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Archive for Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Town Talk: West Lawrence restaurant closes; Famous Dave’s close to making announcement; Glass recycling at Farmland possible

December 22, 2010

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News and notes from around Lawrence and Douglas County:

• The struggle for a shopping center at Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive to establish an anchor restaurant tenant continues. Mia’s Italian Restaurant, 1540 Wakarusa, appears to have closed. Although there is no sign, the front doors of the building were locked with a padlock and chain during the lunch hour on Tuesday. Sources in the area said the restaurant has been closed for the last couple of weeks. Mia’s is at least the third restaurant to try to make a go of it at the location. Tanner’s Bar and Grill and Zig & Mac’s Sports Bar & Grill both have opened and closed at the location in recent years. No word yet on whether a new tenant is lined up for the space.

The shopping center, though, is still trying to get a food presence going. Lawrence-based El Mezcal has a restaurant in a separate spot in the strip center. The center also is working to get an evening crowd going with The Shenago Lounge, a longtime Lawrence bar that was at 2907 W. Sixth St. for years.

• While we're on the subject of restaurants, I expect to soon get official confirmation of the long-simmering rumor that Famous Dave’s BBQ is coming to Lawrence. An executive with Famous Dave’s told me today that the company’s marketing firm was preparing an announcement, although he stopped short of confirming the restaurant will go into the former Hereford House location at Sixth and Wakarusa. Keep an eye on Town Talk for the details. Also we’re keeping an ear open to whether Old Chicago, which we reported closed its location near 23rd and Iowa, is looking for a new spot in Lawrence. Talk among employees at the restaurant was that Old Chicago did not want to leave the Lawrence market but wasn’t able to continue on at its longtime location.

• City Hall officials are giving some thought these days on how they can promote glass recycling in Lawrence. Chuck Soules, director of public works, confirmed that the city has thought about how it could use one of the large vacant buildings at the former Farmland Industries plant to be a glass bottle warehouse for a privately operated glass recycling program. Soules mentioned Kansas City-based Ripple Glass as a possibility.

Recycling glass in Lawrence has been an up-and-down affair. Recycling centers at times have had to suspend glass collection, and the Deffenbaugh Curbside Recycling program does not accept glass. Glass has been a recycling challenge, in part, because when it breaks it contaminates other recyclable material. It also is an expensive product to ship very far. But if a warehouse could be developed where large loads could be assembled, that could reduce shipping costs. Ripple is a likely candidate because it has a ready-made buyer for recycled glass. The company sells much of its product to an area Owens Corning plant that uses it to make fiberglass insulation.

• Why would there be any buildings left on the Farmland site, since city commissioners just approved a demolition contract for the property? Good question. As we previously reported, four buildings on the site will remain. They include the large “Bag House” building that sits along North 1500 Road, two nitrate warehouses, and the plant’s former laboratory building which will be used as an office for demolition and environmental monitoring activities. Other than the laboratory building, none is really visible from Kansas Highway 10.

The city has said some of the warehouse buildings could be used for salt and sand storage, and indoor parking spots for key pieces of city equipment. But the buildings also may get wrapped up in the city’s large discussion about trash services. If the city does decide to operate its own curbside recycling program, it likely will need a facility where curbside materials can be sorted, or at least transferred to larger trucks to be hauled to Kansas City. The warehouses, which are large open buildings, may end up fitting the bill.

• One last item about Farmland, for now. The site may end up providing an example of how ironic life can become. When I was touring the site a few weeks ago, the city engineer overseeing its clean-up told me a story that stuck with me. The property, as has been well documented, has contaminated groundwater. It basically has groundwater that is laced with nitrogen fertilizer. The city’s role in cleaning up the water is to pump it from the ground to ensure it doesn’t spread to neighboring properties. Eventually — probably over the course of several decades — the nitrogen levels will drop to where they are no longer a problem. In the meantime, the city has to do something with the water. The solution thus far has been to pump it through an existing pipeline to North Lawrence, where it is used by a half-dozen farmers or so who get the benefit of fertilizer-enhanced water to irrigate their fields.

