Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lawrence named one of 9 best small towns for dining out

April 14, 2011


Grab a fork, Lawrence residents. You’re living in one of the nine best small towns in America for dining out, according to a national food website.

The website The Daily Meal recently included Lawrence on its list of nine small towns where you can “find great eating where you might least expect it.” The site touts Lawrence as having everything from Central American food — it highlighted La Parrilla — to a “booming gastropub scene,” specifically calling out Dempsey’s and Free State Brewery.

“I think our restaurant scene is surprisingly adventurous for being in the middle of the country,” said Ann Dominguez, a manager at La Parrilla, 814 Mass. “We have a bit of an international feel here.”

Lawrence was one of only two cities in the middle of the country that made the list. Free State founder Chuck Magerl, who also owns and operates Wheatfields Bakery, said Lawrence’s restaurant scene has benefited from a population that is well-traveled.

“We have a lot of people who get excited about what they have seen in other places and want to bring it back here,” Magerl said. “And we still have a lot of people in Lawrence who are always willing to give it a try.”

But there also have been some significant changes in recent years in how Lawrence restaurants operate, said Steve Gaudreau, who owns Dempsey’s and the longtime Massachusetts Street staple Quinton’s. He said several Lawrence restaurants really have taken to the idea of buying local meat and produce, and also have seen the value in hiring highly trained chefs. When he opened Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt., about a year ago, he brought in a fully trained chef who had worked for Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills.

“A few years ago, you just didn’t do that in Lawrence,” Gaudreau said. “But now we are going out and getting highly trained chefs, and they are the ones who are bringing in some new concepts. There are lot more items made from scratch these days, and a style that really lets the flavors speak for themselves.”

Other cities that made The Daily Meal’s list of nine were:

  • Asheville, N.C.
  • Danville, Calif.
  • Ithaca, N.Y.
  • Edgartown, Mass.
  • Ojai, Calif.
  • Burlington, Vt.
  • Evanston, Ill.
  • New Haven, Conn.


blindrabbit 7 years ago

Enjoy the Lawrence eateries mentioned ; but to think that Lawrence is one of the "9 best" is a sad commentary on quality throughout the U.S. Not intended to demean Larryville!!

Bob Forer 7 years ago

I think you are forgetting that its "9 best SMALL TOWNS."

pizzapete 7 years ago

a “booming gastropub scene,” Too funny.

Katara 7 years ago

Kansas City is still considered close by and there are quite a few German restaurants there.

You must not get out very much.

duckedtapedemon 7 years ago

Grunauer is good, just ate there over break. Excellent red cabbage, who knew cabbage could be so good. Unfortunately its right next to Lidia's and Jackstack, which are two fantastic eateries in their own right.

I also ate at Rheinland several years back. It was pretty decent too.

However the best place I've eaten German food is the Ox Yoke Inn, in Amana, Iowa. Fantastic meats, sides (family style, so you get loads of everything!)

John Pultz 7 years ago

Wilbur: do you ever eat out?

mexican, mexican, mexican and chinese, and more chinese

There's clearly much more than this. Seems you don't know what you are talking about, in which case why not keep you thoughts to yourself.

overthemoon 7 years ago

maybe he's thinking that 23rd street is the downtown??

Tony Kisner 7 years ago

We don't even have a Red Lobster. _

SinoHawk 7 years ago

Why would we want one? Chains aren't what make a town good for quality dining.

squarepusher 7 years ago

Chains or local, quality is only skin deep.

OceanStateJayhawk 7 years ago

Easy_Does_It....... I had a very good laugh at your comment. I understood that you were joking...

Dan Thalmann 7 years ago

I disagree that Lawrence is a small town, but that's all relative. I was impressed with Salida, Colorado, on a recent trip there. A town of around 5,500 and probably had as many restaurants and bars than downtown Lawrence. All unique... no chains to speak of... and a big push for local ingredients, it was promoted at almost every venue.

overthemoon 7 years ago

ski traffic in the winter, campers and tourists in the summer.

kthxbi 7 years ago

Salida is awesome, I love it there.

squarepusher 7 years ago

German food may be noteworthy to others. Actually, to quite a few from what I have been reading lately.

MyName 7 years ago

Their baking is very good, their other food (like you said) can be very high quality but is rarely adventurous. So I'd rather have a German bakery than a German Restaurant, but then again they probably wouldn't be too different from Wheatfields.

Katara 7 years ago

Sauerbraten with Spätzle is awesome. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to take the lesser cuts and turn it into something delicious.

