Best of Lawrence 2011: Food & Drink


Best of Lawrence 2011: Food & Drink

video thumbnail

Readers picked the best food and drink venues in Lawrence. Here, their proprietors thank the community for voting them the Best of Lawrence.

Best Pizza: Rudy’s Pizzeria

Mounds of cheese, a list of toppings so long it looks like a salad bar, sauce spiked with red wine and crust so dense it begs to be savored rather than inhaled — these ingredients helped make Rudy’s Pizzeria your choice for Best Pizza.

Opened in 1990 by Chad and July Glazer, for more than 20 years the restaurant has been a spot for meals in a hurry or sit-down fellowship with friends and family. Pizza lovers can buy it here by the slice or a full pizza, and weekday specials make it possible to enjoy a few slices on a Kansas University game night without breaking the bank.

That salad bar long list of ingredients? It includes hard-to-find toppings like shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, roasted garlic and even steak. And for those of you who like to fold over your pizza while you eat it to keep the toppings intact, know that you can get the same pizza done as a Rudy’s famous “Pocket Za” — a pocket pizza that comes in sizes ranging from personal to large.

Address: 704 Mass.

Phone number: 749-0055


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Chad and July Glazer

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Pies in the sky.

Papa Keno’s Pizzeria, 1035 Mass.

Wheat State Pizza, 711 W. 23rd St.

Pyramid Pizza, 1029 Mass.

Best Place for a Date: Pachamama’s

It’s named for an Incan goddess, and any lady lucky enough to go on a date there will easily feel like one.

The decor is modern yet inviting, and anything but sparse. The lighting is dim and flattering, and when seated at a table, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only couple in the room.

Chef and proprietor Ken Baker’s “new American market”-style menu is seasonal, meaning it is constantly using beautiful presentation to showcase the freshest in produce and high-quality proteins. The restaurant is passionate about supporting local farmers and will often use locally grown produce. And Pachamama’s large selection of wines and menu of mouth-watering desserts make it easy to create a full-bodied special night out.

Address: 800 N.H.

Phone Number: 841-0990


Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Ken Baker

Opened: 1996

Honorable mentions: Table for two.

Teller’s, 746 Mass.

Liberty Hall, 644 Mass.

715, 715 Mass.

Best Overall Restaurant: Free State Brewery

The menu is as expansive as the history trolley station where the restaurant is housed. It’s a got a little bit of something for everyone: A burger for Mr. Meat and Potatoes, its famous Cheddar Ale Soup or a handful of hearty salads for someone looking for a lighter lunch, and curries, fish tacos and pulled pork specials for those looking for even more.

With a new American menu presided over by executive chef Rick Martin, Free State Brewery won Best Overall Restaurant by a landslide — garnering nearly 30 percent of the vote in a packed category.

The atmosphere is on par with the menu, alternately giving diners the feel of a tavern, fancy restaurant and a packed social club. It’s a place where it’s easy to run into friends, get to know your waiters and never get tired of the menu or feel like you’ve stepped into the same old, same old.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: Would-be kings.

Pachamama’s, 800 N.H.

715, 715 Mass.

Zen Zero, 811 Mass.

Best Burger: Burger Stand at the Casbah

Lawrence quickly became one of the best places in the state — and country, for that matter — to find a burger. The trouble, today, is deciding where to go.

You voted the Burger Stand at the Casbah as the city’s best burger. This summer, the Burger Stand took its talents to the Casbah after tantalizing Lawrence with its smoke burger and truffle fries at Dempsey’s. Dempsey’s still has its name in the discussion of Lawrence’s top burger joints while the Burger Stand’s staples (plus several new items) can be had.

While the Kobe beef burger is plenty for the most devout carnivores, vegetarian options such as the romesco burger or falafel burger add to the menu’s diversity and, we must say, are as delicious as anything else on the menu.

