Monday, June 30, 2014

Elephant Slides - Hidden Gems in Topeka


Yesterday, Sunday June 29, 2014 at noon the wife and I joined a group of folks at Ward Parkway Park (in the 1600 block of Burnett Rd). You might be asking yourself, where is Burnett Rd. It is off 17th street, 1st road east of Mount Hope Cemetery.  Located in a quiet neighborhood, this park has no parking other then on the street.  There are plenty of shade, a couple picnic tables, a grill , a couple of brightly colored benches and of course the elephant slide.
The slide, was the focus of the nine people that showed up. Seven on lookers, enjoying the fellowship as two people, Jim "Gypsy" and Deb George re-painted the slide shaped like an elephant.

Artists at work. Gypsy and his wife re- paint the elephant slide.
Photography by Kevin Surbaugh
George, who owns Skin Art Creations Tattoo Emporium, said he is restoring the artwork on three slides in Topeka parks that had been painted to look like elephants. The slide was a highlight of the Children’s Park near S.W. 6th and MacVicar when he was a boy, he said, and while he was pleased to see it was still there when he moved back to Topeka in October, the slide showed signs of weathering and the paint was peeling.
- Megan Hart (staff writer for Topeka Capital Journal)

photography by Kevin Surbaugh

Photography by Kevin Surbaugh
According to Gypsy the three slides that he and his wife know of and the names he's given each of them are:
1. Children's Park (6th and McVicar) Elphie
2. Ward Parkway Park (1600 block of Burnett) Pinky
3. Sims Park (18th and Sims Ct.) Puchie

photography by Kevin Surbaugh
According to recent newspaper article, quoted earlier, kids are loving the repainted elephants. Gypsy said that when he hears of another location, he checks it out to see if it is still there. He believes that originally, all the parks had one of these slides. Unfortunately many of them are no longer there. Personally, we think it would be great if another one or two could be found and restored.  It is possible, that some may have been painted over and just don't have the elephant on them anymore. Which may mean a small amount of imagination may be required to see what it originally was.
Photography by Kevin Surbaugh
Photography by Kevin Surbaugh



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Pad

We are on the search for the best burger in Topeka. Here is how we rate the burger joints that we will review. First we put heavy emphasis on where the joint is headquartered, Local (Topeka) will garner an automatic 10 bonus points. Kansas owned chains (headquartered in Lawrence, Wichita, etc) an automatic 5 bonus points and National chains (those headquartered outside the state) will garner an automatic 0 bonus points. The ten categories that we will use in our search for the best burger in Topeka will be 1.Burger Patties Quality, 2. Bun Quality, 3. Customer Service, 4. Garnish Quality, 5. Fries Quality, 6. Atmosphere, 7. Order Accuracy, 8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc), 9. Building Accessibility and 10. Price. All categories will earn a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the poorest.

It has been years since I had been to The Pad, the iconic north Topeka burger joint, that briefly had a second location on southwest Washburn. So I was eager to get once again wrap my mouth around and sink my teeth into one of their burgers to see if it was as good as I remembered it.  According to Topeka Capital Journal's, "Best of Topeka" survey, it has been rated one of the top five burgers in Topeka.  So what did my taste buds say?
photographer Kevin Surbaugh

 Bonus Points: 10

1. Burger Patties Quality 7
It was nice to finally eat the cheapest burger at a local joint and be able to really taste the meat.  A nice 1/4 pound burger. Diffidently the biggest burger we have reviewed thus far. Can't say where's the beef at this place. Although, I can't really place my finger on it, but the taste of the burger was a little off. Seemed a little bland, maybe a little old.  Just not sure. Neither really describe the taste I was sensing. Not sure how to really describe it.  For the most part it was great. The fact that this is another one of those places that serves Pepsi™ instead of the better tasting Coke™ didn't help. A nice ice cold Coca-Cola™ might have improved the taste greatly.
photograph by Kevin Surbaugh

2. Bun Quality 10
A nice buttered toasted bun that actually looked and tasted toasted.  

3. Customer Service 10
 Cashier was very attentive to the customers and doing her part to assure the kitchen staff received our special requests so the cooks prepared the burger exactly as we had ordered.  Mine was ketchup only and the wife only had mayonnaise and pickles on her burger. So kudos to them, especially during a busy lunch rush.

4. Garnish Quality 10
Garnish was good and fresh with plenty of pickles. This place doesn't try to chimp you on the number of pickles that they put on your burger, like so many places that only put two or three. The Pad Restaurant actually put five pickles on my wife's burger.

