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.
As you approach the ornate 1916 building now known as Bevo Mill, you may notice two storks on the chimney. They aren't pausing en route to deliver twins—the stone birds were added as a good luck symbol in the German and Dutch tradition. When August A. Busch Sr. of Anheuser-Busch commissioned the structure in the years leading up to World War I, he sought to bring Europe's Flemish architecture and culture back to his native St. Louis. The historical building eventually closed its doors to the public, but in 2009, it reopened as Bevo Mill, an elegant events center that welcomes weddings, corporate gatherings, and other large-scale happenings.
Visitors can still watch the 60-foot-wide aluminum blades of the original windmill spin, and admire the exterior stucco walls’ multicolored stones, each hand-picked by Mr. Busch from his home farm. Brass chandeliers illuminate the main dining area, where vaulted cathedral ceilings curve down into arches whose bases are guarded by stone-carved gnomes. Local artisans restored the Mill Room's painted tile murals and ornate wooden beams, and the Oak Room's artisan glass and art deco light fixtures were meticulously repaired or stolen from Jay Gatsby's mansion.
In the kitchen, chefs prepare refined event menus and samplings of hors d'oeuvres such as flaky feuilletes, glazed pot stickers, quiches, and quesadillas. Buffets feature dishes as diverse as grilled Norwegian salmon, chicken roulades, and seasonal vegetable medleys. On Sundays, chefs prepare a brunch buffet that features dozens of internationally inspired recipes such as hardwood smoked bacon, belgian waffles, potato pancakes, and Hungarian-style sausage. Once a month, Bevo Mill holds an authentic German night, complete with live music and a German buffet.
Head baker Lisa Cothran crafts frosting-topped confections and custom pies and cakes from scratch using top-secret recipes garnered during a lifelong love of baking. Inside the pale-blue shop, silver serving trays set off the colorful frosting of signature cupcakes. The shop always supplies a core menu of client favorites alongside a rotating selection of unique flavor combinations, seasonal varieties, and preemie cakes needing special attention. Lisa intersperses her selection of classic and miniature cupcakes with cookies and a listing of cakes and pies she can craft upon request. The shop also connects with clients by hosting a variety of events, allowing patrons to get their hands sugary while decorating cupcakes or convincing gingerbread men of the fashionableness of frosted cravats.
Country Lane Bulk Foods weaves delicate webs of nostalgia with more than 20 flavors of locally churned ice cream and hand-crafted treats from Amish communities throughout the country. Frozen mounds of sweet cream flavored with fudge brownies, cinnamon, or blueberry muffins fill cones and dishes in the shop’s charming café. A plethora of pickled vegetables that hail from the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country and local Amish and Mennonite communities range from watermelon rind ($5.29) to bread 'n' butter pickles ($4.49), tastefully stretching vinegar’s usefulness beyond the usual boundaries of powering science-fair volcanoes. Pickled okra ($5.49) or beets ($4.89–$6.99) and spicy ginger snaps ($1.64/12 oz.) tingle tongues, and rolled butter ($4.29/10 oz. or $8.90/2 lbs.) evokes sentimental memories of antique butter churns checking their pagers.
Cafe Berlin fills its kitchen with vegetables, coffee, dairy, free-range eggs, and other natural and organic foods from local farms, including Patchwork Family Farms, Green Hills Harvest Dairy, and Lakota Coffee Company. Breakfast, which is served all day, includes dishes such as Turkish-style eggs, french toast, and pancake burritos?a large pancake that enfolds two scrambled eggs and Patchwork bacon, served with maple syrup. Black-bean quesadillas, burgers with local, organic beef, and housemade soups crown the lunch menu and pair with an array of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Cafe Berlin then reopens daily at 5 p.m. as a bar scene featuring craft beers and cocktails made using the same fresh ingredients they use to make brunch.
Plastic dinosaurs and Godzilla figures dot the sunny dining room, where they hang from the rafters, sit on the counter, and gnaw on table legs. Patrons can gaze at the eclectic decor while listening to live music or tales from the Porch Light storytelling series.
Peachwave Yogurt’s frozen yogurt brims with live, active cultures, creating a calcium- and protein-rich dessert that laid the groundwork for more than 35 locations nationwide. Fourteen self-serve dispensers fill cups or open mouths with a rotating selection of 100% kosher flavors, such as low-fat red velvet, sugar-free white chocolate, nonfat pomegranate, or nondairy Dole pineapple. Container after container of jewel-toned fresh fruits, dried fruits, and other edible adornments line the topping bar, which boasts more than 40 yogurt accompaniments in total.