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
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.
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
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
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
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