizza, until the wee hours of the morning, for under $10. Pizza Shuttle on Urbanspoon

The Burrito King drive through is another great option, whether it is 2AM and you are headed home (with your sober driver), or if its 8AM and you need some breakfast. Burrito King is a local favorite that is only closed for about an hour each day, I can never really figure out why anyone would close for such a short amount of time, but its awesome cheap eats either way. Burrito King on Urbanspoon

The morning after:

WheatFields: A small little hippie bakery and cafe that serves amazing food is definitely the place to go. They have the best French toast that I have ever eaten in my life! It is made from their own freshly baked sour dough bread that is dipped in the most incredible badder that contains just a hint of cinnamon. Also great are the egg white omelet with spinach and feta cheese, any of their breads, and any of their coffee drinks (as they are made with Roasterie coffee). WheatFields Bakery on Urbanspoon

No matter the reason you are in Lawrence, time of day of your visit, or the length of your stay, there is something for everyone in the list above. I also do not claim this to be a comprehensive list, if you feel that I have missed any Lawrence essentials, please make a comment below and I will have to make an update (if I agree with your comment). Rock Chalk!

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