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Tastes of Kansas

From barbecue and pizza to burritos and deep-fried mountain oysters, Kansas restaurants serve a smorgasbord of savory and sweet flavors sure to entice the pickiest eater.

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The Chef
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Our Daily Bread
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Flint Hills Region

MANHATTAN: The Chef

The current incarnation of this downtown icon, reopened in 2008, blends tradition, tasty innovation and college-town spirit. The original neon sign (circa 1943) still hangs outside. There’s a dining room nowadays, or if you’re lucky, you can grab one of eight seats at the counter and order the classic breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns. The extensive menu also takes you out of the breakfast and lunch box with offerings like bruschetta frittata and pancakes bananas Foster (The Chef is open until 3 p.m. daily.) (785) 537-6843; The Chef On game days it’s the place to get that tailgating started with a manmosa (beer and orange juice) or a Purple Pride (grape juice and vodka).

COUNCIL GROVE: Hays House

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the front of this 153-year-old eatery stands slightly askew from the present-day Main Street. That’s because the thoroughfare has moved since the days when it carried Santa Fe Trail wagons. The offerings at this restaurant, the longest continuously operating west of the Mississippi River, haven’t changed all that much, though, since Seth Hays, great-grandson of Daniel Boone, built it. Hearty specialties like fried chicken, beef brisket and home-made pie bring in locals as well as visitors from all over. (620) 767-5911; Hays House

WASHINGTON: MarCon Pies

At least 500 pies and cheesecakes come out of ovens daily at MarCon Pies in Washington (80 miles northwest of Manhattan). Around Thanksgiving, that number increases to 1,000. The factory, which grew from the kitchens of two women who made pies for auction lunch stands, supplies the adjacent retail shop as well as grocery stores and restaurants across Kansas and in surrounding states. Made from signature recipes, the pies share a secret: The flaky crust is made with heart-healthier canola oil. (785) 325-2439; MarCon Pies

ABILENE: Kirby House Restaurant

In 1885, Banker Thomas Kirby built a stately Victorian home for his wife and daughter along what was then Grand Avenue (now Third Street). The house and its imposing central turret caused quite a stir in this still-rough-around-the-edges cow town. In less than two decades, Kirby’s wife was a widow and the house had been sold, beginning decades of less-than-grand treatment, including a time when it was divided into apartments. Carefully restored some 23 years ago, Kirby’s legacy endures as a gracious restaurant serving classic American and Southwest dishes. The signature country-fried steak seems a little incongruous in these surroundings. Never mind: It’s some of the best you’ll taste anywhere. The Saturday night prime rib also claims a devoted following. (785) 263-7336; Kirby House Restaurant

BARNES: Our Daily Bread

Maple-flavor icing slathers 5-inch-wide rolls that weighin at almost a pound each atOur Daily Bread Bake Shoppeand Bistro in Barnes (50 miles north of Manhattan). The not-so-secret ingredient? Instant mashed potatoes. The flakes give the rolls a light texture.“It makes the dough soft and keeps it fresh,” says Kate Olson, event coordinator. The family business began in a converted garage in 2002, then moved to a historic building across the street. (866) 502-7323; Our Daily Bread

COTTONWOOD FALLS: Emma Chase Cafe

Just down a broad Main Street from the imposing Chase County Courthouse, the Emma Chase Cafe and Country Store qualifies as a local icon—the sort that you’ll find in a dwindling number of communities. It’s the place where you can count not only on a good meal, but also on meeting neighbors. Locals gather at this homey spot for morning coffee. Hearty lunches and dinner specials like chicken-fried steak and Friday-night music draws guests from all over. (620) 273-6020;  Emma Chase Cafe

COTTONWOOD FALLS: Grand Central Grill

Because the prime beef is aged and cut on-site, you can order yours by the ounce. Fair warning, though: You might want to double your normal quantity. In the dining room of the acclaimed Grand Central Hotel, the perfectly prepared steaks go beyond tempting to downright seductive. One more caveat: Most of the menu of mainly house-made specialties can be hard to resist, from signature tortilla chips to from-scratch bread pudding. The sleek surroundings enhance these exceptional flavors. In a redone vintage brick building also near the historic courthouse, the hotel hasn’t forgotten its roots. Grill prices remain relatively moderate, and many evenings, neighbors fill most tables. (620) 273-6763; Grand Central Grill

 

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