TimW 7 years ago

Do I need to give La Parrilla another chance?

The wife and I have been once. I had fajitas, all the components were there (actually, no. They missed the sour cream and had the nerve to upcharge me for it) but were completely tasteless. Tasted like I had a little meat, some onions and peppers that had been quickly seared on the grill with no spices, no seasonings, nothing. Had never tasted Latin food so bland in my life. Wife had some kind of fish rice bowl and concurred with my sentiment. Maybe we just caught a bad night?

...and I realize that being from the northeast we might not do latin food right, but I've always had sour cream with my fajitas, I like it. Upcharging me $1.50 for it? That rather than the food is probably why we haven't been back.

jafs 7 years ago

I think LP is quite good, and very reasonably priced - maybe you caught them on a bad night.

Some of our favorites are the quesadilla suiza, the portobello empanadas, and the salvadoran enchiladas, as well as their guacamole.

Give them another try.

jafs 7 years ago

Of course, if you're from the northeast, your standards may be a bit higher than can be met around here.

I'm from NYC originally, and I've had to lower mine in order to be satisfied - there's really no place with the diversity and quality of food you can get in NY.

TimW 7 years ago

I wouldn't say I'd have to lower my standards a whole lot. Once I came to understand that there was no Ernesto's Pizza (Boston's North End) or fresh seafood anywhere I have managed to find plenty of nice food in Lawrence. Despite what other's say, I like India Palace (so long as I'm in the mood to put up with the service), I've never had a bad dish at the Encore Cafe and I think the Basil Leaf is a hidden gem.

That said, there are things missing in town (what I wouldn't give for a decent bowl of pho on a cold winter's day) or some kick-ass bbq, but that's to be expeceted. On the other hand, I just don't get some of places that get raved about here...La Parrilla (as mentioned), I think Free State is very mediocre, Mad Greek was highly recommended but nearly inedible both times I've been.

Like anyplace else Lawrence has it's good, it's ok, and it's bad. Although I've had enough of the bad and had to look hard enough for the good that I can't possibly believe it's one of the top 10 "small" cities in the country for dining.

jafs 7 years ago

I like IP also, although it would be nice to have another option for Indian food (or several).

Also Encore, Yokohama, Zen Zero, Wheat State Pizza, Cielito Lindo, LP, etc.

Can you tell we like to eat out?

Sorry MG wasn't good for you - were you there for a Sunday buffet? That's been quite good, everytime we've been.

Also Aladdin has one as well, which is good - great lentil soup.

But everytime I go back for a visit, I realize how the food in NY is a cut above, in all directions - authenticity, variety, quaity, etc.

jafs 7 years ago

The Orient downtown has Pho.

Genovese, 715, Teller's, Ten are also good, in my experience.

jafs 7 years ago

Well, it depends on what's important to you.

But there's no question that the diversity and quality of food available in NY, and the authenticity is unmatched in my experience even in other large cities like Chicago. The same goes for world class music, art, and theater.

Of course, there's no peace and quiet, or nature there.

Have you ever been there?

MyName 7 years ago

Wait, so you're saying that a city with 100 times the number of people is more likely to have better food and more stuff? Liez and Slandar.

That being said, I'm pretty sure there are also a number of mediocre restaurants in NYC that would score lower than some of the Lawrence favorites. The highs are much higher, but there is more opportunity for failure as well.

jafs 7 years ago


Sure - there's a broad range.

But that's also part of the fun - you can find inexpensive places that are excellent.

squarepusher 7 years ago

Found baby roaches in our salad. Will never go there again. Too bad, their tacos were really good.

jafs 7 years ago


That's gross - what did they say/do when you told them?

jafs 7 years ago

Although I agree Lawrence is no longer a "small town".

somedude20 7 years ago

I believe it as Lawrence has two Applebees, a Chilies, 5-8 McD's, a buch of BK's,many Pizza the Huts, a bunch of crappy Mexican fast food places, IHOP and don't forget the wonderful Perkins. Oh, and the great CC's (I can't bring myself to write the word pizza after their name as they make Pizza The Hut taste like authentic Italian pizza) oh and Papa Johns (so so gross) Dominos and the great Spangles. Yeah Lawrence. I kid of course and I can not wait for Curry in a Hurry!!!!

somedude20 7 years ago

Yes I did. Great curry without all the cream that India Palace uses and they have more spice to it. My only complaint about CIAH is that it was a little pricey but worth it. I enjoy Zen's red c as well

squarepusher 7 years ago

Drop both Applebee's and were set.

squarepusher 7 years ago

I hear Curry in a Hurry has a store front now. Good for them.

somedude20 7 years ago

Yes, in the place of that comic book store on Mass. No word on when it is going to open

WhiteDog 7 years ago

Yeah, this seems at odds with the fact that when Guy Fieri wanted to come here, he was unable to find one single establishment worthy of his attention.

fearsadness14 7 years ago

thats because his show is based on diners, drive-ins, and dives. wouldn't you say the majority of our fantastic eateries are instead focused on the Jo-Co crowd?

