Lee Meisel, owner of Leeway Franks, is all about quality. He describes his shop as a “nose-to-tail” operation where he breaks down whole hogs, grinds the locally sourced meat to make sausage and uses the bones to create a stock for gravy, which is then poured over hand-cut french fries.
It may come as a shock, then, to hear the former 715 butcher wax poetic about McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Like everything else on Leeway Franks’ menu, Meisel’s new breakfast offerings — they make their debut Saturday — are personal, driven by memories.
“The Mega Muffin is my favorite, my dad’s favorite, my brother’s favorite,” he says of his Golden Arches-inspired English muffin, Canadian bacon and egg sandwich.
For Meisel, it evokes memories of passing through the drive-thru for a quick fill-up on the way to Saturday-morning hockey games with his father. The breakfast tacos, filled with house-made chorizo, remind him of the years he lived in Texas. The entire menu is reflective of his at-home Sunday-morning breakfast ritual he shares with wife and Leeway Franks co-founder, K.
There’s also a bit of a “hangover cure” current running through the whole thing, Meisel says. Referencing the breakfast bowl — a generous portion of hand-cut breakfast potatoes or tots smothered in sausage gravy topped with an egg and sausage link — he says, “That thing is like, meat on meat on egg…It’s larger than life.”
Leeway Franks, 935 Iowa St., is opening earlier on Saturdays (8 a.m.) to accommodate the new all-day breakfast menu, which also includes selections from locally owned Repetition Coffee. Meisel’s breakfast sandwich (sausage or bacon on Texas toast with spicy mayo, fried egg and American cheese) has always been there, and will remain available during regular hours, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, too.
If all goes well, the shop might expand breakfast hours (Saturdays only for now) or start playing with the idea of biscuits and gravy, perhaps, or country-fried steak. Meisel says he’d like to tap into the neighborhood’s family-friendly vibe — folks on their way to work, parents grabbing a bite before dropping the kids off at school.
Aside from Munchers Bakery and The Merc, there aren’t many breakfast options in the area, he notes.
“We want to make our customers happy,” Meisel says. “We’ve developed a great following here … it’s our way of saying, ‘This is for you, guys.’”
With the countdown to the New Year — and New Year's resolutions, which for many of us will involve eating more sustainably or locally or gluten-free or Paleo or simply "better," in some form or another — over and done with, it's an appropriate time to discuss what could be the food trends for 2016.
Here, a few Lawrence chefs and restaurateurs give their predictions for what's ahead in the culinary world and (in some cases) what we should leave behind in 2015.
Rick Martin, chef-owner of Limestone Pizza, 814 Massachusetts St.
"I think the big one I'm seeing is open-fire cooking, which I see in the bigger cities — taking things back a hundred years when we cooked over open fire a lot. You see a lot of restaurants that are serving wild game and whole birds and larger cuts of meat that are cooked over an open flame."
Martin says there are about 50 restaurants in the country engaging in this pioneer-style method of cooking — Husk in Charleston, S.C., and Hatchet Hall in Los Angeles being two examples — though he doesn't expect the trend to hit northeast Kansas anytime soon. "It seems like Lawrence is a bit behind by about five years."
Nick Wysong, owner of Ingredient, 947 Massachusetts St.
"I think steadily and in general, everyone is becoming a lot more aware (of food) and the impact it can have on health and healthier habits, and I think that’s probably a pretty strong trend. That's an idea that's happening globally."
Louis Wigen-Toccalino, owner of Decade coffee shop, 920 Delaware St.
On which trends he'd like to continue: "Lawrence specifically has been pushing in the right direction in the past few years. I would like to see more small businesses and startups finding their feet, like 1900 Barker and Leeway Franks. More untraditional food venues, more little popups and more little corners and additions to existing businesses to give small-business people with creative ideas an opportunity to do something that doesn’t involve opening an entirely new restaurant — Fork to Fender, the Waffle Iron and Taco Zone (are) really creative solutions to that problem."
On which trends he'd like to see less of: "I'm curious to see what the next sandwich trend will be. A couple years ago it was bacon, then it was egg. ... I think putting an egg on top of every sandwich is getting tired at this point. Pâté — that’s my wish. Let’s bring mousses back."
Wigen-Toccalino says he and the Decade crew are working to "overhaul" their menu now, with a new roster of soups, sandwiches, salads and small plates (during bar hours) expected by mid-January. Perhaps we'll see a return of Decade's popular banh mi with Hank Charcuterie pâté?
Ted Nguyen, owner of Ted's Taphouse, 1004 Massachusetts St.
"What I see happening is more of a fast-casual concept of food, more of what you’d call peasant fare or actual street food. You see that in other countries, and I see that becoming more of a trend this year, not necessarily in the price point but in the simplicity of the food. In the past we’ve had things like sustainable food. Right now it’s really big in Lawrence to use local ingredients, which I think will continue."