Already, nitrogen levels have started to drop some. The levels are still too much to satisfy state health environmental standards, but at some point the levels may be too low to interest farmers who use the water as a fertilizer. Farmers probably always will be interested in the water during dry periods. But during wet years, the main benefit of the water is its fertilizer content. If the fertilizer content is low, farm fields would have to be drenched to the point that they would often be too wet to work. So, all this brings up an ironic possibility. At some point in the future — probably not real soon — the city may have to pump the water and then inject some nitrogen fertilizer back into it in order to keep farmers interested. There probably are other possibilities, but it is an issue the city will have to keep an eye on. One thing that is certain: The city will have millions and millions of gallons of water that it will have to move off site each year. It certainly doesn’t want to have to pay someone to take the water.

What town talk are you hearing? Send me an e-mail at clawhorn@ljworld.com.

Comments

ksrush 3 years, 3 months ago

Just what Larryville needs - more low paying low tech jobs in a flooded market

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grtnrse 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree with a previous post - really going to miss Old Chicago - great place for the family to meet up and easy to please the 3 yr old , the 88 yr old and every beer drinker in between! I heard from good sources that they left because of poor building management - couldn't get them to fix things. So whomever owns that strip mall, I'm guessing they will stay away from anything else they own. Would love to see them find another location.......and soon!! Bring back Shannon and the gang!

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Erin Graham 3 years, 3 months ago

Red Lobster (or some other seafood place) would be Awesome... really in any of the current vacant locations. I've heard plenty of people hoping for an Olive Garden, too. I'm more of a Paisano's fan, but OG is alright for its own overly-americanized Italian genre. (Perhaps where Mia's used to be?)

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bocephus87 3 years, 3 months ago

My favorite steakhouse is Topeka Steak House. It isn't to far from Lawrence. They are amazing! They are so good, ppl will line out the door. And they have a very large place so it takes a lot to fill it up.

I love Cutters in Eudora. They have the best ribs! :)

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 3 months ago

It may be time for a diner to make a return to Lawrence. What was the one about 15 or 20 years ago on Mass Street, Blue Bird Diner or something like that? Lawrencians for the last number of years seem to have rejected this sort of fare, though. Hence the dearth of diner destinations downtown. Or elsewhwere in the city.

---like that "Hayes" restaurant was at 15th and kasold?

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stuart 3 years, 3 months ago

Blind Rabbit,
Great Ideas for restaurants, why don't you sell everything you have and start one? You could make millions.

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bearded_gnome 3 years, 3 months ago

— the city may have to pump the water and then inject some nitrogen fertilizer back into it in order to keep farmers interested. There probably are other possibilities, but it is an issue the city will have to keep an eye on. One thing that is certain: The city will have millions and millions of gallons of water that it will have to move off site each year. It certainly doesn’t want to have to pay someone to take the water.

---Oh heck, just dump it into the river, close, convenient, cheap, solution there you go!
... and who'd notice anyway? might just stimulate more fauna to actually live in the river???

or just pump that to north lawrence to grow new giant mushrooms instead? make them an annual landmark/tourist attraction.


so, again city will be competing against private enterprise? wow, that just makes so much sense.


once again, Merrill's posts show why he is the George Soros of the lawrence loonie left.

he assumes that small local economies function as zero sum gain. he assumes that competition is bad. he implies that the benevolent citizens' committee can decide which businesses are desireable and should be allowed to survive.

he's still working on that idea for us to have mandated rotating power outages to force us to conserve electricity.

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edjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

The rumor about getting a Red Lobster or Olive Garden has swirled around for years.

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seeker_of_truth 3 years, 3 months ago

Wondering. If famous Dave's is so great, why has average person never heard of them? And if so, what is supposed to make them so famous? Sounds like another over hyped average food joint.

