Monday, October 31, 2016

Restaurant Review: Pizza Studio

Fast serve pizza is starting to become more common place.
   The other day we found ourselves shopping at The Legends in western KCK. After a bit, we decided that we needed something to eat, but we weren't ready to leave the shopping center. While there are a few go to places we enjoy at this location, my wife was quick to point out that she had recently tried the new pizza spot called Pizza Studio. Her description piqued my curiosity, so we decided to have it for a quick lunch. It is the first restaurant that this chain has opened in the metro with the closest one from here being in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. A quick check of their website shows the majority of their stores are located in the southwestern portion of the country, but they do have a smattering of locations in other areas.

The menu is simple to read, but full of options.
    We arrived to find only a few guests inside, since we were early enough to miss the lunch rush. The menu is pretty simple to navigate. The first thing you will need to do is to pick a crust from their five options. Then you select a sauce from seven varieties. The cheeses offer another four options, and then you get to the toppings. Here they are broken out between veggies and meats, with plenty available in both categories. For those who have decision phobia, or are just looking for a quick suggestion, they offer a few "masterpieces" with some interesting flavor combinations.

Watch staff make your pie in front of your eyes.
   After you have made your decision, the staff gets to work building your creation. You move down a counter watching the assembly process, and can interject with any last minute additions or subtractions that you deem appropriate. Once your pie is assembled it goes into the oven, which will cook it in about 3 to 5 minutes. While that is happening you get to make any other menu selections that you desire. There are a handful of pre-selected salad combinations available or you can just opt to build your own from their assortment of available options. On our visit we did not sample the salad choices, since the pizzas were larger than I had expected.

Chicken Alfredo is a favorite of many customers including my wife.
    Once you have settled the bill, you get your drinks and find your seating. The dining area is well lit, with comfortable seats. There are table top and booth options, with the latter working well for us. The restaurant is large enough to handle a good number of customers, and I would imagine that being located on the outer portion of the mall allows for more to-go orders. In just a few short minutes our pies were pulled from the oven. A sprinkling of Italian herbs, and a brushing of garlic olive oil on the crust completes the pizza. Once cut and plated they are ready to be sampled.

The Beast has plenty of meat choices and is very filling.
   This chain restaurant stands upon the premise of using the highest quality ingredients, in chef-driven recipes, to deliver an exceptional product. These are lofty goals, which can easily be lost in the hustle and bustle of building a chain. The true test of these standards are the flavors of the food that they serve. I was hesitant to expect anything more than a standard run-of-the-mill pizza joint offering, and I was pleasantly surprised. The crust I chose, which was the rosemary herb variety, imparted a slight herbal tone to the meal. The cheese, which is grated fresh daily, has a warm and buttery texture. The meats were bold and plentiful in every bite. We both enjoyed our choices, although my wife decided that next time she will opt for spinach to be added to her Chicken Alfredo pie. Pleasantly satisfied, as well as stuffed, we headed back to our retail therapy with the knowledge that we have located a great option for a quick, and quality lunch. If you want to learn more about Pizza Studio check them out at

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.

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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sweet Treats: Velvet Creme Popcorn

  One of the tasks that comes with the cooler weather is the need to begin thinking about holiday purchases. It seems the older we get, the larger the list of people to buy for, which means the need to get creative on gifting. We certainly wouldn't entertain the idea of purchasing just any item for people on our list, because we want the gifts we do pick to hold a special meaning. For us it is a bonus when the gifts originate in Kansas City. There is nothing quite like giving a little piece of the heartland.

  While there are a slew of Kansas City based products to choose from, at least some on our list will receive a package that originated at Velvet Creme Popcorn. Located in Westwood, which is just south of the WyCo/JoCo border, this business is a Kansas City icon. Started over 75 years ago, they pioneered the idea of putting flavored popcorn in tins. They started this tradition in 1954, and it is now mimicked by popcorn companies across the nation.

  Their popcorn has become so popular that they do a large portion of their business as mail order. The tins, which originally were hand painted, now come in a wide variety of decorations. Local sports teams logos adorn many of the most popular, but they also are available with many holiday themes. Tins come in 2 gallon, 3 1/4 gallon, and 6 1/2 gallon sizes, and can be single flavor or a mix of two or three flavor choices. With six flavors to choose from, everyone will be able to enjoy their favorite. 

  The options don't end with popcorn, as Velvet Creme also offers candy and snack options. From the beginning of the company's history they have offered fudge, and today's version is a delight to the taste buds. Don't stop there, as there are other chocolate and various candy products. They offer an assortment of nuts and trail mix style snacks, and some of these are also available in tins suitable for shipping. With all of these choices it should be easy to find gifts for everyone on your shopping list. For more information or to place an online order visit