West Lawrence restaurant plans major expansion; details on a Ninth and New Hampshire mishap; Kansas school system gets high ranking

You bet I’ve got a chop house on my mind, and it is not just because I’ve already spent a good part of my week “helping” my 4-H kids wrangle their hogs at the Douglas County Fair. I’ve got news of a large expansion of a west Lawrence restaurant that specializes in steaks and chops.

I briefly mentioned last week that I had heard the Six Mile Chop House and Tavern was expanding at its Sixth and Wakarusa location. Well, now I’ve got details, and they show the expansion will make it one of the larger restaurants in the city.

Brad Ziegler, an owner of Six Mile, told me that he has struck a deal to take all 6,500 square feet of space that previously was occupied by Famous Dave’s BBQ. Six Mile currently occupies space that is adjacent to the former Famous Dave’s location.

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Ziegler said a big part of the expansion plan is for Six Mile to get into the banquet business. That means wedding receptions, corporate events, big birthday parties, and bon voyage parties for a certain pair of pigs. (Well, maybe that last one is a tiny niche.)

“We want more room for private events and banquets,” Ziegler said. “We turn down a lot of events because we just don’t have the size.”

That won’t be a problem following the expansion. Six Mile and Famous Dave’s occupied space that originally served as the Lawrence location for the Hereford House. It was frequently said that the Lawrence Hereford House was the largest restaurant in the state of Kansas, just in terms of square footage.

Ziegler said the expansion will allow for a significant increase in general seating for diners as well.

“We don’t know the final number yet, but we’ll definitely double our capacity for dining,” Ziegler said.

Plans also call for an additional bar and lounge area to be added to the restaurant. But Ziegler — who is a longtime bar owner in Lawrence — said he’s not planning on using any of the space to create a large nightclub.

“We’re just talking about a casual place to have a cocktail,” Ziegler said.

What won’t change much is the restaurant’s menu. It will still have a heavy emphasis on steak, with some seafood, pork chops, lamb chops and other meaty entrees. Ziegler said the idea of a local steakhouse has been well-received by Lawrence diners. He said with the larger location he will try to attract a larger customer base by adding a few mid-range cuts of Angus steak in order to offer the option of a lower price point. But plans also call for the restaurant to keep its selection of prime cuts of beef. The restaurant currently offers nine cuts of prime beef ranging from a 17-ounce Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye to the traditional Kansas City Strip. Ziegler said a significant expansion of the restaurant’s wine list also is planned.

Ziegler hopes to have the expansion — which for the moment is focusing just on the main floor space, not the basement of the building — completed in October. But construction work hasn’t yet begun. Ziegler said he’s awaiting the necessary permits from City Hall.

In other news and notes from around town:

• I can guess one group that wasn’t thrilled with this morning’s rain storm: The construction crews that are trying to build the multistory office and apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

Robert Green, president of Lawrence-based First Construction, told me the project is a little more than three weeks behind schedule due to the amount of rain that the area has experienced this summer.

I also wanted to let you know of one other detail about the project, in part, to clear up some potential confusion. I’ve gotten several calls from people concerned that construction crews were dumping unused concrete in the sewer system at the job site. That hasn’t been happening, but there was a significant mishap involving a city sewer line at the job site.

Both First Construction and city officials confirmed that a subcontractor on the job accidentally damaged a city sewer line as part of the site work for the building. As part of the shoring process, a steel pin inadvertently punctured a sewer line. Part of the shoring process included the injection of grout, and the sewer line became filled with grout.

The only way to fix the problem was to replace a large section of the sewer line, Dave Wagner, the city’s director of utilities told me. Both Wagner and Green assured me that the cost to replace the line was paid by the contractor for the building, not by the city. The work to replace the line took place a few weeks ago, and the sewer system is working fine in the area, I’m told by Wagner.

As for the building project, as we previously have reported, it will add about 115 apartments to the downtown scene. Its ground floor will be the new headquarters for Great American Bank, which previously operated in the city as Lawrence Bank. Green said he is hopeful crews will make up for lost time and have the apartments ready to open by the fall of 2016.

• We may not always know where the next check is coming from to fund it, but Kansas’ educational system is one of the better ones in the country — at least according to one new report.

The study is from WalletHub, a financial website that does a lot of data crunching to create “best of” lists. The new study found Kansas has the 12th best “school system” in America. The report primarily looked at K-12, public schools, and examined metrics such as dropout rates, math and reading scores, SAT scores, student-to-teacher ratios and other such measures.

Kansas ranked just ahead of Iowa and just below Virginia. Kansas appeared to excel in a couple of categories in particular. Kansas had the third best pupil-to-teacher ratio in the country, and was tied for fourth in the “safest schools” category. That metric is based off of data that tracks the number of students in the ninth-12th grades who report being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

Other rankings for Kansas included:

• 8th for math test scores;

• 10th for dropout rate;

• 10th for average SAT scores.

• 21st for percentage of high school graduates who complete the ACT;

• 25th for bullying incident rates;

• 25th for reading test scores.

In case you are confused, a ranking of 1 is best and 51 (we count both the District of Columbia and Missouri, for some reason) is worst.

Most of the data that WalletHub used to compile the rankings came from the U.S. Census Bureau, or other reputable organizations such as the rankings of U.S. News and World Report, the College Board, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. You can see the complete report here.

And yes, I know you want to know the top 5 and the bottom 5, so, here you go:

1. Massachusetts

2. Colorado

3. New Jersey

4. Wisconsin

5. Kentucky

The bottom five:

47. Lousiana

48. Arizona

49. Nevada

50. District of Columbia

51. Alaska

As for other neighbors not already mentioned, Nebraska ranked No. 17, Missouri was No. 28, and Oklahoma was No. 33.