CardHawkFan 7 years ago

Seafood...We are lacking a good seafood restaurant with actual options that come from the ocean. Crab, shrimp, lobster! That's what I'm talking about!

lawslady 7 years ago

AMEN! The one on Mass street (is it still open?) was over-priced and not at all good. I tried it 3x then gave up!

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

Lawrence is awfully far from oceans. The crabs would get all tuckered out before they could walk here.

Kontum1972 7 years ago

fishheads and rice with a side of nookmam....

Sigmund 7 years ago

Check out the Phở (a Vietnamese noodle soup with beef or chicken) and the Sweet Potato and Shrimp appetizer at the Little Saigon Restaurant on 23rd Street. The soup includes rice noodles and served with Thai basil, lime, and bean sprouts. Reasonably priced, simply prepared, real good food with minimal processing and served without any pretentiousness.

TimW 7 years ago

Is that the one that as I drive by looks like it's part of the nail salon?

I miss good pho, so I'll give it a shot.

Mike Hatch 7 years ago

It is good. I like their spring rolls too.

somedude20 7 years ago

I really do not care for that Don Don on 23rd st as they charge almost $9.00 for a bowl of rice with a few meat pieces thrown on top and not enough sauce to make the rice go down. I ended up using 1/4 of a bottle of shacha sauce and I paid for that the next day. I did try the place twice and had different things but they both were not good

Sigmund 7 years ago

TimW (anonymous) replies… "Is that the one that as I drive by looks like it's part of the nail salon? I miss good pho, so I'll give it a shot."

That is the one, where the Baskin and Robbins used to be.

somedude20 (anonymous) says ... "I really do not care for that Don Don on 23rd st as they charge almost $9.00 for a bowl of rice with a few meat pieces thrown on top and not enough sauce to make the rice go down."

Agreed, Don Don is terrible! A large bowl of beef Phở at Little Saigon is around $6.

somedude20 7 years ago

thanks for the tip will check it out!

KansasPerson 7 years ago

Wait -- you like German food? How come I've never heard this about you?


Martin Shupert 7 years ago

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe we have a problem trying to get a Red Lobsters or K.C. Masterpiece in Lawrence. There's a 25 mile radius promise to owners so they do not have to compete with each other. Since Lawrence is just inside that from Kansas City, Kansas and Topeka, I think they run into that restriction. Again, I could be wrong about that. Still, it's nice to see that we have many more choices than we did in the 80s. There was literally no where to go back in the day.

jafs 7 years ago

Yes - we have a lot more decent restaurants now that when I moved here as well - about 15 years ago.

Bingoj1 7 years ago

I wouldn't mind a good Coney Island place.

MyName 7 years ago

Yar, Tubas are teh awesomesauce doncha know?

But Flugelhorns are where it's at. Gotta keep that real!

guesswho 7 years ago

La Parilla has been hit or miss....

Basil Leaf cafe is fantastic.

beatle909 7 years ago

Just give me a New York-style deli, in Lawrence, that serves great hot pastrami sandwiches, along with a plate of authentic chopped liver.

Kris Adair 7 years ago

I am trying to get out and enjoy the dinning scene. So many restaurants recently have me craving my own home cooking. Maybe I just haven't found the right one.

yourworstnightmare 7 years ago

As Sigmund above noted, Little Saigon by the nail salon on 23rd has great, freshly-prepared Vietnamese food.

Gosh, Sigmund, maybe we cross paths there all of the time without knowing it. Look around next time you are there. Your worst nightmare might be at the next table or at the counter.

Well, maybe you aren't totally hopeless after all...

George_Braziller 7 years ago

I guess people have had better luck with Free State food than I have. Every single time it has either come to the table cold (when it should have been hot), burned to a crisp, or something I didn't order.

Dan Blomgren 7 years ago

Congratulations to Dempseys, Quinton's et all for helping make Lawrence a fun place to live and eat. I was surprised at no mention for Pachamama's, another outstanding restaurant. I appreciate all of your efforts.

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