I spent last weekend in Kansas visiting my daughter who is a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan. The joke in the family is she went to the wrong Manhattan…she is a theater major and is also very much a foodie who happens to be vegetarian. This Manhattan is only a short stop over for her to the Big Apple because one day she will be in the Big Apple (versus the Little Apple). Well as you can imagine, it is difficult to be a vegetarian in Kansas, there are many people in Kansas who just don’t understand a vegetarian… or what to cook for them.
As is typical for many parents whose first child has left for college my husband and I decided to head out to Manhattan (the Little Apple variety) for Parent’s Weekend in her freshman year. She had been there only a couple of weeks and we just wanted to make sure everything was okay. In those few short weeks she learned she was sentenced to eating lots of pasta, salad bars, and sometimes fresh fruit…no innovative vegetarian entrees at this heartland school. She also realized that the Little Apple is really a little town and she wanted to get out of Manhattan and visit a bigger city.
Hmmm, Topeka isn’t far away and is the capitol after all, it had to be more interesting than the Little Apple. A short hour drive and we were in Topeka…driving around looking for interesting parts of the city to explore. Unfortunately, except for the capit0l building I don’t remember the interesting parts of town (sorry to anyone who lives in Topeka). But what I do remember is a phenomenal restaurant and a great meal.
We happened to pick up a restaurant guide. You know the ones…nice glossy magazine style with loads of pictures and menus…the ones that restaurants pay to advertise in. When we eat out we want to have something special, not something that we can easily cook at home. Stopping by an Italian restaurant and a bar and grill proved fruitless because the menus were ordinary…and there weren’t any vegetarian options on the menu.
As our stomachs began to complain, my husband came across an ad for a new restaurant that had recently opened up in an old, yet to be gentrified, section of the city. The name described the restaurant perfectly, RowHouse. Indeed the restaurant was in a section of old row houses on a pretty much abandoned block about 5 blocks north of the capitol building.
My husband went in and talked with the wait staff and indeed they had vegetarian dishes and the menu was inspired with local, seasonal products. My daughter and I scurried out of the car and walked up the 2 flights of steps to second floor of the row house.
At the time, we didn’t realize the inspired dishes we would enjoy that evening….and several other evenings since. The restaurant has a fixed menu for the week. It is a tasting menu so you can have small portions of each dish. The price is a meager $36 for salad, soup, entree and dessert. Wednesday nights they test the menu for the week so the dinner is only $29, we’ve yet to be there for the testing night…but if we lived in Topeka we’d be regular Wednesday night diners!
I don’t remember what we had that evening but we were blown away by the quality of food, the presentation, the excellent service, the fairly priced wine list, and the care that was put into the vegetarian dishes. I do remember what we ate during our visit this past week.
- Apricot Vinaigrette, Pears, Baby Greens, Bleu Cheese, Dried Cranberries
- Potato and Yam Chowder, with Candied Bacon
- Vegetarian Entree: Butternut Squash, Goat’s Cheese, and Spinach Risotto
- Entree 2: Pistachio Crusted Halibut, Sage Cream, Mashed Carrots
- Entree 3: Molasses and Black Pepper Glazed Beef, Parsnip Puree, String Beans
- Dessert 1: Pear and Cranberry Crisp
- Dessert 2: Butternut Squash Creme Brulee
- Dessert 3: Coffee and Cream Sorbet
It’s nice being able to publicly share wine with your children. This evening we shared a bottle of nicely priced red wine, Kennedy Shah La Vie en Rouge from The Woodhouse Wine Estates.
It was a fun evening. I hope you enjoyed this evening in Kansas as much as I did.