We had more history-oriented sight-seeing on tap the day after our side-trip to central Missouri. Sight-seeing requires energy, so we stopped for another burger and malt first.
One of the Kansas City burger joints I’d known about for years due to its presence on the roadfood web site was Winstead’s. They have fifties style decor and a few locations in and around Kansas City, although I believe one or two have closed since our 2017 visit. The one we stopped at – on Emanuel Cleaver Blvd. – appears to now be the only remaining location within Kansas City.
Our drinks arrived first. Mine was another chocolate malt, which had just the right amount of chocolate syrup and was very good. My wife ordered one of Winstead’s specialties: a cherry limeade, which came topped with sherbet. That’s not something you see or get the chance to order every day.
We shared a mixed plate of onion rings and tater tots. My wife is a tots fan and I welcome the change from fries occasionally. My double cheeseburger looked just about perfect. The flat griddle-fried patties were smashed thin and had the lacy edges I love. But it was on the dry side and a little disappointing in spite of how good it looked at first sight.
After our early lunch, we headed east to Independence to visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum and the former president’s longtime home. Unfortunately, the home was closed to tours that day, so we were only able to photograph the outside. It was fairly large, but not the least bit ostentatious; just what one would expect of a home lived in by Harry and Bess Truman.
The museum had a nice array of exhibits, including a model of the Oval Office as it appeared during President Truman’s term, “The Buck Stops Here” plaque and all. The former president’s grave was also on the complex grounds.
Dinner that evening was at one of Kansas City’s legendary dining establishments, Stroud’s. They have a few locations outside of Kansas City, but we went to the Oak Ridge Manor, which is inside the city. Both the restaurant itself and the grounds around it were gorgeous.
Stroud’s is known for serving complete fried-chicken dinners. It’s a meal for those with large appetites that begins with very good chicken-noodle soup and cinnamon rolls, then moves on to the main course, fried chicken. While those who can eat more than us in a single sitting may order a half-a-chicken, we settled for a drumstick and thigh each. On the side are tasty – and porky – green beans and mashed potatoes with a bowl of chicken gravy for ladling. We didn’t come close to finishing all of this food. Thankfully, there is no dessert included with the meal, nor is there any on the menu.
There are people from the old roadfood message board who think Stroud’s serves the best fried chicken anywhere. I respect their judgement very much and wouldn’t argue the point. But while I have no specific criticism to make, I’m just not enough of a fried-chicken fan to get too excited about Stroud’s chicken dinner. Having said that, the wonderful atmosphere and long-standing customs involved with the meal made it an enjoyable experience for me.
There is one exception to my general lack of enthusiasm for fried-chicken. That is the spicy version they sell at a couple places in Henderson, Kentucky. I’ll get to that in a future trip report.
The following day, we changed directions and drove west into Kansas.
Our first stop in the Sunflower State was Topeka, to see another state house. We’ve probably visited at least a dozen state Capitol buildings over the years, and I would have to say none had a more spectacular exterior or nicer grounds than the one in Kansas. As is often the case with state houses, there was a Lincoln statue on the grounds, as well as one honoring the 19th century pioneer women who helped settle the state.
As we drove off for our next destination, I spotted this Jayhawk tower on top of a nearby building. The Jayhawk is one of the state symbols of Kansas.
The Sommerset Hall Cafe in Dover, KS,, which is just a few miles southwest of Topeka, is basically in the middle of nowhere. There is a church, a post-office and a few homes nearby. Other than that, it’s just farmland and open fields as far as the eye can see. It would be too generous to call this a small-town cafe, although it certainly had the appearance of a classic one.
In spite of its remote location, the Cafe was fairly crowded at lunch hour. They had a Mexican buffet that many of the people there were taking advantage of. But we settled for sandwiches. Mine was a grilled cheese. There were burgers on the menu, but I had another one planned for later in the day and I had my limits. I stayed at least partially true to form by ordering onion rings on the side. Unfortunately, they were not up to the standard set by those I had eaten the previous couple days.
But my reason for stopping at the Sommerset Hall Cafe was their coconut cream pie. It was the winner of Good Morning America’s best pie contest in 2008. We also ordered a slice of blueberry-custard pie.
The coconut was everything I hoped it would be. The only other time I’ve tasted a coconut-cream pie that just may have been on the same level as this one was during my visit to the now-shuttered Henry’s in West Jefferson, Ohio. The blueberry-custard pie was not at that exalted level, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Following lunch we kept heading west until we reached Abilene, KS, the location of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, as well as the former president and allied commander’s boyhood home. The house was a lot smaller than the one we had seen the previous day in Independence, but it shared the Truman home’s simple charm.
The museum was stocked with wonderful photographs and reminders of Ike’s greatness and importance to the country during the middle of the 20th century.
After leaving Abilene, we stopped for dinner on our way back to Kansas City. My burger and shake craving was as yet unquenched, so we headed for the Bobo Drive-In in Topeka. I was clued in to Bobo’s by its presence in George Motz’s Hamburger America, the ultimate guide book for the ultimate American food.
While I had no complaints about my chocolate malt, the burger, which I negligently ordered without cheese, was fairly bland; not what I had hoped for. Thinking about it now, I wish I had skipped the Bobo Drive-In and gone for another barbecue meal in or near Kansas City. But as a rule, I follow my cravings, and the one I had then was directing me to get another burger and shake.
We had one full day left on this vacation, and it would be memorable in more ways than one.
To be continued.