Fun and funky food finds at Lawrence-area restaurants in 2020
photo by: Contributed and Journal-World File Photos
The idea of a food find in 2020 was a bit unusual. There were some days early in the pandemic that you were happy to find a crate of ramen and a bottle of ketchup on the grocery shelves. (With candlelight and a mask placed over your eyes, you would swear you were at the finest Italian restaurant this side of your laundry room.)
But let’s face it, food disappearances were a lot more common in 2020. It was a terribly tough year for the restaurant and hospitality industries. The job losses have been brutal, and several establishments that have produced a lot of good memories are gone too. That’s not what this article is about, but it didn’t seem appropriate to write about Lawrence’s restaurant scene in 2020 without acknowledging those tremendous losses.
What does seem appropriate, though, is urging people to get out and visit our local restaurants, if they can safely do so. That’s why we are glad to do our part to help promote Lawrence Restaurant Week. As we’ve reported, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and the Lawrence Restaurant Association have joined forces this year, and the event is now two weeks, running from Jan. 13 to Jan. 27. Check out details on participating restaurants and special menus at lawrencerestaurantweek.com.
Also be sure to check out the Journal-World’s Crave edition on Jan. 20 for more articles about restaurants and the people who make them run, plus look for specials advertised all week long in the newspaper.
As for my contribution to all of this, I once again will highlight some of my most fun and freaky food finds that I stumbled upon while writing a year’s worth of Town Talk columns, which frequently highlight new restaurants in town. (I thought about just licking my ties to spur my memory of where I’ve been, but I went through my notes instead.)
So, here we go: 13 food finds for 2020.
Cascada La Golondrina, 1800 W. 23rd St.
There have been some prickly moments in 2020. (I’m not sure it is legal to recount what you did with that shopping cart in the toilet paper aisle.) So, why not have a dish that features pads from a prickly pear cactus? Molcajete does, but it doesn’t have any barbs to worry about. Instead it features a medley of meats — such as beef and shrimp — and for good measure the cactus pads have the consistency of steak. It is all served in a bowl with a red chili sauce.
photo by: Courtesy: Cascada La Golondrina
McClain’s Market, 2412 Iowa St.
A cup of cookie probably would be one of the healthier things most people drank this past year. It was that type of year, but that’s not what I’m referring to. The popular Kansas City-based bakery McLain’s Market opened its second Lawrence location in 2020, to go along with its other location at the top of Mt. Oread. There’s a host of sandwiches, soups, cakes and other items, but it was an old-fashioned cookie that caught my eye. They’re called cup cookies and they date back to around the company’s founding in the Waldo district in 1945. The small cookie has a pecan sandy-type of vibe to it, except it also has a big dollop of chocolate buttercream.
Argana Cafe, 7 E. Seventh St.
I don’t know how you pickle butter. A stick of it never lasts long enough in my house to experiment with. But it exists at Argana Cafe, which is one Lawrence restaurant that had to work really hard to exist this past year. The restaurant’s building along 23rd Street caught fire in July just days after Argana’s opening. By the fall, it had reopened in its downtown spot. Pickled butter isn’t a dish, but rather an ingredient used in several traditional Moroccan dishes. If you want a dish that features the pickled butter (or pickled lemon) ask your server. As for other offerings at Argana, there is couscous, lamb shank, and beef tajine, which features slow-braised veal, with spices, dried plums and apricots.
The Fat Hawk
Fat Shack, 1008 Massachusetts St.
‘Fat Hawk’ simply was my nickname for that period of the pandemic where my main fashion look was a KU T-shirt and a big bag of Doritos. But the Fat Hawk actually is a sandwich at a new downtown restaurant that likes to feature crazy sandwiches. Fat Shack serves New Jersey-style sandwiches, which feature a bunch of fried food all mixed together in one sandwich. The Fat Hawk includes mac and cheese, french fries, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and buffalo ranch sauce.
photo by: Courtesy: Fat Shack
Fried deviled eggs
Barbwire Barbecue, Eudora
I’m pretty sure the chickens at Barbwire Barbecue in Eudora get some sort of stipend from the manufacturers of cholesterol medicine. After all, who would love something called a fried deviled egg more than someone in the cholesterol business? Maybe diners. The dish is an appetizer at the restaurant. The eggs are actually breaded, and include a deviled egg filling and smoked paprika. You can also choose to have them topped with pulled pork or brisket.
