Friday, October 21, 2016

Sweet Treats: Sylas & Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream

The shop is right next to target in Olathe.
   To say that ice cream is one of our favorite treats is an understatement. It has, and I would imagine will always be, our go to dessert option. There is something decadent about the rich, creamy flavors. It is especially sinful the way that they infuse ribbons or chunks of candies, as well as other treats into the mix. Although there are many good shops across the metro, one of our favorites is a family owned shop called  Sylas & Maddy's Homemade Ice Cream. The one we frequent is located at 119th and Strang Line Road in Olathe.

The interior has a few seats, but mostly is standing room for customers.
   This small shop is one of two locations that we are aware of, with the other being their first location in Lawrence, Kansas. They opened that store in 1997, and followed with the Olathe store in 1999. Walking through the door, the first thing that you smell is a sweet combination of the fresh made waffle cones, and the creamy ice cream. We have found late afternoon visits are less crowded, and this place can get really packed on a weekend evening in the summertime. While it can be hectic, we look at it as an opportunity to review the offerings.

The menu can fluctuate slightly, but there are a lot of constants.
   Speaking of options, Sylas & Maddy's has plenty to choose from. Whenever we visit there are grand plans of trying new and exciting flavors. These plans usually go out the window when we see some of our old standards. We have a couple of go-to flavors that we always seem to gravitate towards. I do plan to give every flavor a shot at some point, but not sure that my wife will strive for this same lofty goal. Unlike many other shops, this place makes their own ice cream with high quality ingredients. They do not skimp on the add-ins either. For example, their Coconut Cream Pie ice cream has an entire pie added into the bucket of ice cream. They want to make sure their customers get plenty of flavor from their choices.

I haven't tried these cones, but they do look tempting.
   While we have the tendency to choose our scoops to be placed in a bowl, that doesn't mean they don't have other options. Their fresh made waffle cones are made daily, and even come with sprinkle covered chocolate choices. They also offer cake cones for those who prefer, as well as waffle bowls. If you feel your ice cream needs an additional kick you can opt for a sprinkling of gummy bears, nuts, chocolate chips or a variety of name brand candies. As with any good ice cream shop, they also offer an assortment of sundaes, malts, shakes, and other specialty drinks.

One scoop each of Pistachio and Sweat Cream in a waffle cone bowl.
   To help expand our horizons, but hopefully not our waistline, We have started ordering two scoops per visit. This allows us to select one of our standards, but to toss in a new variety. Of course the go-to flavor needs to be on the bottom, so that it is the finishing taste. We're sure plenty of you will understand that logic. We know that this process will mean that it will take more visits to be able to sample all of the varieties, but that's a sacrifice that we are willing to make for research purposes. By the way, they also sell hard-packed pints and quarts for those who want to enjoy the wonderful tastes at home. To find out more, like the store hours, directions, and a list of flavors, check them out at Be sure to list your favorite flavor(s) in the comments section below, so that we can make sure to add it to our to-try list. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dare to Scare

   It seems that every year the Fall season sneaks up on us. You would think we would see it coming, but Summer gets in the way. The notion that Kansas City is susceptible to Indian Summers doesn't help either. Those waning hours of sunlight do hint at what is to come, but the warming sun gives us false hope that it will be delayed. Finally, as the leaves start their annual color change, we grasp the reality of the situation that is unfolding around us. Autumn has arrived, and with it the fleeting weeks of Fall fun. One of the entertaining portions of Autumn is Halloween. While some can take or leave this holiday, many welcome it with open arms. It represents all of the best of the Fall season. Cool nights, warm drinks, a few sweet treats, good fellowship, and a little excitement. For many it is also the time of year for the annual pilgrimage to the haunted houses.

   Kansas City has the distinction of being one of the better cities for this particular form of entertainment. With a wide variety of scare options, we stand as the self-proclaimed "Haunted House Capital of the World". With only about two weeks until Halloween, it is time to make your plans for your own evening of frights. The upcoming weather looks to be taking a turn to the cooler side, so it should make for perfect haunting conditions. Let's see what some of the ghoulish options are this year.

