5 road trips from Kansas City all food lovers will enjoy

Get nationally recognized bread in charming downtown Lawrence

1900 Barker is a tiny bakery and coffee shop owned and operated by the Petrehn brothers—Taylor, the baker, and Reagan, the coffee guy. It’s just five years old and has been nominated for James Beard Awards the past three years, making it the only Lawrence establishment to have ever garnered a nomination for the prestigious national food awards.

From the outside, there’s not much to call your attention. The small white building was once home to a laundromat. The unremarkable exterior belies the wonders within. Before you pass through the glass door at 1900 Barker, a tempt-ing scent will reach you—a subtly sweet yeasty aroma that somehow smells the way a warm hug feels. Inside, it’s a sight to behold. There’s a glass pastry case filled with impossibly golden, many-layered croissants, pretty galettes finished with fresh fruit and perfect mini quiches. Behind the counter, racks and racks are stacked with an endless supply of naturally leavened bread, including long baguettes, oval olive and rosemary loafs, chunky hunks of cranberry almond, dark squares of Danish rye and round wheels of seeded multigrain sourdough. If you’d like your pick of the daily offerings, get to the shop early and be prepared for a short wait. It’s well worth it. —Natalie Gallagher

GO: Head west on I-70 to Lawrence and follow signs for downtown. From Massachusetts Avenue, go two blocks east on 19th Street to 1900 Barker.

A new hatchling joins the generations-old chicken fight in a Kansas mining town

It’s no secret that for the past eighty years, the town of Pittsburg, Kansas, has been embodied in a fried chicken feud. After their husbands were injured in the dangerous coal mines that dominated the local economy at the time, two women—one named Mary, the other Annie—started rival fried chicken stands a few hundred feet away from each other on a country road.

You may not know that they’re still squabbling down in Southeast Kansas. Today, the rivalry between the origi-nals on the rural north side of town seems to have cooled while a fresher fight between Chicken Annie’s Original and Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s has picked up steam.

As with any small-town feud, it’s not something an outsider can get to the bottom of while parachuting in (“Oh, we all get along great!” said one server; “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” grumbled another), but the good news for road-tripping diners is that you don’t really need to pick a side.

Mary’s, Annie’s and the other Annie’s all make basi-cally the same lightly seasoned brand of bird (Mary’s batters with egg and milk while both Annie’s only use egg) and serve it with sides like tangy German-style slaw, green beans and chip-chopped fried onions. I preferred Mary’s—which was also the busiest spot in town on a Friday night during quarantine—but there’s no wrong choice among them. —Martin Cizmar

GO: The originals are 120 miles due south on US-69. From the highway, turn left onto E. 600th Avenue and look for Mary’s, followed shortly by Annie’s.

You can get amazing Springfield-style cashew chicken from a drive-thru

While you’re there: Springfield is the birthplace of Bass Pro Shops, which are as much amusement parks as retail outlets. So it’s fitting that the founder put the massive Wonders of Wildlifemuseum next to HQ. The museum is 350,000 square feet and includes a million-and-a-half gallon aquarium and taxidermied animals in elaborate scenes from the native Ozark forest to the Amazon rain forest.

Proverbial wisdom holds that many of the best foods have been discovered when worlds collide—banh mi and spaghetti pop to mind. So it is with Springfield-style cashew chicken, which was invented by Chinese-born immigrant David Leong when he was looking to develop a recipe that would appeal to the tastes of Southeastern Missouri.

Springfield-style cashew chicken isn’t like the Thai takeout staple. It starts with nuggety chunks of batter-fried chicken glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce made with chicken stock, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Crushed cashews and a few chopped scallions are tossed on top, and centuries of parallel cultural evolution meld into one beautiful box.

Leong’s son operates a modern sitdown spot bearing the family name on the south side of town, and if you’re in a situation where it makes sense to settle into a comfy chair with icy air conditioning and have a cocktail, it’s worth a pilgrimage. The best of the cashew chickens we tried on our visit, though, came from the drive-thru at Cashew Station (cashewstation.com) a few miles away. The spicy cashew chicken there has thin, crisp breading that comes alive under a drizzle of a light sauce peppered with chili seeds and nut bits. It’s less than seven bucks for a meal, and there’s a park right across the street if you’re looking to picnic. —Martin Cizmar

GO: Springfield is 160 miles south. From I-49, take exit 157 for Route 7 and follow forty miles to Route 13. Take Route 13 south for 90 miles. To get to Cashew Station, take a left onto Battlefield Road and look for the restau-rant on the right after a mile and a half.

Buy sliders by the sack in Salina

Stop at the Cozy Inn for a sack of sliders and you’ll smell like onions for the rest of the day. But it’s so worth it.

The tiny town of Salina’s iconic burger joint opened in 1922, a year after White Castle debuted the slider just an hour and a half south in Wichita.

The onion-packed patties at the Cozy Inn are smashed thin and grilled on a grease-dripped flattop—current owner Steve Howard confirms it’s the same one that was used on opening day almost a century ago. “It’s got a little warp to it, but it still works great,” Howard says. “We clean it every night with a little oil and a lot of elbow grease.”

Whether you order inside the tiny six-seat building or at the walk-up window, you’ll be asked three questions: “How many?” “All the way?” (ketchup, mustard and pickle—no cheese on these burgers) and “Chips or drink?” Remember: The onions aren’t optional. —Nicole Bradley

GO: Take I-70 to Topeka until you hit the Salina exit. Follow North Ninth Street. Take a left on West Iron Avenue, then a left on Seventh Street. You’ll see Cozy’s neon sign and red-and-white-striped awnings.

Canteen Lunch in the Alley

Not far from Eldon is the small town of Ottumwa, where you’ll find the state of Iowa’s signa-ture sandwich at Canteen Lunch in the Alley. Inside this squat yellow building, there’s a horseshoe bar wrapped around the restaurant’s centerpiece: a freestanding metal steamer that cooks over a hundred and fifty pounds of ground beef daily, seasoned only with salt. Loose-meat sandwiches here are available with cheese and “everything” (ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion). They’re four dollars and ten cents, and they’re utterly satisfying.

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