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edjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Most of the time local/small owned BBQ places trump over chains. Wow, I'm now hungry for BBQ!

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DVLPER 3 years, 3 months ago

We need a Schlotzsky's. Their food is great. The old location wasnt good, at the corner of 23rd and Louisiana.

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doc1 3 years, 3 months ago

Where is the Red Lobster? Oh yeah, Famous Daves Rules. Except the Topeka one. The KC one is way better.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 3 months ago

Two restaurant ideas; both should work in Lawrence. A diner style cafe; maybe one that would operate 24 hours; not one of those crappy chain types, but a real diner! Second, a chicken house, maybe like Brookfield, Stouds or Chicken Annies/Marys; too many BBQ's now

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BorderRuffian 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Dave's will just be one more failed Larryville restaurant. In a city where restaurants fail by the handful a year, you'd think they'd figure out that this town just won't support something large and corporate.

BTW - speaking of new restaurants, give that new noodle and sushi buffet at 8th and Iowa a try (Tryyaki). I have eaten there about ten times now and enjoyed it every time. It has the ideal formula for Larryville - small-time set up, good food, plenty to eat, and inexpensive. Sure, it'll prolly close after a few years, but that is the pattern for Larryville.

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thinkagain 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Dave's, blah. When will we get a Popeye's Chicken?

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Jeff Cuttell 3 years, 3 months ago

12th and Haskell Recycle takes glass, cardboard, paper, and pays for metal. They currently are paying 55 cents a pound for cans through Christmas Eve. Support a local business that donates to local charities.

Why do we need a giant glass recycle place when we have a small one that takes all of this?

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LogicMan 3 years, 3 months ago

Glass: "It also is an expensive product to ship very far. But if a warehouse "

Tiny, inside the box thinking -- think big instead! Get a large plant there to make use of the glass such as for making new bottles for regional breweries, canneries, etc. And small spaces for specialty glass folk such as dishmakers, glassblowing artists, stained glass, and so on. That would create many more jobs and taxes, while increasing the culture base. There's plenty of natural gas service to the site for firing the glass melting furnaces.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 3 months ago

Why doesn't Parks and Rec pump the nitrogen flavored water into trucks and water the parks with it, the grass areas around town as well and even the planters downtown.

Isn't Lawrence supposed to be sustainable?

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KEITHMILES05 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Dave's in Topeka is AWFUL! Will never go there again. Yuck.

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Jim Williamson 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Dave's: The Starbucks of BBQ.

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thepianoman 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Dave is indeed coming to Lawrence. I have learned this through a friend whose daughter is friends with the manager of the one in St. Joseph. Soooo..Welcome FD!

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Maracas 3 years, 3 months ago

Of all the BBQ joints that could come to Lawrence it has to be one of the crappiest. Famous Dave's is awful.

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Joe Hyde 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm not sure the words "anchor" and "restaurant" should be used together as an operative metaphor for long-range city planning.

"Marina slip where one can pull in and tie up for a while" might better characterize the nature of the business.

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blindrabbit 3 years, 3 months ago

Having worked summers at the Farmland Plant back in the 1960's while in college; and having spent many days in the "large bag house", I always thought that that building would make a great site for a privately operated boat-auto storage facility.

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HighScore 3 years, 3 months ago

I would like to find a restaurant in Lawrence that serves a good steak. Hereford House was great, but kept closing and reopening. Longhorn is decent, but that is about it in Lawrence right now. I miss Don's.

Can anyone recommend where to find a good steak? And don't tell me Montana Mike's.

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Kelly Johnson 3 years, 3 months ago

I ate at Zig & Mac's a few times, and while the food was good, there were other places I like better so I usually ended up spending my money at one of them instead. We tried Mia's once not long after it opened, and the food tasted like frozen dinners that had been heated and put on plates. It was overpriced and poor quality - bad combo. The service was good, but unfortunately good service won't bring me back if the food isn't great. El Mez doesn't seem to be having any issues doing good business there, so I don't think it's about the location.