Grab a beer and take in some karaoke or jazz each week. A late night burger, dog and fry menu is also available after 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Address: 803 Mass.

Phone number: 856-0543


Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Owner/Proprietors: Robert and Molly Krause, Simon and Codi Bates

Opened: 2009 at Dempsey’s, 2010 at current location

Honorable mentions: You can haz these too.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries, 2040 W. 33rd St.

Local Burger, 714 Vt.

Best Bar: Free State Brewery

The tag line is as fitting as it is well known in Lawrence, “Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well.”

And without Free State Brewery’s bar, a lot of things for Lawrence beer lovers would not go so well. With its fabulous selection of made-right-there brews, expansive menu and proximity to big flat-screen TVs, Free State Brewery is the bar to go to in town. A long list of regulars will attest to that.

Fitting too, that the when Free State opened in 1989, it was the first legal brewery in Kansas in more than 100 years. The brewery currently has 10 locally made beers on tap, giving bar patrons a hefty homemade selection.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: Stuck with the tab.

Replay Lounge, 946 Mass.

Red Lyon Tavern, 944 Mass.

The Sandbar,17 E. Eighth St.

Best Latin American Food: La Parrilla

The first restaurant opened by local culinary whiz kids Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan (who also own Zen Zero and Genovese), this newly renovated spot is the place to go for Latin American cuisine.

Not for those looking for run-of-the-mill Tex-Mex, patrons can expect baskets of warm tortilla chips served with addictive house salsa, pitchers of Brazilian lemonade, cheap-but-generous rice bowls, favorites like quesadillas and enchiladas, and daily specials. In fact, it’s easy to take a date here and not spend more than $20 while still getting great food and drink both in quality and quantity.

In Spanish, the restaurant’s name means “the grill” but for anyone who dines there, it is so much more.

Address: 814 Mass.

Phone number: 841-1100


Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan

Opened: 1999

Honorable mentions: También deliciosa.

El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant, 1819 W. 23rd St.; 804 Iowa; 1520 Wakarusa Drive

Esquina, 801 Mass.

Cielito Lindo Mexican Restaurant, 815 N.H.

Best Italian Food: Paisano’s Ristorante

Paisano’s has been a Lawrence tradition for more than two decades.

Great for a filling lunch break, dinner dates or even special occasions like weddings, the restaurant carries everything from your basic noodle dishes — hello, pasta primavera! — to less common cuisine like 15-layer lasagna, tortellini and salmon, and steak pizzaiola.

Entrees are served with pasta, salad and breadsticks, and any pasta can be topped off with Sicilian meatballs, garlic rosemary chicken or portobello mushrooms, meaning it’s next to impossible to leave the place hungry.

Address: 2112 W. 25th St.

Phone number: 838-3500


Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Steve and Debbie Butland

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Viva Italia.

Genovese, 941 Mass.

715, 715 Mass.

Teller’s, 746 Mass.

Best Asian Food: Zen Zero

The second restaurant owned by the aforementioned Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan, Zen Zero melds cultures and flavors in its extensive pan-Asian menu.

Though it’s conceptualized as a “noodle shop,” noodles only make up a portion of the menu, which is chock-full of salads, soups, curries, stir fries and desserts such as green tea ice cream. Those noodle-lovers looking for a great pad thai made to their liking need look no further. The pad thai sauce is a perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy and tangy and the noodles are plentiful. Takeout is a snap, though in-house diners can enjoy complimentary addictive shrimp puffs with hot sauce while they wait.

Address: 811 Mass.

Phone number: 832-0001


Hours: Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owners/Proprietors: Alejandro Lule and Subarna Bhattachan

Opened: 2002

Honorable mentions: No chopsticks required.

Encore Cafe, 1007 Mass.

Yokohama, 811 N.H.; 1730 W. 23rd St.

Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive

Best Vegetarian or Vegan Dining Options: Free State Brewery

A brewery may not seem like the best place in the world to take a vegetarian, but somehow executive chef Rick Martin manages to make vegetarians at ease at Free State.