The Beast
The Beast welcomes those who dare enter. (Photos from website)

The Beast is located in the West Bottoms at 1401 West 13th Street. With more of an open format, this haunted house focuses on a larger troupe of character actors. They have no issues mingling into and with the crowd, so be prepared for plenty of surprises. The front door entertainment is especially skillful at eliciting shrieks.

The Edge of Hell
The Edge of Hell is a multistory visit. (Photos from website)

The Edge of Hell has the distinction of being the oldest running haunted house in the United States. This house focuses on playing to people's phobias. The attention to details certainly shines through at this place, and shows how they have survived so long, plus they have a 4 story slide.

   Both of the houses listed above will be found in old commercial buildings located in the West Bottoms area of KCMO. You will also find Chambers of Poe, which focuses on paranormal activity based on Edgar Allan Poe's stories. The other house of note is Macabre Cinema, which offers a 1930's haunted  movie theater setting. It features actual movie props and sets. The haunting options in KC are not limited to this part of town, as you can find a selection of scares in other regions, as well.

Halloween Haunt at World of Fun
Worlds of Fun Halloween Haunt runs through October. (Pictures from website)

  Worlds of Fun features 500 character actors every weekend in October for their annual Halloween Haunt event. The price of admission includes spooky rides and shows, as well as some extreme haunts.


  Not all of the haunts are found in the inner city region. Around the metro there are a variety of smaller places touting haunted hay rides or the like, but these can be limited in their availability. One of the newest, and potentially most frightening haunts can be found in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

Exiled KC

Exiled KC looks to be the new scare king in KC. (Photos from website)

     Exiled KC is an outdoor venue that features approximately one mile of hiking through a scare infested forest. Participants will be required to climb hills, bend, stoop, and crawl their way through this woods filled with bugs, animals, obstacles, and unknown hazards. All guests must sign a waiver, and will be supplied with a small red lamp to help them find their way. The forest is infested with a deranged freak show of scares, so be prepared for the unexpected.


  As you can see there are a multitude of scary options to be found right here in Kansas City. So throw on some warm clothes, grab a few friends, and head out to enjoy the haunts. Just be sure to take someone who runs slower than you, just in case you have to run for your life. Happy Haunting!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Restaurant Review: Suzie Q's Homestyle Cafe

Easily missed, but well worth the visit.
  Sometimes you cannot judge a book by it's cover. In the case of restaurants this has been proven time and again. There have been many shows that feature small diners that people would drive past without a second thought. What they don't realize is that inside some of those locations you can find meals with lots of flavor. Such is the case with Suzie Q's Homestyle Cafe in Kansas City, Kansas.

Part of the breakfast menu.
  This hole-in-the-wall diner is a mainstay for many of the workers along the K-32 corridor in southern Wyandotte County. The weekday starts at 6:00 for the customers looking for breakfast. My day job is located just a few blocks from the restaurant, and it is not uncommon to see people enjoying some of the menu items that they have carried out in Styrofoam containers.

1/2 order of biscuits & gravy makes for a filling start to the day.
  Savory or sweet offerings pepper the breakfast menu, and are made fresh daily. The biscuits and sausage gravy is a popular item, and pairs well with their crispy hash browns. The serving portions are generous, so it is easy to get filled up for not a lot of money. They also offer a good selection of omelets, as well as breakfast sandwiches for those on the go.

Handheld selections.
  The lunch and dinner menus are just as extensive, and they have specials on most weekdays. Their hours run until 8:00 pm on Monday through Thursdays, and once they open on Friday morning they stay open until Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm. You read that correctly. This place remains open for almost the entire weekend, and it almost always seems to have customers. The large assortment of industrial businesses in the area help keep the doors open.

Giant tenderloin sandwich.
  So many restaurants like Suzie Q's offer exceptional value, because they are quite generous with their portions. Take the Giant Tenderloin for example. It's only $8.75 for a meal that also includes fries, Tator tots, or Suzie Q's (the house version of curly fries). You could easily have the makings of two meals from the oversize portions that they serve.

