Sitting at the George Jetson table at Molly McGees, you can sip on a Mr. Beer and watch the toy train run around the track
A few blocks away, at the Brass Apple, you can grab a salad and stare in any direction to watch a football game or a soap opera on the battery of TV screens.
Or, further to the north, you can quash your hunger with a burger and play shuffleboard at Kaspar's.
The three new restaurants all have a couple of things in common. For starters, they're all on the city's west side and they're all bar and grill-type establishments.
Each of the eateries, which are classified as drinking establishments under the state liquor laws, also features an intimate atmosphere.
What's interesting about them is that their owners seem to have simultaneously sensed a need for that type of restaurant in the western part of the city.
"MY PERCEPTION is these people obviously came to the same conclusion that there wasn't enough of that type of dining opportunity on the west side," said Ann Wiklund, of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
The three restaurants set themselves apart from others in town by emphasizing burgers, fancy sandwiches, fancy salads and individual atmospheres, Wiklund said.
Interviews this week with the managers of the three restaurants indicated they're each after different mixes of customers. And the owners all come from varied backgrounds.
Dirk Wedd, managing owner of the Brass Apple, located in the Orchards Corner shopping center at 3300 W. 15th, said he's interested in attracting older customers, rather than college students.
Wedd, who co-owns the Brass Apple with Lawrence Sinks, Chuck Sinks and Larry Sinks, said they didn't do any formal research in picking a west Lawrence location.
"WE'VE JUST felt like the west side of Lawrence needed a restaurant-bar type place, catering to maybe the west Lawrence, Alvamar crowd," Wedd said. "We felt we have the best location in Lawrence."
One of the highlights of his bar is the oak and brass decor, and the ubiquitous television sets, which are strategically placed all around the restaurant.
"With a 50-inch big screen and nine 20-inch TVs, it's a cross between a restaurant and a sports bar," Wedd said.
Wedd, who was a football coach for 12 years at Wichita State University, said when he left coaching in 1985 he took some sales jobs, but had an interest in setting up a restaurant.
"One thing led to another and I found some people who were interested in the same thing," he said.
ALTHOUGH HE'S new to the food and drink business, he hired an assistant manager who's had 15 years of experience and his head cook has been at it for about a dozen years.
"We've surrounded ourselves with quality people and that's the most important thing," he said.
He said he has a strong lunch crowd and a good dinner crowd.
"Our lunch crowd is strong because of people coming from McGrew, Maupintour and Hall-Kimbrell," he said.
Wedd said that although the owners didn't do any formal research, "we just had a feeling that the west side of Lawrence needed a restaurant."
And he said he didn't realize Molly McGees and Kaspar's also had the same idea.
ROSE AND Kaspar Fluek, who are from Perry, moved their business from that Jefferson County community about a month ago.
"We had the Perry Bar and Grill in Perry," Mrs. Fluek said. "We sold that and decided to come down to a larger community. We thought Sixth Street, where our location is, is a good location."
They are located in the Sunset West Shopping Center at 3115 W. Sixth.
Mrs. Fluek said Kaspar's opened Sept. 15 and is interested in putting out a a good quality sandwich for a low price.
Although the furnishings at the Brass Apple indicate its owners may be more interested in attracting the coat-and-tie, pumps-and-hose crowd, Kaspar's is more relaxed.
"We're the type of place you could feel comfortable coming in after you've just mowed your yard," Mrs. Fluek said. "We're not as fancy. But we are a bargain."
SHE SAID Kaspar's currently has a capacity for seating 84, but has plans to expand to an adjoining space later. Customers can watch the two TVs above the bar or play shuffleboard or pin ball for entertainment, she said.
She said the lunchtime business has started slowly, although the after-work business has picked up.
"Actually right now, we've got quite a mixed crowd. But at this point, we're not the in place for students," she said.
Unlike the owners of the Brass Apple, the Flueks have been in the bar business for 13 years, including seven of those years in Perry. They got their start owning a bar and grill restaurant in San Jose, Calif.
THE LARGEST of the three bar and grill restaurants is Molly McGees, located in a stripping shopping center at 2429 S. Iowa. The business opened its doors July 24.
The general manager is J.R. Sutton, a Lawrence resident and KU graduate. Tom Alfaro and Bud Tyroler are assistant managers.
Although the Brass Apple and Kaspar's are one-of-a-kind establishments, Molly McGees has a sister establishment, called Talk of the Town, in Overland Park.
"They're basically the same," Tyroler said. "The menu is almost identical except for a few name changes. A good portion of the owning group has ties to Lawrence; either they went to school here or they lived here. That's pretty much why Lawrence was picked. There was really nothing like this here in town."
Molly McGees is owned by X's and O's Inc., Overland Park. Tyroler said there are two local residents who are silent investors in the corporation.
The owners decided to locate Molly McGees on the city's west side because that's where the population is growing, he said.
"This whole section of town is growing and years from now, this whole section of town is going to be phenomenal," he said.
TYROLER SAYS he is interested in attracting customers who "are out of school, into their career, a little more settled. We want to be known more as a family restaurant than, say, a college hangout. Our name is Molly McGees Grill and Bar. And the reason is we want to emphasize the food aspect more."
The food is a mix between sandwiches and specialty entrees, he said.
Molly McGees has a main floor that seats 105 people and the balcony level seats another 65.
"We have nine regular-sized televisions and one big screen TV," Tyroler said. "We have a satellite system so we can pick up just about everything."
A small toy train travels around the restaurant's second level, he said. The restaurant gets its name from the Molly and Fibber McGee radio program that dated back into the 1930s.
"It's kind of a catchy name," Tyroler said. "Our Fibber's closet is our liquor room. All of our tables have names that are cartoon characters, such as Tasmanian Devil and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fred and Barney and George Jetson. . . . Everything is to make things more relaxed and a little fun to let people know we don't take things too seriously around here."