I'm already missing Old Chicago and hope it's true that they are searching for a new location! That was the one place in town we could go that everyone in our entire family (including extended family) liked. We celebrated many birthdays there.

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d_prowess 3 years, 3 months ago

I am starting to think that the folks on the West Side of town don't go out to eat!

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acecleaning 3 years, 3 months ago

The Problem with Tanners, Zig & Mac’s and Mia’s was incompetent and absentee owners. Brad Zieglar was the only capable business person involved at that location. Once he sold his interest Zig and Mac’s went into a death spiral. Mike Howell (the remaining owner) closed Zig and Mac’s and reopened with an Italian theme. From what I hear he never set foot in Mia’s. If anyone has contact information for Mike Howell please message me. He pulled the plug on Mia’s without paying vendors.

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rockchalker52 3 years, 3 months ago

Beimer's is fantastic. The fries are outstanding. And, man, can they smoke some meat! Best brisket & pulled pork sammiches around. I like eating at Bigg,s, too. Nice, comfortable atmosphere. I love their 1,2, &3-way sammmiches. Also, beer's good 'n cold.

My favorite ribs, currently, are 'Lazy Day Ribs' once shown on Jayni Carey's show. I tweaked it a bit to use a rub from an Oklahoma Joe's recipe. Yummy. Will share if anyone's interested. (the recipe, that is. I ain't cookin' for ya).

I wish another steakhouse would open up somewhere. And since I'm completely off topic now, will somebody please call Denny's & invite them to town?

In case anyone is wondering, my cholesterol is fine.

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Water 3 years, 3 months ago

Is it possible to send the nitrogen rich water from Farmland Industries' old site to the city owned and operated Eagle Bend Golf Course? Maybe the distribution across a golf course is more complicated then spraying across a crop field? Since Eagle Bend is not profitable this might help with their expenses.

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Scott Morgan 3 years, 3 months ago

Is Biggs moving into the Old Chicago building?

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aldo 3 years, 3 months ago

Cutter's Smokehouse in Eudora has the best BBQ around ... ( Frontage Rd on South Side of Hwy 10 ) ... had some smoked meatloaf there for lunch the other day ... BIG portions ... mmmmmmm ...

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CMM 3 years, 3 months ago

Famous Daves?...yawn

Biemer's is the only BBQ place truly worth eating at in Lawrence. I don't stray from his pulled pork.

However, if you want great BBQ, just make the drive into KC

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LogicMan 3 years, 3 months ago

"Old Chicago"

The long-vacant new building in front of Home Depot?

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Norma Jeane Baker 3 years, 3 months ago

I never ate at Vermont St when it was actually on Vermont. I ate there after it moved to Mass St.

Worst. BBQ. Ever.

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3crookedhearts 3 years, 3 months ago

There's one place in Lawrence that has good BBQ and it's on the east end of town. Biemer's ribs are terrible. Biggs is mediocre and expensive. Buffalo Bob's is completely inedible. Grandaddy's is the only decent place for BBQ in the city since Vermont St. closed.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 3 months ago

If Famous Dave's does succeed,which it might not, it is likely some other eating establishment(s) will close down. The Lawrence market is a rob peter to pay paul aka economic displacement.

Famous Dave's may well be a fine BBQ establishment however it will still require a substantial market to succeed. Will Biemers BBQ become a victim of flooded markets?

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 3 months ago

So is city hall bailing out Farmland by way of putting Lawrence city services in that location?

If so why not create a large money making recycling center?

And why not implement a pay as you throw system?

Let's for once make a move that pays for itself!

Lawrence needs more office space like it needs more tax increasing bedrooms, bars and restaurants.

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3 years, 3 months ago

another great column, thanks chad! :-)

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