Kansas City-based bakery and restaurant opening on Iowa Street
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Yes, I will hike up a hill for a cinnamon roll, but I may roll back down it if I have one too many. For folks not quite up for that adventure, a bakery at the top of Mount Oread is now expanding to flatter ground on Iowa Street.
McLain’s Market has signed a deal to locate in the old Slim Chickens restaurant building at 2412 Iowa St. The Kansas City-based bakery and restaurant chain hopes to be open in early December.
The location will be its second in Lawrence, although people who aren’t often on the University of Kansas campus might not know that. McLain’s is entering its third year in the space at 1420 Crescent Road that previously was home to the Jayhawk Bookstore. Company owners, though, are betting the business can draw a bigger audience than just a university one in Lawrence.
“We’ve had a great time becoming part of the campus community, but we really want to become a part of the entire Lawrence community,” said Gigi Janzen, who will serve as assistant manager of the new store. “We want to expand our reach in Lawrence.”
The old Slim Chickens restaurant, which is just a block south of the busy intersection at 23rd and Iowa streets, had a lot of appeal. The location became a casualty of that time period when Lawrence was measuring its new chicken restaurants just like eggs — by the dozen. The nearly new restaurant space has sat empty since the summer of 2019.
When the owners of McLain’s began contemplating a Lawrence expansion a couple of months ago, the high traffic volumes on Iowa Street caught their eyes, but so too did the idea of a drive-thru. The new McLain’s will feature a drive-thru that will serve everything from coffee to sandwiches to even full-size cakes from the bakery’s catering department. (I’m not saying everyone should eat a birthday cake on the way home, but as long as you keep the candles away from the headliner, it is pretty safe.)
“We really are anticipating cakes will become a huge staple in our Lawrence business,” Janzen said.
The company thinks an off-campus location will help Lawrence residents understand the business is a full-service bakery, including wedding cakes and other special-occasion type of orders. The drive-thru lane also might be a selling point for people who want to drive over and pick up a ready-made cake for a last-minute event, Janzen said.
As for other notes about the menu, expect the Iowa Street store to have basically the same menu as the Mount Oread location. That does mean cinnamon rolls and lots of pastries. The rolls are some of the more popular breakfast items at the KU location, but the menu also offers several hot dishes, including a veggie quiche, breakfast burritos and a unique eggs Benedict that features sweet potato, sautéed spinach and a coconut lime hollandaise sauce with cocoa powder.
A classic chicken salad sandwich is one of the more popular lunch offerings at McLain’s, Janzen said. Other menu items include both beef and pork sliders, a loaded mac and cheese dish with an option of ghost pepper cheese and something called a maple roasted carrot salad, complete with orange thyme vinaigrette.
In addition to the pastries and cakes, the restaurant features a dessert menu that includes about a dozen varieties of cookies, with the macarons being the favorite in Lawrence, but an old-time dish called a “cup cookie” is the most popular in the Kansas City locations. That treat dates back to around the company’s opening in the Waldo district of Kansas City in 1945. Janzen said the cookie has a pecan sandy-type of vibe to it, except it also has a big dollop of chocolate buttercream.
“We sell them by the dozens in Kansas City,” she said.
Like the Mount Oread location, the Iowa Street store will include a limited bar, focusing mainly on Kansas bottled beers and some wine. However, plans don’t currently call for the location to be a late-night destination, with a closing time of 6 p.m. on most nights.