Cheeseburger and fries.
  Another popular lunch time choice is the cheeseburger, which also comes with your choice of potato based side. Each time I walk into the cafeteria at work I seem to find someone enjoying a menu item that I didn't know they served. Tacos, lasagna, and beef stew are some of the ones I have seen recently. They also offer fried and grilled chicken dinners, as well fish & chips, and fried catfish. Most of their dinners cost less than $10.00, and include salad, a vegetable, and a choice of potato or bread. So if you are looking for a home cooked meal, without all of the fancy stuff, then drop by Suzie Q's Homestyle Cafe for a meal that won't break the bank.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Golf with a Twist

First impressions are positive.
   We can remember the days when miniature golf courses dotted the city. A fun date night may involve pizza or burgers, and probably some activity. Mini-golf was always a prime possibility, because it was a game that anyone could participate in, no matter their skill level. Over time the novelty has worn off to the point that there are only a handful of these entertainment venues left in our area. Amazingly, if you head to a tourist based area, like Branson or Lake of the Ozarks, you will find that miniature golf still flourishes. So what are people who are looking for this type of entertainment in other regions to do?

A different look than your normal driving range.
   These days there is a new golfing game in town, called Top Golf. Here they have chosen to create a new spin on the game in an effort to draw upon the desire of people looking for entertainment options. This isn't like miniature golf, since you do not use a putter. It also differs from regular golf, because you do not work your way around a course. Instead patrons pay to hit balls out of bays similar to visiting a range. As a matter of fact, it could best be described as a glorified driving range with special features.

Better feedback on your shot location.
  The idea came form two brothers who wanted to better understand how close their shots were to the targets at their local practice facility. Their idea soon blossomed into the "sports club meets local hangout" places that exist today. I recently had the opportunity to visit our local site in Overland Park for an evening session. I was skeptical about whether it would be enjoyable, since I don't usually spend much time at driving ranges, but decided that it was a good chance to see for myself what all the buzz was about.

Comfortable seating and free club use adds to the appeal.
   The Top Golf facility I visited is located at 106th & Nall in Overland Park, Kansas. The building has a very nice presence, and the high screen around the field is clearly visible when approaching their location. Upon entering you must first purchase a membership card for $5.00, which is good from then on. This card is similar to ones you get at many arcades, where they load the value you purchased on it, and then you use it to pay for your game time. The card also is used to keep track of your scoring history, in case you become a frequent visitor. The site is first come-first served, so reservations are not necessary. They have over 100 bays located on 3 floors, so on most visits you will probably have no issue getting right in. They also tout a rooftop terrace for viewing and relaxing. TV sets hang throughout the facility with sports shows on tap, so you can stay up-to-date on all of your sports teams and players.

Chicken and waffles with maple syrup and jalapeno gravy.

Mac Daddy Burger with green chili mac & cheese.
  To add to the atmosphere of a local hangout, they also offer interesting eats, as well as a wide variety of drink options. They have a good selection of appetizers to get started, and the calamari is delicious with it's sesame orange chili dipping sauce. Flatbreads and sliders, as well as a few varieties of burgers and handhelds, make good food options during a game. They even offer a couple of salad options, and I saw a few people enjoying some sweet desserts. The food prices are about what you would find at a sit down restaurant, which is not surprising for a specialty location. As for drink options, they have a full service bar, with quite a few signature drinks. These have a price a range of $8.00 to $11.00 each. They also offer a wide selection of beers and wines. Servers take your orders and deliver the selections in a very timely fashion. Service is certainly high on the priority list at Top Golf.

Right hand or left hand doesn't matter.
   So now that we have got all of our extras in order, it's time to start the game. Their system is based on using golf balls that have microchips implanted for tracking purposes. The targets all have readers, so when a ball makes contact it can accurately note the location for scoring purposes. Much like darts, there is a variety of games that can be played. During my visit, the group decided just to play the standard game, which simply scored by the distance of the target. When it was my turn, I picked a club from the selection offered, and stepped up to the mat. By the way, they have men's and women's clubs, as well as right and left handed. A wave of the club head over the sensor, and the machine dispensed a ball. There are rubber tees embedded in the mat for those times you want the ball raised up. The chart on the machine shows target placement and yardage, so you can select your appropriate club. Then you just swing away. If the ball lands in one of the target areas, the scoring screen will denote the spot, and the number of points earned. In the game we played points were increased for the longer the distance to the target.

