Category Archives: Local

Date Night Idea: Painted Kanvas | Lawrence, KS

Painted Kanvas

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. –Vincent Van Gogh

For my 29th birthday (yea…I’d rather not talk about it…) I wanted to step outside my annual dinner-out-with-friends and try something a little different. So I decided to unleash my inner Parisian artist at Painted Kanvas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Painted Kanvas Logo

Painted Kanvas, right off Wakarusa and 15th St., is a locally owned paint and wine studio. The concept is simple: For $35, you walk away with a painting you create with your own hands. With provided canvas and paints, an experienced instructor leads you through the steps to create the painting of the evening.

Because I planned on having 15 to 20 people help me celebrate my birthday, I was able to reserve the studio for a private party (you need a minimum of 10 people) and pick the painting we would work on. In high school, I was obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh so I chose to recreate his infamous “Starry Night.” And although most of my friends cursed me for picking such a “difficult” painting, it was a blast to put together and I thought that everyone’s interpretation of this classic piece was amazing!

Starry Night
{My rendition of Starry Night.}

Starry Night
{My husband’s rendition of Starry Night.}

That was my favorite part about this whole setup—seeing everyone’s artistic interpretation. Even though none of us had picked up a paint brush since high school, we surprised ourselves with how much artistic talent we actually possessed. And while most of us took the process seriously, a couple of my friends just had goofy fun with it. Take my husband for example: He turned his moon into The Man on the Moon then added a horse getting abducted by a UFO to the landscape. I can’t explain his sense of humor.

For private parties, you’re allowed to bring your own food, arrive early to set up and then buy from the bar all night long. Ask friends to arrive early as well, so as to settle in with some drinks before the instructor gets started teaching the two-hour class. Our instructor was fun and super helpful. And even though it’s not a paint-by-numbers situation, she was able to deconstruct each step for us in a way that made sense.

Private parties are not your only option at Painted Kanvas. Check out their calendar to find out which nights are open to the public and which are scheduled for private parties. The calendar even showcases which paintings are scheduled for each night. Pay at the door, grab a drink, pick up a paint brush and unleash your creative side. This is a great place to go with your girlfriends and it would also make for an amazing date night. I definitely plan on going again.

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Once in a Sunday Brunch: John Brown’s Underground | Lawrence, KS

John Brown's Underground

One of my new favorite hangout spots in Lawrence, Kansas, is the brand new speakeasy John Brown’s Underground. It’s a small little spot right off Mass street that offers specialty cocktails as well as delicious food. The establishment is not marked by a sign. Instead, it shows off a black awning, sleek-looking door and red light that turns on when the bar is at capacity. I’ve enjoyed spending time at this Prohibition-era establishment during weekend afternoons with friends, weeknight evenings at book club and Friday date nights with the husband. I’ve even started going on Sunday mornings for brunch!

John-Browns-Underground-Brunch-5

On Saturday and Sunday mornings (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), John Brown’s Underground now offers a great brunch deal: For $20 you can eat one of their main courses, a side item AND enjoy bottomless mimosas or bloody Marys. If you don’t want an alcoholic beverage (which, quite frankly, why wouldn’t you?) the price drops to $15 (or $12…I can’t remember).

I ordered their Mac Stack Sandwich, which is a Texas toast sandwich packed with an egg, fried mac-and-cheese bites, your choice of meat (I chose ham) and your choice of cheese (I chose Gouda). As a side dish I ordered a bowl of fruit and yogurt. Both me and my friend Liz were torn between the savory sandwiches and sweet breakfast dessert French Toast in a Jar. (Liz ended up ordering a different breakfast sandwich.) As a “compromise” we ordered one for the whole table in addition to our sandwiches. We’re basically geniuses.

John-Browns-Underground-Brunch-3

John-Browns-Underground-Brunch-2

If brunch isn’t your scene (in which case, what kind of person are you?), be sure to check out John Brown’s Underground for a night out with your friends anyway. They serve beer and wine as well as a menu’s worth of specialty cocktails. My favorite is the French 75, which is a blend of gin, cava, lemon and simple syrup.

For larger parties (for example, 15 book club members) call ahead to reserve one of their two back rooms. During the evenings they play silent black-and-white movies in the background, which truly adds to the 20s-era ambiance.

