The 10 Best Local Restaurants In Lawrence, Kansas

Melissa RJ Mills

A lively university city, Lawrence is home to must-visit museums and the bustle of Massachusetts Street, filled with cafés, shops and restaurants. The city’s dining scene too is an exciting mix of all-American flavours and international influence. From vegan eateries serving Asian-style food to excellent gastropubs, here are ten of the best dining spots in Lawrence.

Friday night in Lawrence © David DeHetre/Flickr

1. Free State Brewing Company

Free State Brewing Company

A local legend and pioneer of craft beer in the area, the Free State Brewing Company has been one of the most popular dining and drinking venues in Lawrence since opening in 1989. Exposed brick interiors, a convivial atmosphere and an amazing selection of craft beers take centre stage, but the food is excellent too, with tasty, daily specials on offer. From all-American flavours such as St. Louis ribs to Mexican-style favourites, the changing menu features dishes to please any palate. Look out for the gorgeous mosaic on one of its walls, painted by local artist Lora Jost for the brewery’s 25th anniversary.
Free State Brewing Company, 636 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-843-4555

Taps at the Free State Brewery © Kansasphoto/Flickr

The Burger Stand at the Casbah

Named by Zagat as one of the top 25 burger joints across 25 American cities, The Burger Stand at the Casbah is arguably the best place for a patty in Lawrence – and the most upscale too. In addition to the famous burgers, ranging from American Kobe beef to the Fire Burger served with habanero and cactus jam, The Burger Stand cooks up delicious truffle fries and adventurous takes on the humble hot dog. With most ingredients sourced locally and an effortlessly cool interior, this venue is a must-try for some of the best meaty fare in town.
The Burger Stand at the Casbah, 803 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-856-0543

The Casbah: Lawrence, Kansas

Zen Zero
A menu of expertly prepared pan-Asian classics and abundant vegetarian options is a good sign you’ve arrived at Zen Zero, Lawrence’s premier spot for Eastern food. With numerous local awards hailing it the best vegetarian and Asian restaurant in the city, Zen Zero continues to serve up a fantastic array of curries, noodles and stir fries: start with momos, Tibetan dumplings filled with charred tomato and sesame chutney. Then go on to a main of Thai massaman curry or classic Singapore noodles stir-fried with eggs, bean sprouts and cilantro. Zen Zero’s low-key décor contributes to its ambient atmosphere, making it a great place for a casual meal out.
Zen Zero, 811 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-832-0001
Merchants is located in a grand 1930s building that was previously occupied by Teller’s, a long-time local favourite. The new restaurant is slowly reaching similar levels of popularity with its gastropub bent and commitment to locally sourced ingredients: the duet of southern fried and bourbon barbecued Midwestern rabbit is moreish, while the succulent angus strip loin involves a 12oz KC strip and cabernet onion jam. The 30-strong selection of tap beers is an unmissable opportunity to sample some of the best artisanal brews in the country, including California, Colorado and Vermont brews.
Merchants, 746 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-843-4111

Cheeseburger with red onion jam, prosciutto, red peppers

A chic bistro, with an interior of industrial-style lamps, boho chairs and a wall of green glass bottles, 715 serves up a menu of Italian and European delicacies. It specializes in succulent meats, prepared by the chef, whose apprenticeship in Florence taught him a few things about creating great-tasting salami. Choose your favourite flavour of Italy from options such homemade cotechino, a plate of seared, Tuscan-style pork sausage medallions, the classic rib eye Angus steak, or any of the fresh, handmade pastas and you can’t go wrong.
715, 715 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-856-7150

2. Pachamamas

Bar, Restaurant, American

Beef carpaccio
© Pan Pacific/Flickr
Deriving its name from a mythical Incan mother figure, Pachamamas is a welcoming venue, serving high-quality food in sophisticated arrangements. This chef-owned restaurant has been delighting Lawrence’s palates for almost 20 years with an eclectic, fusion menu that features such delicacies as pan-roasted swordfish served with gold potatoes, beet puree and horseradish cream or morel pate wrapped in a truffled beef carpaccio and accompanied by fried morels and blackberry jam. Make sure you have a cocktail in the adjoining Star Bar while you wait for your table.

3. Paisanos


With two locations in Kansas, one in Lawrence and another in Topeka, Paisanos is renowned for its attentive service and homely American-Italian food that’s traditional, consistently tasty, and served in generous portions. Pizzas stacked high with toppings, rich sauces and much-loved Italian recipes make for great comfort food options; try the 15-layer lasagna for a meaty treat, or the sausage and tortellini, which features tri-colour pasta smothered in a diavolo cream sauce and topped with sausage.
Paisanos, 2112 W 25th St, Lawrence, KS, +1 785-838-3500

4. The Jayhawker and TEN Restaurant

Bar, Restaurant, Pub Grub

Eldridge Hotel
© Jackpendry/WikiCommons
Located in the Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence, both the decor and spirit of The Jayhawker bar and TEN Restaurant next door echo the long history of this venerable hotel, with their wooden furniture, vintage lamps and dedication to the old-fashioned art of crafting strong martinis. While TEN’s menu offers a standard mix of salads, burgers and sandwiches, the fare is still tasty, but the real deal here is the atmosphere. For a real taste of Kansas, book a table in the Kansas Room, which is filled with photographs of local legends.

5. La Parilla

La Parilla

For those craving top-notch Latin American cuisine, La Parilla is a laid-back spot whose no-frills atmosphere and simple, tasty food have earned it several awards and a solid reputation on Lawrence’s dining scene. Tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas dominate the menu, but all manner of Mexican and South American flavours can be mixed and matched on request. The drinks menu boasts an array of margaritas, from the classic lime to coconut, mango and peach, as well as a good selection of high-end tequilas.
La Parilla, 724 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS, USA, +1 785-841-1100

6. WheatFields Bakery

Bakery, Dessert

It might not be a restaurant, but WheatFields is a firm fixture on Lawrence’s best-eat list as the best bakery and cafe in town. Using all-natural yeast and levain and baking its bread in an original Spanish oven allows WheatFields to craft fantastic textured, artisanal bread and pastries. The café menu is a showcase of the bakery’s products, with highlights such as the vegetarian reuben on sourdough rye or the Genoa salami and provolone on Kalamata olive bread. Drop by for a simple, gourmet lunch or pick up your favourite loaf for breakfast at home.

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