When he sets out to transform chicken, seafood, and certified Angus steaks into full meals, Dodge City Distillery's chef Jim Whiskey first marinates the cuts in house-made spirits before cooking them over the smoke that waltzes slowly from a slow-burning mesquite-hickory grill. Owners Derek Betz and Joe Effertz set out to celebrate Dodge City's frontier history with a nod to its origins as a whiskey depot, melding a full distillery with a restaurant serving Western and Southwest-inspired recipes. Tight-knit teams of servers, sometimes clad in cowboy hats and boots and riding invisible horses, bear dishes made daily from scratch as they navigate wood tables between the warm, brick walls of the main dining room. A map marking the Santa Fe Trail through Dodge City spreads across one wall, and an antique safe from the 1840s dominates the center of the dining space. The surprisingly sweet smell of the smoky spirit drifts from the stacked whiskey barrels that form a wall arching over the bar's 16 flat-screen TVs, which display college and professional football and basketball games. In keeping with the outdoorsy frontier mindset, Dodge City pursues several environmentally friendly initiatives and uses recycled glassware, cardboard, and water, some of which is collected through a runoff system on the roof or left out in saucers for thirsty tumbleweeds.
Ray Lamar hasn't spent decades perfecting his donuts. In fact, his namesake shops still use the same recipes that Ray developed in 1933—at the age of 17—when he got his first job working a donut fryer. World War II and a postwar career as a stockbroker interrupted Ray's donut-making pursuits, although he returned to his roots in 1960 when he founded the first LaMar's Donuts.
The shop went on to become a Kansas City icon, with crowds arriving well before 6 a.m. to line up outside the doors and taunt the roosters for sleeping in. Ray and his wife, Shannon, eventually decided to expand their business into a regional empire, and LaMar's Donuts currently boasts 27 franchised stores spread across six states.
Even with all of this growth, decades-old traditions still dictate how things are done. The workers prepare more than 75 different kinds of donuts, hand-making fresh batches of perennial favorites as well as recent inventions each and every morning. In addition to the original glazed creation that dates back to 1933, the menus can feature a variety of cake donuts with flavors such as red velvet, apple spice, and maple.
Since donuts and coffee go together as naturally as paper shredders and subpar report cards, the stores also prepare cappuccinos, mochas, and other coffee drinks. These are all made with handpicked beans that slowly roast inside Italian brick ovens.
Jim Sheridan's custard shop is packed with old-fashioned nostalgia. And it's not just the decor ? Sheridan's desire to create and sell custard sparked from his own childhood memories of adventuring to upstate New York to get his hands on the frozen treat. Now at Sheridan's Frozen Custard, Jim not only opts to incorporate creamy chocolate and vanilla flavors topped with everything from mangoes to graham crackers to a variety candies, but he views the real cherry on top as top-grade customer service. Caramel pretzel crunch concretes, fresh-baked strawberry shortcake Sundays, and cookie dough pies further satisfy sweet tooths. For those who prefer a straw to a spoon, the shop's shakes, malts, and smoothies are there for the sipping.
After years of perfecting those frozen treats Jim set out to conquer the world of burgers. To do so, he pulled from the same old-fashioned recipe book that inspired his sweet treats. The Olathe location's new food menu is filled with American favorites, from grilled-to-order steakburgers to hand-cut fries dusted with a kiss of salt. No matter the order, each meal is made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including grass-fed beef. Visitors can settle down at tables to enjoy their burgers and sandwiches or grab them to go at the convenient drive-thru.
Harley, the founder of Strawberry Hill Povitica Company, began baking povitica bread in 1984 using his mother's traditional Slavic recipe. He passed away in 1999, but his children and dedicated bakers continue to prepare the dense, sweet bread following his mother's technique. They roll dough into paper-thin layers, pile on ingredients such as nuts and honey, and roll the layers into loaves that weigh 2.5 pounds each after they're baked. Patrons can choose from Kosher-certified flavors such as english walnut, cokolada, or chocolate-chip cream cheese. The bread can be enjoyed in a variety of ways: toasted and buttered, crowned with a scoop of ice cream, or sandwiched around a whole roasted turkey.
At Tables With Taste, a mother-daughter duo combines their vivid imagination with more than 100 years of family tradition to bake up fresh cupcakes daily. Many of the custom-made treats emulate the appearance and tastes of beloved desserts, from the creamy zing of a root-beer float cake adorned with a straw to popcorn-flavored mini-cupcakes arranged in paper bags and served in a quiet, pitch-black room. The chefs also whip up pretzel challah bread, flour-free tortes, and chewy cookies for serving alongside their whimsical cupcakes.
The friendly barbecue buffs at Smokin' Joe's smoke their prized proteins over hickory wood using a decades-old, seasoned pit, resulting in a mix of meats that arrive tender and tasty. Topping the menu is the savory burnt-end sandwich ($5), which neighbors neatly with crispy, golden onion rings ($2.40). An array of flavorful homespun options pepper the menu, such as the family-recipe creamy coleslaw, which you can nosh individually ($1.80) or slathered atop the Southerner sandwich ($5.99). The tender ribs ($16.75 for full slab) fall right off the bone to nourish yours, two of which can be combined with any of the expertly smoked meats in a combo dinner plate ($11.95). Wash up sauce stains with bottled domestic beers, such as the local Boulevard Wheat ($2.75), and be sure to keep an extra dining shirt in your back pocket. The clean, welcoming interiors come accentuated by the sparkling smiles of the friendly servers, whose collective Midas-like touch produces not gold but wet naps in it wake.