5. Fries Quality 10
 The Pad is one of the few places that serve curly-Q's which in my book makes them better then McDonald's™ Fries. These homemade french fries still had some of the peelings on them. The best part I could actually taste the potatoes, there was no questioning, "where's the potatoes," like at those places that serve those worthless shoestring fries.  In my book, The Pad does a better job with their fries then their burgers. To bad, we aren't searching for the best fries in Topeka.
photograph by Kevin Surbaugh

6. Atmosphere 9
The Pad is another one of those sit down places that is better known for it's burgers and fries. It offers a little fast food vibe, with music barely audible in the background. A salad bar is also available to complete the true sit down restaurant option.


7. Order Accuracy 10
An excellent job on the staff, who prepared our orders exactly as requested. On my part I ordered my quarter pound burger with ketchup only.  My wife ordered the same burger with mayonnaise and pickles only.


8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc) 10
Despite being during a busy lunch rush, the restaurant  appeared to be in great clean condition. The restrooms were clean, as was the dinning room and entrance.  The condition of the restaurant actually exceeded what I was expecting during such a busy time of day. 


9. Building Accessibility 8
 The building was very accessible, except for one thing. That one thing might give some people with limited mobility a little trouble. There is a heavy door in front of the set of separate restroom doors. Some with mobility issues could have trouble opening  this door and those in wheel chairs might find it a tight squeeze to then open the next door to the respective restroom. An easy fix would be to remove this outer door, thus creating a kind of mini hallway .

10. Price 8
 Burger costs more, but there was more meat. Drinks were way overpriced , like so many places, considering the the syrup itself is only 25¢. They could still a good profit by charging only $1/cup, but the same could be said of most establishments.

Burger $3.25 x2
Fries $1.15 x2
Small drinks $1.69 x2
Total $13.27 

Total Points: 10.2 
A great score, thanks in part to the bonus points earned for being a local owned restaurant.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cook's American Grill

We are on the search for the best burger in Topeka. Here is how we rate the burger joints that we will review. First we put heavy emphasis on where the joint is headquartered, Local (Topeka) will garner an automatic 10 bonus points. Kansas owned chains (headquartered in Lawrence, Wichita, etc) an automatic 5 bonus points and National chains (those headquartered outside the state) will garner an automatic 0 bonus points. The ten categories that we will use in our search for the best burger in Topeka will be 1.Burger Patties Quality, 2. Bun Quality, 3. Customer Service, 4. Garnish Quality, 5. Fries Quality, 6. Atmosphere, 7. Order Accuracy, 8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc), 9. Building Accessibility and 10. Price. All categories will earn a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the poorest.

Cook's American Grill is a local burger joint that has been one of my favorite places.  Even though, it is much more then a burger joint, we are taking a look at then today in our search for the best burger in Topeka.

Bonus Points: 10

1. Burger Patties Quality: 8
 Here is another place that serves up a thin burger to try to keep costs down as beef prices continue to rise. Even though there was more bun then meat, it had a great texture. Cooked thoroughly and not overdone. I enjoyed the burger for the most part. However, they serve Pepsi™, even though in the opinion of this humble reviewer (as I've said before), Pepsi™ brings the rating down.  Nothing against Pepsi™, but to me it tastes flat in a head to head comparison to Coke™. Pepsi™ is sweeter the Coca-Cola™. That sweet/flatter taste diminishes the taste of the burger, rather then enhancing it, like the Coke™ does.  It's kind of like the old Coke™ ads, "Everything tastes better, with a Coke™".

photographer Kevin Surbaugh
2. Bun Quality: 10
The bun is a Sara Lee bun that is toasted on the grill before being put on the burger.

3. Customer Service: 10
 From the counter help to the grill crew each member of this small local establishment provides excellent service.

4. Garnish Quality: 10
 The garnish was excellent and very fresh as one would expect from a restaurant. 

5. Fries Quality: 9
 Nice crispy fries, could be a little better they weren't quite so crispy, but the home made taste gives them a strong rating in my book. Another huge plus, was being able to bite into the potatoes.

6. Atmosphere: 10
 The atmosphere of  Cook's is that of a small town cafe. A style that I miss from my days of growing up in a small town, so when I get the chance I enjoy stopping in a place like this.

7. Order Accuracy: 10
The counter person was very friendly and attentive, taking our special request order as we requested and the grill crew prepared it exactly as the order was taken.

8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc): 9

The restrooms were very clean except the trash cans could use a good cleaning.  As for the dinning areas, one can diffidently tell they have done business throughout the day and the carpeted dining room is harder to keep clean.