There are more options than just the restaurant’s well-regarded black bean burger for vegheads. Seven of nine of the restaurant’s appetizers are vegetarian, as are three of four salads, four of 11 sandwiches and three of nine regular entrees. For vegans, things are a bit more difficult, but the kitchen is open to removing nonvegan products, like eggs and cheese, from dishes.

Address: 636 Mass.

Phone number: 843-4555


Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chuck Magerl

Opened: 1989

Honorable mentions: No dilemma here.

India Palace, 129 E. 10th St.

The Burger Stand, 803 Mass.

The Merc, 901 Iowa.

Best Meal in a Hurry: Chipotle Mexican Grill

It’s fast, satisfying, comes in its own convenient foil wrapper, and can meet your daily calorie allotment, if you go for broke during the ordering process — yes, the giant Chipotle burrito is the epitome of today’s grab-and-go.

The burrito is the king of the national chain’s make-it-in-front-of-you menu, but myriad ingredient choices ensure no two burritos are the same. Patrons can choose from vegetable and meat options, and add or skip several salsas and extras like guacamole, sour cream and fajita-style veggies.

For those who aren’t feeling like a burrito, there are also tacos, bowls (a tortilla-less burrito) and salad options that are just as quick.

Addresses: 911 Mass., 4000 W. Sixth St.

Phone numbers: 843-8800, 843-1510


Hours: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Chipotle

Opened: 1999, 2004

Honorable mentions: Speed eaters.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, 922 Mass.; 1447 W. 23rd St.; 601 Kasold drive, 1201 Oread Ave.

Esquina, 801 Mass.

The Pita Pit, 1011 Mass.

Best Dessert Or Pastry: Sylas & Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream

A locally owned favorite, this ice cream shop is way more than just plain vanilla.

Here, diners are faced with a plethora of fun and creative choices, including Gold Dust, Da Bomb, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Blue Moon. Descriptions on each refrigerator display case let you know what exactly is in some of the more creative flavors and big, house-made waffle cones can hold more than one flavor if you can’t decide.

Not your typical ice cream parlor, this one has a roving band of flavors that are as wild as anything a kid might dream up on a sugar high — and it takes a chalkboard to keep all the day’s offerings straight. About half of the regular flavors just aren’t something you’d find in the store. The aforementioned Blue Moon flavor — a blue ice cream dotted with mini-sized rainbow chocolate chips. Unusual, yes? Worth every bite ... er, lick? We’ll put it this way: ordering it or any of the other treats here won’t leave you blue in the slightest.

Address: 1014 Mass.

Phone number: 832-8323

Website: N/A

Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, noon to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Jim and Cindy England

Opened: 1997

Honorable mentions: Just. Dessert.

Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.

Muncher’s Bakery, 925 Iowa.

3 Spoons Yogurt, 732 Mass.

Best Middle Eastern Food: Aladdin’s Cafe

Two words: Rose Lemonade.

The mixture of lemon, saffron and rose water has a following, but anyone who’s been to Aladdin’s Cafe knows the food — a mixture of dishes from all parts of the Mediterranean — is to die for as well. There are fantastic hummus and baba ghanoush, numerous falafel combinations, gyros and kabobs. For dessert, there’s everything from a rose water-spiked rice pudding to cheesecake to tiramisu.

Beyond the tiramisu, Aladdin’s Cafe offers extras including a small Mediterranean grocery and a full-scale hookah lounge. These perks were enough to set it apart from the competition, making it your choice for Best Middle Eastern Food.

Aladdin’s Cafe in Lawrence is a family buiness, owned and managed by Mohamed Iskandrani. Iskandrani’s brother Mazen runs the cafe’s second location in Kansas City’s Westport area.

Address: 1021 Mass.

Phone number: 832-1100


Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: Mohamed Iskandrani

Opened: 2000

Honorable mentions: Close, but not quite.