Apparition, 724 Massachusetts St.
The 2020 list of food finds has to include a cocktail. And it seems pretty appropriate that it would be named after a scary alien. That’s the Xenomorph — named after one of the creatures from the movie “Alien.” The drink comes in a glass rimmed with Sichuan peppercorns, which are meant to numb the mouth. That creates a different flavor for the drink itself, which is dominated by rye whiskey. But don’t go looking for this drink now. Apparition was a “pop-up” bar that was open only for the Halloween season. But who knows, it may be back this coming fall. You’ll need that much time to work up the courage.
photo by: Courtesy: Apparition
Buddy the Elf Waffles
Snow Globe, 1016 Massachusetts St.
Pop-ups were popular in 2020. Snow Globe operated only during the Christmas season, but it too might be back in 2021. It has a much more kid-friendly option. In fact, call it kid-fantastic. The restaurant featured a menu full of waffles inspired by Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf character. In case you didn’t know, Buddy loves sugar, and you had better too if you are going to tackle one of his waffles. One version included toppings of sugar cookie cereal and sugar sprinkles, while another included vanilla frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate syrup.
Wed-Sat BBQ, 733 New Hampshire St.
One layer of mashed potatoes. Yes, please. One layer of pulled pork or brisket. Yes, please. One layer of cheddar cheese. Yes, please. Repeat that trio, and add a piece of smoked sausage on top. That’s the Porky Parfait. And, yes, it is served in an old-fashioned ice-cream glass.
photo by: Courtesy: Wed-Sat BBQ
Mr. Brew’s Peanut Buster
Mr. Brew’s Taphouse, 3140 Iowa St.
Dairy Queen’s Peanut Buster Parfait should come out with its hands up. Between the last dish and now this hamburger, we have it surrounded. Indeed, Mr. Brew’s Peanut Buster is a hamburger. It features 5.3 ounces of Hereford beef that is topped with a special peanut butter, bacon and pepper jack cheese combination.
The Big Mill, 900 Mississippi St.
Detroit-style pizza is much better than Detroit-style elections. You get the pizza far quicker than you get vote returns. Too soon? No, it is never too soon for pizza. This style is unique. It is baked in a rectangular pan, cheese side down. That makes for bubbly cheese but also allows the crust to be brown with crispy edges, while still being light and thick. It is like the best parts of thin-and-crispy pizza and pan-style pizza.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
A la Parisienne
T&M Creperie, 7 E. Eighth St.
You may want to consult your French dictionary for a translation on A la Parisienne. I got distracted by the Nutella before I figured it out. T&M Creperie’s roots are in Algeria, the home country of the two owners. Crepes are a big deal in Algeria, and they are at T&M as well. The jars and jars of Nutella spread stacked behind the counter also should give you a clue that sweet crepes are a specialty. As for the A la Parisienne, that is a Paris-style crepe with Nutella, bananas, white and milk chocolate, pistachios, almonds and M&Ms.
Sunflower Cafe, 804 Massachusetts St.
I’ve participated in the Tour de France many times. French fries, French toast, French dip … Maybe you are bit more bicycle-oriented than I am, but perhaps have the same appetite. Sunflower Cafe is inside the Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop space in downtown. The new coffee shop and bistro makes it perfectly appropriate to dream about pastries while pedaling. The shop features a rotating case of pastries from fellow downtown restaurant Cellar Door Cafe, but look for something called a financier. It is a traditional French pastry of brown butter and almond flour, and is often iced with something fruity, like a blueberry glaze.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
Smoked trout salad
Latchkey Deli, 1035 Massachusetts St.
Of course a deli is going to have pastrami, of course it is going to have egg salad, of course it is even going to have chicken salad. Lawrence’s newest deli, though, dives even deeper — and comes up with trout. Latchkey’s menu features trout that is smoked in house and is combined with house-made chopped pickles, lemon tarragon mayonnaise, red onions and lettuce served on toasted white bread. Be honest — it probably will be the biggest trout you catch all year.
But, hey, at least it is a new year. Here is hoping that there are a lot more good times and good meals at a restaurant near you.