Orders are up for some familiar Lawrence dishes — black bean quesadillas, biscuits and gravy and those warm, Friday morning pretzel rolls — to join a menu for statewide culinary recognition.
Two eateries in downtown Lawrence — Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass., and WheatFields Bakery, 904 Vt. — are among two dozen finalists to comprise the “8 Wonders of Kansas Cuisine,” a contest organized by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.
The downtown icons made the first cut from among 124 nominees to be recognized for being homegrown, unique and downright yummy. To qualify, finalists had to originate in Kansas, be in operation for at least 10 years, not be part of a national franchise, and be iconic beyond their home regions.
“It’s an incredibly diverse list, from fine dining to a place that serves mountain oysters,” said Marci Penner, foundation director. “It’s a wonderful reflection of what Kansas is.”
Now, of course, the real contest begins. Online voting for the top eight places continues through midnight June 15, at this site.
Online voting is limited to three ballots from each e-mail address, and paper ballots also are available from each finalist or to be downloaded from the Web site.
Voters must vote for eight finalists — no more, and no less — each time, Penner said. That’s for two reasons: to keep people from skewing results by overwhelmingly backing one site, and also to encourage diners to learn more about the diverse offerings available statewide.
“The whole idea of the contest is to educate the world about Kansas and to encourage travel,” said Penner, who runs the nonprofit foundation out of a barn in rural Inman, just north of Hutchinson. “We really hope people go to all 24 this summer and fall. What we do know is there will be a lot of discussion: Why wasn’t so-and-so on this list? The good thing is people will be talking about all the places on this list.”
The finalists, in alphabetical order:
• Anchor Inn, Hutchinson
• Bobo’s Drive In, Topeka
• Brookville Hotel, Abilene
• Carolyn’s Essenhaus, Arlington
• Charlie’s Mexican Restaurant, Leoti
• Cozy Inn, Salina
• Crawford County Fried Chicken (six locations, including Chicken Annie’s Original, Pittsburg)
• Crazy R’s, Goodland
• C.W. Porubsky’s, Topeka
• Free State Brewing Co., Lawrence
• Fritz’s Union Station, Kansas City, Kan.
• Grand Central Hotel, Cottonwood Falls
• Guy & Mae’s Tavern, Williamsburg
• Hays House 1857 Restaurant & Tavern, Council Grove
• Hibachi Hut, Manhattan
• Homer’s Drive Inn, Leavenworth
• Josie’s Ristorante, Scammon
• NuWay, Wichita
• Olive Tree Bistro, Wichita
• Paolucci’s Restaurant, Atchison
• Pho Hoa, Garden City
• Prairie Nut Hut, Altoona
• Trapper’s Bar & Grill, Simpson
• WheatFields Bakery, Lawrence