Mediterranean Market & Cafe, 3300 W. Bob Billings Parkway

The Lebanese Flower

Best Coffee: La Prima Tazza

Situated on a hallowed strip of Mass. Street, between Liberty Hall and Free State Brewery, La Prima Tazza now owns the distinction of Best Coffee in Lawrence — not that it didn’t already claim to be the town’s best. Colombian, Costa Rican, Ethiopian and Nicaraguan beans are among a half-dozen estate coffees available for bulk purchase. The shop also offers just as many house blends.

For those just looking for a quick cup, the options are vast. French-pressed brews share residence on the menu with concoctions such as the exclusive Mole Mocha, a spicy take on the traditional chocolatey blend.

When the temperature finally rises, iced drinks such as the Grasshopper (mint and chocolate) and Moroccan (exotic spices and chocolate) make for a fine summer option. And who can beat the location? Whether you’re looking for a nightcap after a show or needing to shake a Wheat State Golden-induced buzz, La Prima Tazza’s a few steps — or shuffles — away.

Address: 638 Mass.

Phone number: 832-2233


Hours: Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 11p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Owner/Proprietors: Dave and Susan Millstein, Sarah Richardson

Opened: 1990

Honorable mentions: Roast ’em if you got ’em.

Z’s Divine Espresso, 1800 E. 23rd St. and 10 E. Ninth St.

Milton’s Coffee, 920 Mass.

Starbucks, 647 Mass.

Best Breakfast or Brunch: Milton’s Coffee

Want something truly special for breakfast? Try out Milton’s French toast — thick slices dipped in a brandy-spiked mixture and cooked until perfectly golden on the outside and moist on the inside.

This breakfast spot might not be very big, but if you can get a table, it’s easy to relax with one of the coffee bar’s fine drinks and a big stack of honey buttermilk pancakes or the aforementioned French toast. Not one for carbs? The traditional eggs menu includes eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and eggs, and huevos rancheros.

Address: 920 Mass.

Phone number: 832-2330

Website: N/A

(Breakfast) Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Owner/Proprietor: David Lewis

Opened: 1997

Honorable mentions: Give me all of your bacon and eggs.

First Watch Restaurant, 2540 Iowa.

Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt.

Mirth, 745 N.H.

Best New Restaurant: 715

Massachusetts Street has seen its fair share of new restaurants in the past few years, but this year there’s one newbie that stands out the most to visitors: 715.

Executive chef Michael Beard trained in Italy and has slipped the old-world skills he learned into elevating traditional dishes with special touches such as homemade pork products. What’s more, many of the dishes are prepared with locally sourced and handmade ingredients.

Address: 715 Mass.

Phone number: 856-7150


Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to midnight

Owners/proprietors: Michael Beard and Matt Hyde

Opened: 2009

Honorable mentions: Defeat never tasted so good.

Esquina, 801 Mass.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt.

Noodles & Co., 8 W. Eighth St.

Best Gluten-Free Options: The Merc

For those who can’t tolerate gluten, the protein that appears in grains like wheat, barley and rye, eating can be a minefield.

Making it a little easier is The Merc, which carries gluten-free baked goods, processed items and deli items. The variety of all-things-gluten-free is stunning and includes locally made gluten-free packaged foods and gluten-free books by local authors.

The Merc’s cooking class schedule even regularly includes ones aimed at teaching gluten-free cooking and baking techniques to those who are gluten-sensitive or knows someone who is. And there must be quite the number of folks in Lawrence who have gluten sensitivity because the “Gluten-Free Options” category was added this year after a grass-roots campaign on Twitter.

Address: 901 Iowa

Phone Number: 843-8544


Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Owner: It has a member-owner co-op format, with shoppers buying shares.

Opened: 1974

Honorable mentions: Goodbye, gluten.

Local Burger, 714 Vt.

Ingredient, 947 Mass.

Zen Zero, 811 Mass.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.