There's a lot of history within Strataca at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum?about 275 million years' worth. It was way back then when the once mighty Permian Sea dried up, and its receding waters revealed something that would forever change the Hutchinson area: salt. Salt as far as a terrified slug's eyes could see. The mineral covered some 27,000 square miles, and it waited there for eons, until Ben Blanchard?an oil man?accidentally discovered it in 1887. Then salt companies began mining the area, eventually clearing out enough room for a museum, 650 feet deep within the Earth's crust.
To reach that depth, visitors travel down a mine shaft on Strataca's double-decker transport. And that ride is only the first of many. Surrounded by walls of exposed salt, the Dark Ride sends guests on a tram through the mine's exhibits on air flow, hazards, and history. The Salt Mine Express then journeys to an area of the mine virtually unchanged from the way it was 50 years ago. Aside from these permanent attractions, the museum also hosts special events, including its Salt Safari, which sends groups wandering through miles of dark tunnel with only a lighted hard hat.
Having mastered several subsets of Chinese cuisine, the chefs at China Pavilion couldn't fit all their entrees onto a single menu. So they created three: one with America's popular staples, one brimming with traditional platters, and one showcasing chef specialties. The first lines up dishes that are now familiar—sweet 'n' sour chicken and mongolian beef—as well as recognizable feasts served in new ways, such as the peking duck wrapped in crepes. More traditional and exotic options abound on the Chinese menu, such as pickled cabbage and pork noodle soup, or spicy king crabmeat sprinkled with basil and served in a clay pot. The chefs’ selections, meanwhile, range from classic to experimental: strips of Angus beef sizzle in oyster sauce, and garlic-pepper salt coats Alaskan halibut in a wok. China Pavilion’s full cocktail bar balances meals with citrusy sips of sour plum martinis, and on weekends, visitors can drop by for a dim-sum brunch that leaves tongues more satisfied than an astronaut wearing Moon Boots.
Delish & Nutrish’s executive chef Justin Reed and sous chef Danny Kempton transform organic produce—much of it from local farms—into custom meals for each client before delivering them right to the client’s doorstep. Justine Meyer, the staff’s registered dietitian, helps plan the meals, stuffing them full of fresh, whole foods. Inspired by owner Nina Tafarella’s vision to help others transform their health through nutrition, this team continuously strives to help clients eat healthily without having to spend hours in the kitchen or drive great distances.
They can customize all meal plans, which can focus on weight loss or simply the maintenance of a balanced diet. Since they hand prepare their dishes without the help of industry-grade cloning technology, Reed and Kempton are able to appease vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, or gluten-free diners.
Though Enterprise’s menu focuses solely on seafood, the offerings are still diverse. The fresh fish dishes include British Columbian salmon sweetened with a Coca-Cola barbecue glaze, Costa Rican mahi-mahi topped with toasted macadamia nuts, and basa swai paired with citrus jasmine rice and Asian slaw. Seafood also bulks up pastas and sandwiches, and the dessert roster presents molten chocolate cake and key-lime pie.
Upon entering Enterprise, patrons may feel as though they’ve waded onto an immense sailboat. A blue-green marlin perches above the bar, and ship wheels and colorful buoys hang on the walls. Dock lights hook over each table, and an old-fashioned diving suit with a bronze helmet stands above the open grill, haughtily asking patrons how many leagues they can go under the sea.
Owners Tom and Alin Prom source fruits and vegetables for their Thai and Laotian dishes from farmers' markets and harvest fresh lemongrass and galangal from the Alin's sister's local garden. The fresh ingredients come together in elaborate salads, curries, and meat dishes with the option of vegetarian substitutions. After flavor, presentation is paramount: papaya salad piles upward in a delicate tower, and pineapple fried rice arrives in a hollowed pineapple or in the midst of a pineapple bush. Floral arrangements, Southeast Asian artwork, and golden tablecloths complement the colors of vibrant lunch and dinner entrees.
Stan Nicolaides often recalls eating at the kitchen table of his “yia yia,” the affectionate Greek term for one’s grandmother. There, he was unable to go play until he’d downed plates and plates of moussaka and gyros. Even then, it was clear he belonged in the kitchen.
Now, Stan makes his own rules while dishing out falafel, kebabs, and gyros named Best Greek Food two years running by SantaBarbara.com. After sopping up creamy hummus with fresh pita bread, guests have Nick whip up a chicken breast with thyme and lemon while he chatters in Greek.