Historic Lawrence, Kansas is home to a dining scene that has a wide variety of options from rustic Italian food to contemporary American dishes. Here are 10 of the best restaurants Lawrence has to offer.
23rd Street Brewery
23rd Street Brewery is a brewpub with a difference. Not only does it brew its own signature range of delicious craft beers, but it also operates as a catering company, banquet facility and, overall, a fantastic venue in which to enjoy great food and drinks with friends and family. The venue’s brewery is located on its upper floor with master brewer Russell Brickell handcrafting beers from the finest domestic and imported barley and hops to create award-winning beers such as the Crimson Phog which scooped a silver medal at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival. 23rd Street Brewery’s menu features fare perfectly matched to its tasty beers like chicken fried steak and a range of burgers.
With a classy and inviting interior full of sleek wood, exposed brick and gentle lighting 715 is a perfect option for diners who like to enjoy a meal in chic but relaxed surroundings while its menu, which fuses elements of American and European bistro fare with a distinct Italian influence, is sure to delight any discerning foodies. Executive chef and co-owner Michael Beard, who spent time honing his craft at Florence’s prestigious Apicius Culinary School in Italy, creates dishes that include the heritage pork meatballs in marinara sauce appetiser and the wild-caught garlic shrimp entrée with spicy harissa, olive oil, brandy, grilled lemon and crostini.
Black and Blue Image courtesy of The Burger Stand at the Casbah
The Burger Stand at the Casbah
Restaurant, American, $$$
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Restaurant interior | Courtesy Five21
The Burger Stand at the Casbah started out life in 2009 as a pub but since relocating to its current location in Lawrence’s historic downtown, the eatery updated its menu to include not just burgers, but gourmet hot dogs and a number of vegetarian dishes too. Voted as one of America’s Top 25 Burger Joints by Zagat in 2013, The Burger Stand is a must-visit for any fans of upscale fast food made from locally sourced ingredients with dishes like the black and blue burger, made with blue cheese and Granny Smith apple chutney, and the Colombian hot dog with pork sausage, salsa rosada, pineapple mayo and potato chips available.
For top-notch contemporary American cuisine with a distinct European influence, head on down to Five21 – a stylish restaurant based within the lobby of the Oread Hotel. Boasting a spacious interior that features exposed grey brick, contemporary lighting and private dining areas, Five21 has executive chef Todd Schneekloth at the helm who bases his food around fresh and locally grown ingredients. Guests can choose items from Five21’s concise but tempting menu such as the crab cakes with citrus basil aioli and local micro-greens or the 12 ounce Kansas City strip steak. Don’t leave without trying one of Five21’s wines – the restaurant’s wine list has won Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past four years.
When the brewpub Free State Brewing Company, a local pioneer of craft brewing, first opened in 1989 it became the first legal brewery established in Kansas in over 100 years. As part of its 25th anniversary, to commemorate its heritage, the pub recently commissioned Lawrence-based artist Lora Jost to create a beautiful mosaic mural covering one of its walls. A stylish venue with exposed brick and a welcoming atmosphere, Free State Brewing Company’s 14 barrel brew house today creates beers such as the light, refreshing Wheat State Golden and the bold American stout Cow Tippin’, while its menu features hearty fare perfectly matched to its beers like the fish and chips or chicken and crawfish gumbo.
Opened as a co-venture by two Lawrence-based restaurateurs, Subarna Bhattachan and Alejandro Lule, Genovese is a cosy Italian restaurant with an interior full of warm colours, exposed wooden beams and antique-style tiles and mosaics evocative of the Mediterranean that occupies a prime location in downtown Lawrence in a historic 1868 building. Armando Paniagua, an award-winning chef with 16 years of experience under his belt, oversees a menu full of seasonal and rustic Italian fare typical of Northwest Italy that features a range of pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas complemented by an extensive wine list that includes varieties from Italy, the USA and Chile.
Located in a beautiful historical building originally built in 1888 that formerly acted as a bank, Merchants Pub and Plate offers guests a menu of traditional American cuisine with a gastro pub element, and with a focus on dishes made with Midwestern-sourced ingredients from suppliers that include Anthony’s Bee Hive in Lawrence and neighbouring Arkansas City’s Creekstone Farms. Menu highlights include the bourbon-glazed local pork tenderloin with smoked buttermilk spoonbread, braised red cabbage and pickled peach preserve and the bison Bolognese with house-made pappardelle, fennel-orange gremolata and parmesan – all complemented by Merchants’ 30 beers on tap that include varieties from some of America’s best artisanal breweries.
Established in July 2013 by Manda Jolly and her husband and head chef Sean alongside co-founder Ken Pingleton, The Roost is a restaurant based in the heart of downtown Lawrence that serves breakfast and lunch. Created with the aim of providing a friendly space with a neighbourly vibe that guests can relax in, The Roost features a rustic yet contemporary interior typified by a mixture of beautiful wood and exposed ductwork. Its menu features hearty breakfast items like corn beef hash and biscuits and gravy with a number of salads, sandwiches and soups available at lunchtime – perfect washed down with a coffee or, for those craving something a bit stronger, one of The Roost’s signature cocktails.
An award-winning artisan bakery, pastry shop and café located in the heart of downtown Lawrence, WheatFields Bakery scooped the title of Best Bakery at the Best of Lawrence Awards in both 2013 and 2014. Opened in 1995, the bakery uses all-natural yeast in the making of its bread which includes varieties like ciabatta and its signature WheatFields sourdough with Kalamata olives – all cooked in its huge wood-fired Spanish brick oven. The bakery café offers breakfast, sandwich and dinner menus with dishes like Portobello mushroom linguine in vermouth cream sauce with candied walnuts, spinach, Maytag blue cheese and roasted garlic crostini – and if guests like a particular bread they can always pick up a loaf or two to take home.
With an a la carte menu of Asian delicacies, from much-loved classics to innovative fusions, Zen Zero is one of the best options for Eastern dining in Lawrence. The low-key, unassuming décor sets the simple scene for a grand pan-Asian feast: choose from momos, which are Tibetan dumplings with a tomato and sesame chutney filling, the classic pad thai noodles with cashew nuts, or the phad kee mao, also known as ‘drunken noodles’, served with veggies, oyster sauce and Thai basil. Known and recognised for its vegetarian specials, Zen Zero is a great spot for a casual meal with friends, where oriental cuisines meet healthy dining.