9. Building Accessibility: 8
The building is fairly accessible to some with limited mobility although with the double door entrance a person in a wheelchair might have some trouble navigating the doors as they come in. Upon exit, with both doors swinging out the exit would be easier.
However, getting down the narrow hall and in and out the restrooms would be next to impossible for someone in a wheelchair.  

10. Price: 9
burger $2.75 x2
Fries $1.69 x2
Soda $1.49 x2
Total price for two meals: $

Total Points:  9.4


Hours:
Mon - Sat: 7:00 am - 8:00 pm
Closed Sunday's
Location:
1936 SW Gage Blvd
Topeka KS 

Phone:
785-271-1415

Website:
 Cook's American Grill

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hidden Cash in Topeka

This past weekend the Hidden Cash craze that had taken San Francisco by storm arrived in Kansas. Anonymous donors not connected to the San Francisco millionaire have teamed up to bring the excitement to the sunflower state. Saturday was the first few drops around Topeka. The first being at the Rainbow colored Unity House. That one being in the amount of $50.
The second was at Sk8 Away, which contained $20 and a skate pass, then two more (1 inside and the other outside) of $20 each at the Kansas Expocenter. 
Sunday and Monday brought nothing but teases of a possible drop.  Tuesday was pretty quite until around 7 pm, when a spur of the moment drop was made in the little park, home of the iconic WREN bird.
photographer Kevin Surbaugh
The clue for that one was, "Remember wren I flew higher."  Upon reading that, my wife and I went on the look for some hidden cash.  Arriving there was no one there, with more arriving after the wife and I. However, we were to late. It had been found and they had already left.  Oh well, better luck next time.  Then all sudden around 10 pm, Topeka had another spur of the moment drop,  HiddenCashKs tweeted, "Topeka! Here's another spur of the moment drop! Chesney park, on clay and Buchannan! Get there and start looking!" With the wife manning the computer, I ran out to the car and drove to my old stomping ground in search of the cash.  When I arrived, she was on the phone letting me know if there was any updates.  There were none. Just replies about the drop. Some concerned that it was to dangerous of a neighborhood to be out so late at night.  Others like me who spent two hours, even though the park closed at 11 pm, trying to figure out where this cash was.  Finally the last of us left. Not knowing if the cash was found or if someone didn't report finding it or what. No second clue came and it was just getting to late to keep looking. 
Rumor is that this weekend, the anonymous people behind this form of Pay It Forward, will be doing a possible massive scavenger type hunt. With multiple drops in one location.  Sounds like fun, if in fact it comes to fruition. Who knows there could be more between now and the weekend to.  Only time will see. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Great Mural Wall of Topeka

The Great Mural Wall of Topeka, when completed is expected to be the biggest Mural Wall in Topeka and perhaps the State of Kansas. The three-sided mural was first painted in 2007 — goes down Western (across from the Expocenter) and turns the corner on 20th and now Fillmore.


Preserving Memories of the Free Fair
painted in 2009
lead Artist Dave Lowenstein
Assisted by KT Walsh
and Topeka High Art Students
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh

A History of Central Park
painted in 2008
lead Artist Dave Lowenstein
Assisted by KT Walsh and Natalie Dye
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh


Preserving Memories of the Free Fair
painted in 2008
lead Artist Dave Lowenstein
Assisted by KT Walsh
and Julie Ferreira
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh

Tribute to Grant Cushinberry (part 2)
painted in 2007
lead Artist Dave Lowenstein Assisted by Camille Bachand
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh

Tribute to Grant Cushinberry (part 1)
painted in 2007
lead Artist Dave Lowenstein Assisted by Camille Bachand
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh


Ad Terra Per Agilitas
painted in 2010
lead Artist Kit Walsh Assisted by Ashley Laird
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh

Putting Down Roots in Elmhurst
painted in 2009
lead Artist Kit Walsh Assisted by Ashley Laird
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh
Reanimating The Arts in Topeka
painted in 2011
Lead Artist Ashley Laird Assisted by Dave Loewnstein with help from
Cicelia, Aja and Community Volunteers
Photographer Kevin Surbaugh

It has been about three (3) years since the Great Mural Wall of Topeka had seen a new project. Primarily because the Kansas Arts Commission was dismantled, funding has been hard to come by, the 900-foot, partially-completed wall in central Topeka honoring the cultural history and ongoing spirit of Topekans and their neighborhoods went void of fresh paint and new art.
The Kansas Women's Mural Currently being painted in 2014
Lead Artist Ashley Laird
photographer Kevin Surbaugh

The Kansas Women's Mural Currently being painted in 2014
Lead Artist Ashley Laird
photographer Kevin Surbaugh

Stay tuned I will stay on top of when they complete these latest two panels.

A video of the wall from our friends at "I Love Topeka."


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