Each bay has a machine that dispenses the chipped balls for hitting.
  The bays are outdoors, but offer cooling fans for hot days and heaters for cold days. L-shaped couches are located in each bay, along with a good sized table. There is easily room for about 6 adults per bay. After a short practice round, we were ready to start the competition. While the object was to track total scores, we soon found ourselves more interested in just tracking each shot. Some people would focus on accuracy, while others were more set on seeing how far they could hit the ball. We even had a couple who were determined to hit the ball out of the complex, but none were successful. At the end of the evening we all departed with plenty of fun stories, and smiles on our faces. Our group included people of every skill level, from beginner to seasoned veteran. It is safe to say that we were all able to engage in this activity on an even playing field. I believe those two brothers hit on a great idea, and may have created a great date night option. If this sounds like something you might enjoy, you can get more information at Perhaps we will see you there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Choosing the Right Coverage

   About 3 or 4 years ago, I began hearing about a new type of insurance being offered to residents of KCK. The offers came from a variety of insurance companies, and covered an assortment of items. Most were focused on the water and sewer lines that fall under homeowners responsibility. For those that are unaware, most water and sewer utility services are city property up to around the curb. From this point into the home it is the owners job to maintain these assets. Unfortunately, for many this only becomes known when they are having to make sizable repairs to their system. The cost of having these problems fixed can run into the thousands of dollars.

  When mailers offering insurance to cover these vital components started arriving in homes around the community, many residents were confused and wary. As with any unknown correspondence, the prudent action was to seek understanding and validation. Soon the number of informational requests became large enough for the Unified Government and Board of Public Utilities to look into these services. The two agencies worked for about two years vetting the various companies to determine which one would be the most reliable among the field. Recently the announcement of Home Serve USA as the final selection was made public.

   Now we cannot make the decision if this type of insurance is an appropriate choice for you. This post is merely meant to highlight the options that are available. In our personal case, we own a home that was built in 1963, and it was one of the first in the subdivision. This gives us a good idea of the age of the infrastructure. We also realize that much of the area around us is in an undermined area, from the cave activity for the cold storage facilities nearby. When we combine those factors, we see that this type of insurance could be a good fit for our particular circumstances. The same factors may not apply to other homes in our city. It is important for each homeowner to weigh the costs vs. the risks to see if it is appropriate.

   Home Serve USA will begin sending mailer information to homes in the Wyandotte County region soon. The paperwork will bear the insignia's of the UG and BPU. Please take the time to review the information, and feel free to contact any or all of the organizations to see if this coverage is a good fit for you. If you want more information visit You can also find out more information by reading the article on the BPU's website at

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Restaurant Review: The Mason Jar

  Recently a new restaurant opened its doors in Kansas City, Kansas, and we have heard a lot of buzz about it from friends. Our schedule is always hectic in the Fall, so we have been struggling to find a good time to visit. We finally just bit the bullet and forced ourselves to stop in for lunch. The Mason Jar is located at 941 North 74th Drive, which is about 1/2 block south of State Avenue on 74th Drive. A good landmark for locating it would be that it sits behind the Pap John's Pizza shop on the southeast corner. The restaurant is located in what used to be an old water-slide park, which some of you may remember from years ago.

  Our visit occurred just after they opened for lunch on a Saturday (11:00 daily), so the parking lot was still fairly empty. We have heard that this place can get pretty busy later in the day, so our timing was fortunate. The inside of the restaurant is well lit, and the decorations take a backseat to the dining experience. The sleek interior design is pleasing to the eyes, and leave an impression of cleanliness. The seating selection is a mix of table-tops with bar stool height chairs, as well as a smattering of booths along the edges.

  We were seated quickly, and surprised when CJ, the manager on duty, visited our table to welcome us. He explained the basics of the menu, as well as informing us that the restaurant featured a well stocked bar that has an good sampling of craft beers. We were pleased to hear that most of the sauces and dressings are made in-house, which is not always the case at other restaurants.

