Signs have emerged that construction work is beginning soon on Lawrence’s Whataburger

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Demolition work takes place at 707 W. 23rd St. on March 21, 2024. The site was formerly the location of Mi Ranchito and will eventually house a Whataburger location.

There’s a clear sign that Whataburger is moving forward on opening its first Lawrence location — and it is not in the fast-food chain’s trademark orange. Instead, it is yellow, and plenty big.

A big, yellow, trackhoe excavator has been demolishing the former Mi Ranchito restaurant building at 707 W. 23rd St. this week. That indeed is the announced location of a new Whataburger restaurant.

Survey crews were on the site Thursday, plotting points for a new Whataburger restaurant. The Kansas City company that has the local franchise for the restaurant still hasn’t announced an official opening date, but the excavation and site preparation work are the surest signs yet that Whataburger construction is nearing.

For fans of the Texas-based, fast-food hamburger chain, it has been a long time coming. We first reported in June 2022 that Whataburger had filed with Lawrence City Hall to locate on the site. Since then, news on the project has emerged like ketchup from a half-empty bottle — in unpredictable spurts, with some shaking required.

The last big piece of news was in April 2023, when we were able to confirm that a Texas-based real estate company connected to Whataburger had completed its purchase of the 23rd Street site. Then a month later it filed its design plans for the site. But almost an entire year has passed without much new.

While I didn’t see Patrick Mahomes on site Thursday — the Chiefs quarterback is a partial owner of the Lawrence and Kansas City franchises of Whataburger — it looked like the crews that were working will have the site cleared in another day or two. I can only assume Mahomes was on a break, probably grabbing a slice at nearby Pizza Shuttle with Travis and Taylor. (I should clarify that is purely a joke, lest Swifties swarm the Shuttle.)

For those of you more interested in the food than the celebrity, here’s a reminder of some of the offerings. the hamburger is of course the main attraction. The standard comes with mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and diced onions on a 5-inch bun. Other toppings are available, like jalapeños, grilled pepper and onions, avocado, and sometimes the chain even has special toppings like a hard-boiled egg or green chiles. The other item that gets a lot of talk is ketchup. While the hamburgers don’t come with ketchup as a standard fixing, the restaurant actually offers two types of ketchup — a regular version or a spicy version. Picante sauce and salsa verde are also part of the offerings.

The restaurant also is big into breakfast, and in particular, late-night or early morning breakfast. Most Whataburgers are open 24 hours, and breakfast service begins at 11 p.m., meaning a whole lot of breakfast sandwiches and breakfast taquitos are served up after last call at the bars. Or, you could opt for a jalapeño cheddar biscuit, which is another of the restaurant’s breakfast specialties.

photo by: Associated Press/Newswire

A Whataburger hamburger is shown in this file photo.

Some of you might be more interested in the traffic than the food — specifically, whether this new Whataburger is going to create a traffic mess on 23rd Street. A doughnut shop just down the road produces a line of cars at its drive-thru that often backs onto the main lanes of traffic on 23rd Street. Is that going to happen with Whataburger, which has been known to produce long drive-thru lines during its rush hour?

I can’t promise that it won’t, but as we reported in May, the plans on file at City Hall show the restaurant is working to avoid that scenario. The first thing that is going to change about the site is the new restaurant building is going to be less than half the size of the Mi Ranchito building. The second difference is that it will be located farther off of 23rd Street than the existing building.

The end result will be a much bigger parking lot, and the plans filed with the city show that it will be designed in a way to allow a long line of drive-thru cars to snake its way through the parking lot rather than spill onto 23rd Street. As a reminder, unlike the Dunkin’ restaurant, the Whataburger won’t have a direct driveway onto 23rd Street. Instead, motorists will use the main entrance in The Malls shopping center, and then turn into the Whataburger parking lot from that private drive.

In terms of when Whataburger will actually open in Lawrence, you have to believe it is at least 8 to 10 months away. I did check the website of the Kansas City franchise — KMO Burger LLC — and it lists 2024 as an opening date, but doesn’t get more specific. It has two locations currently under construction, with stores in KCMO and Grandview, Mo., expected to open in the next couple of months, according to the website.

The list suggests that the Lawrence store will be the next to start construction. Of the three remaining stores on the list that aren’t yet open, the Lawrence store is the only one that has an address listed. The other two stores — one in Topeka and one in Raytown, Mo. — both just have “TBA” listed as their locations in those communities.

photo by: Associated Press/Newswire

A modern day Whataburger is shown in this file photo.


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