Nguyen is also launching a new menu at the Taphouse, slated for late January and based around a similar "chef-driven, fast-casual concept."
Lee Meisel, chef-owner of Leeway Franks, 935 Iowa St.
On which trends he'd like to see continue: "I think as far as Lawrence in particular, I think we're still getting to the point where people are looking more at local products. It's been growing for the past 10 years, but I think people are going to start sourcing (local products) even more. Guys like Rick Martin down at Limestone are doing a great job contributing to that, getting people aware of these different farmers and building those relationships."
On which trends he'd like to see less of: I’d like to see the whole bacon thing go away once and for all. Bacon's great, but at the same time, there's only so much bacon to go around. I get tired of it. And then the whole afterthought of putting an egg on everything … it's kind of played out. I like eggs as much as anybody, but I'd rather focus on the egg and have it not be an afterthought."
Hey, maybe Louis and Lee are onto something here...
And a few thoughts on beverage trends: "It seems like we’ve been in the 'Year of the Cocktail' for the last five years. I think we’ll see more of a tongue-in-cheek pushback against the $12 cocktail. Someone’s got to bring back Jell-O shots or gin and juice. I’d like to see us go back to more utilitarian drinks as opposed to the more fussy stuff."
Rob Schulte, manager of La Prima Tazza, 638 Massachusetts St.
"I think just education has been high. People are teaching themselves about different coffee trends and different ways to make drinks. We try to stay up on what people like. I think people are kind of coming back into the realm of tea as well. Everything has its peaks and its drops, but I've seen more people ordering tea. That's why I put out those matcha options." (La Prima Tazza unveiled a new menu, including a handful of matcha specialty drinks, in August.)
One last thing: "I want to see the burden of recycling shared by both the patron and the business place. We offer that 20 percent off if you bring your own mug."
If you missed out on last month's Oktoberfest at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, you're in luck: This weekend promises even more German food, beer and merrymaking when the inaugural Oktoberfest Lawrence takes place.
The Chamber and Downtown Lawrence Inc. are teaming up to host the event, slated for 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Public Library Civic Plaza, 707 Vermont St.
Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., says the idea was originally discussed more than two years ago, when she and DLI board member Mike Logan considered the possibility of a fall event with a cultural element. Oktoberfest, she says, stuck out to her because of our state’s widespread and celebrated German heritage — “you gotta have an Oktoberfest in Kansas,” Zogry says.
Some of you may be wondering how the St. John celebration, which was held late last month and will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, factors into this. (It doesn't.)
“That’s such a longstanding and very loved event by not only the St. John community but the Lawrence community as well,” Zogry says. “That’s why we wanted to space ours a month apart, so we wouldn’t be seen as competition for them.”
Zogry is expecting about 2,000 people at the inaugural Oktoberfest Lawrence, which will be held “rain or shine” at the library plaza.
From the looks of the online schedule, it’ll include all the basic tenets of the traditional German celebration: a biergarten tent sponsored by Crown Automotive with around a dozen different varieties of beer plus wine, alpine music from the Happy Wanderers and Festhaus-Musikanten, and a Samuel Adams Stein Hoisting Competition in which contestants battle it out to see who can hold a stein filled with 32 ounces of beer the longest without their poor arm falling off.
(That’s an exaggeration, obviously, but 32 ounces — well, let’s just say I never could complete a pull-up in gym class. Strong people, take note: Winning this contest earns you a chance to compete for the national championship and a trip to Munich Oktoberfest in 2016.)
For those under 21, Oktoberfest Lawrence boasts plenty of family-friendly fun, from a strolling stilt-walker to a vaudeville show to face painting.
Then, of course, there’s the food. The Burger Stand, Fine Thyme Food, Free State Brewing Co., Leeway Franks and Juice Stop will all be on hand with a variety of authentic German (or German-inspired) treats for sale.
Meat lovers should have plenty of options, as you might expect — no shortage of bierocks, sausages and schnitzel here — but Zogry says vendors tried to incorporate more than a few vegetarian options as well.
The Burger Stand is offering a veggie burger, Fine Thyme has a local root vegetable goulash pretzel bierock on the menu, and, this being Oktoberfest, German potato salad will abound.
Zogry already has her sights set on Fine Thyme’s German chocolate cake crepe.
“It’s got a chocolate batter and a chocolate filling, with coconut and caramel,” she says. “My mouth is watering just thinking about it.”
Tickets for Oktoberfest Lawrence range from $10 to $20 (children under 12 get in free) and can be purchased in person at The Chamber, Downtown Lawrence Inc., The Granada Theater, Phoenix Gallery, Weaver's department store or at the door the day of the event.
For more information, including a full schedule of events and how to purchase tickets online, visit downtownlawrence.com.