  The menu is very easy to read with clear explanations of the ingredients in each of the dishes. I only took a picture of one side of the menu page, but you can see the whole thing for yourself at CJ pointed out a few of his favorites on the menu, and shared with us that the burger patties are made fresh daily. After he left us, our server "T" stopped in to take our drink orders. This gave us a chance to find out her favorites, as well. After getting input from both of them, we set about trying to find a couple of items that would help us gauge the quality of ingredients, as well as the expertise of the cook staff.

   After a lot of deliberation, we finally made our choices, and "T" set off to get them started for us. We were quite taken with our server, as she was more than willing to help us navigate the menu, and was delightful to visit with. Once again our choice of time to visit worked in our favor, as she was not so rushed by a crowd. She was able to deliver exceptional service without hovering. To start our meal Crystal ordered a small side salad. Nothing special here, but the ingredients were fresh with no wilted lettuce.

  For her main course, Crystal chose the French Dip sandwich with regular fries. The beef is sliced from Ribeye steak, that is prepared in-house. It is served with both Au Jus and horseradish sauces. One thing of note is that the horseradish sauce was not as hot (spicy) as you sometimes find at restaurants. This is a bonus for people who don't want all of the spiciness, but still enjoy the flavor that the sauce imparts on the dish. The sandwich itself is fairly light on seasoning, so the sauces are an integral part of the meal. When combined they do well at bringing out the beef undertones of the sandwich. The lightly toasted bun adds just the right amount of crunch, while holding in the juices of the filling.

  Since we had a handheld chosen, I decided to pick something a little different. In Kansas City it can be difficult to find good fish & chips. During our earlier conversation, CJ had pointed out that they use a homemade beer batter, which features Fat Tire brand beer. This sounded so intriguing that I decided to give it a shot. Our server, "T", had also been quite helpful in describing the difference between the regular fries and the garlic version. In her words the garlic version can become addicting. She was spot on with her description. The garlic fries certainly carry the garlic flavor without being overpowering. The sprinkling of some freshly grated Parmesan cheese adds another layer of flavor to the side dish. These were certainly a big hit with both of us.

   When it comes to fried fish, most versions are a greasy, oily, flavorless mess. They usually have to rely on the tartar sauce to impart any flavor. This was not the case with this dish. The batter was not too thick, which can allow for the collection of excess oil. The result was crispy on the outside with a delicious flaky fish on the inside. While I did share some with Crystal, at the end of the meal I made sure there was none left behind. The house-made tartar sauce was creamy, but did not have any special flavoring that I could denote. This dish also included a small cup of cole slaw, which was a little more on the tart side than I prefer.

  Our overall experience at The Mason Jar was extremely positive. We have already discussed the next visit, and what it may hold in store for us. Those around us were enjoying some delicious looking burgers, which I will certainly be trying in the future. We also saw a table being delivered a pizza that looked appetizing. We are not sure if we would ever get around to ordering one, since there are so many other options, and we already have a couple of go-to places for pizza. Perhaps we will make it to a Happy Hour event (they run from 3:00 to 6:00), where we can try a pizza with some homemade Lynchburg Lemonade. For more information or to see their menu, visit them at

Friday, October 7, 2016

Daytrip: Omaha Zoo - Part 2

  The newest exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska is the Alaskan Adventure that opened in June 2016. This $14 million splash ground features about 75 bronze sculptures. The area sets the stage for a future expansion that will include space for the sea lions, as well as a polar bear exhibit.

 This exhibit features puffins and sea lion sculptures lounging on rocks, much as you would expect to find in nature. The sounds of barking seals play over hidden speakers, and adds to the experience. 

Center stage is an 18 foot high Humpback whale, which appears to be breaching from the ground. A whale's tail is a separate sculpture that is 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide. 

Water jets spray from around the base of the Humpback, and add to the overall effect. The spray pattern is computerized, and set to mimic the splash and spray from these animals in the wild. On the day we visited it was overcast and cool, so the crowds were at a minimum. The few children who were participating seemed to be enthralled with this new area.

   A pod of Orcas bound through the splash area with an almost life-like feel. The exhibit also features brown bears, and salmon sculptures. This certainly appears to be a great place to hang out on a hot Midwestern summer day, and we are sure that this portion of the park will become a family favorite.