Have you ever been to John Brown’s Underground? What did you think of it?

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A Slice of Heaven: Ladybird Diner | Lawrence, KS

Ladybird Diner Exterior

It’s a simple concept, really. A charming diner tucked in the heart of downtown Lawrence, Kansas. How have we not had this around for years?

Ladybird Diner, located at 721 Massachusetts St., is a new diner that provides quality, home-cooked food. And pie. Do NOT forget the pie. The exposed-brick space is dressed in vintage curtains and filled with antique trinkets from the fifties. The waitresses even wear handsewn aprons and pile their hair into fifties coiffures. The menu is adorable and offers various breakfast dishes (think chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and French toast) as well as classic burgers and sandwiches. There are also numerous vegetarian options, including some delicious salads and a mac n’ cheese omelet (mix it with hot sauce for added flavor). And don’t forget the shakes, malts, mimosas and beer.

Ladybird Diner Interior

Ladybird-Diner-Menu

Ladybird-Diner-Pie

I’ve visited Ladybird Diner a few times. As with any newly opened restaurant in Lawrence, it still packs quite the crowd. One of my visits, of which I poorly photographed for this blog with my phone camera (sorry!), found me eating pie with a couple of great friends on a Wednesday evening. Pie and prosecco in a Mason jar? Why not.

Let’s talk about the pie. It’s absolutely delicious. Even if you don’t have enough room after your meal for pie, get a slice to go. Or, better yet, visit for the pie alone. The crust is perfectly crumbly and the flavors are deliciously complex. I’ve enjoyed the Brown Sugar Peach (pictured), Blueberry Basil and Strawberry Rhubarb. All of these are amazing. I’ve got my eye on the Mexican Chocolate next.

Ladybird-Diner-Sign

Have you visited Ladybird Diner yet? What was your favorite item on the menu? Let me know in the comments below.

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Date Night Idea: Kansas Belle Dinner Train | Baldwin, Kansas

Kansas Belle Dinner Train
Photo courtesy Kansas Belle Dinner Train

Are you looking for a unique date night idea? Step into the 1940s via the Kansas Belle Dinner Train. This adorable dinner train starts in Baldwin, Kansas, which is about 30 minutes south of Lawrence, Kansas, and takes you through the beautiful surrounding fields for about three hours. The husband and I had a chance to enjoy a night out aboard the train this past weekend thanks to a Christmas gift from my mom and her husband. We got all gussied up (because where else can you wear a large hat if not aboard a train?), enjoyed a five-course dinner and experienced the Casablanca Express.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

Kansas Belle Dinner Train
{Dress: New York & Company; Kimono: Target; Booties: Kohls; Purse: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Necklace: LC Lauren Conrad (Kohls); Hat: Ruche}

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

We went to one of their evening dinners on Saturday, which features a special murder mystery show. The theme to the show changes with each weekend. The evening we went the theme was the Casablanca Express: “As you flee across war torn North Africa, you have an appointment with murder. You may be a black marketer, a Nazi sympathizer, or at the mercy of both—wondering how you’ll ever escape Casablanca.”

The show was performed by two men from the Nebraska theater group The Likely Suspects. (Some of their shows are performed by actors from Theater Lawrence.) They were both very funny to watch (although one of the men laughed at his own jokes one too many times, in my opinion). But they didn’t put on the entire production by themselves, and instead enlisted the help of willing (or persuaded, if you want to look at it that way) passengers to play important roles. I was cast as Sam, the sassy waitress from Bogart’s Bar; and A.J. was cast as Leopold Dietrich, a German passenger. We attempted to solve the murder of one of the train passengers, which seemed an impossible task (there were too many suspects, and it was hard to pay attention to the storyline through all the laughter). We both thought I did it, because it sounds like something I would do, but alas it wasn’t me. It was A.J.’s “wife” Marlene Dietrich.

The best part was at the end of the night when everyone voted on their favorite actors. A.J. and I both walked away with second place for favorite actor and actress! I mean, we didn’t actually win anything, but still. We may need to consider switching careers.

The five-course meal featured a small appetizer to share (cheese, grapes, veggies); potato soup; the pre-ordered main course (I had grilled salmon and A.J. had prime rib); and dessert. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the dinner could have been tastier. The soup was cold, the steak a little fatty, and the fish a little dry. But don’t let that take away from our experience. The actors were fun and the atmosphere was delightful. Plus, where else are you going to enjoy a train ride filled with potential murderers?

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

If you’re looking for a fun and unique gift or date night, you should consider the Kansas Belle Dinner Train. The husband and I had a fabulous time, and fall was probably the perfect time to go because we got to see the beautiful colors of the changing seasons from our window seat. The three-hour ride on Saturday evening, along with the five-course dinner, coffee and tea, costs $65. (Pre-order a bottle of wine and request it be waiting at your table right when you get there. Trust me. The couple we sat with did this, and A.J. and I were beyond envious of their foresight.) There is also a two-and-a-half hour ride on Sunday that features a three-course dinner (and longer daytime views of the surrounding landscape) for $55. Visit their website for more information.

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Lawrence Restaurant Week: Ramen Bowls | Lawrence, KS

Have you been enjoying Lawrence Restaurant Week? If you haven’t, and you live near Lawrence, Kansas, you really outta get on that. (It ends this Saturday!)

This year marks the first year of Lawrence Restaurant Week, an event similar to the one Kansas City started a couple of years ago. Essentially, it’s an opportunity for city members to go out and try a new restaurant, as 19 participating locations have worked hard to compose a price-fixed menu filled with delicious foods. For anywhere from $10 to $40 you may get an entire meal, including appetizers, entrée, and dessert. A restaurant that is fast-becoming one of my favorite spots downtown, Ramen Bowls is among the participants.

Ramen Bowls Menu

Unlike the $1 packages of ramen you may have lived on during college, Ramen Bowls is a gourmet restaurant that specializes in authentic Japanese- and Hawaiian-inspired ramen noodle and seafood dishes. The downtown restaurant first opened its doors in the fall of last year as the very first ramen bar in the entire state of Kansas. With that being said, I haven’t ate there more than once before. What’s more, authentic ramen noodle dishes are not in my wheelhouse of expertise. That’s why I absolutely loved going there with my husband earlier this week, during Lawrence Restaurant Week. It gave us both the opportunity to try dishes we otherwise never would have tried on our own.

Ramen Bowls Appetizers

From the price-fixed menu ($29 each), the husband and I shared a couple of piping hot appetizers: Island Kara‘age, which were breaded chicken thighs in a pineapple-basil aioli, and Yakibuta Egg Rolls, which were filled with a crispy pork belly, Napa cabbage and spring onions. These were absolutely delicious! We were also treated to a glass of sake. I sipped on the House-Infused Chocolate.

Ramen Bowls Bibimbap

After that, we each chose an entrée that we knew would end up carrying over to the next day’s lunch. I opted for the ChaHan Bibimbap. Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish. This particular recipe was made with garlic and ginger fried rice, onions, scallions, mushrooms, smoked pork and two basted eggs, and topped with Sriracha aioli and hot pepper sauce. If you can’t handle the heat, don’t go for the bibimbap. I downed my water glass like a madwoman. The pork was tender and the ingredients perfectly complemented one another. The husband went for the ramen dish on the menu, Herb Creamed Corn Ramen with Smoked Pork. From the slurping noises I heard, it’s safe to say he loved his dish as well.

Ramen Bowls Dessert

Finally, we were served a sampling of Japanese desserts. The presentation was certainly adorable, but this was my least favorite part of the meal. The chocolate sauce and berries were tasty, but the baked goods were bland. I feel bad saying this, as the chef brought us our dessert platters and was very excited to describe each treat on our plate. But don’t worry Ramen Bowls, it’s not your desserts that lure me to your shop—it’s your delicious meals!

Ramen Bowls is a restaurant that is especially great-tasting when it’s cold. Now that we’re moving into fall, I expect I will be frequenting this spot a lot more.

If you’re looking for something new, flavorful and fun, you must visit Ramen Bowls; do not pass go. The atmosphere is intimate and casual, the food is great, and the wait staff is super friendly. Plus, it’s the only ramen spot in the entire state!

Don’t forget to hashtag #EatLawrence on your Lawrence Restaurant Week outings!

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