Spring and early summer bring the most tourists to the Flint Hills, and finding places to eat in the hinterlands can be a challenge, with restaurants appearing and disappearing like antelope.
We’re here to help the hungry hordes who will stream into the prairie over the next few weeks as the wildflowers are peaking and temperatures are pleasant for hiking the National Tallgrass Preserve in Strong City.
If you’re attending one of the big events in early June — Symphony in the Flint Hills (June 11) near Clements, the Flint Hills Rodeo in Strong City and the Dirty Kanza 200-mile endurance bicycle race beginning and ending in Emporia — plan on having to wait a bit, but the local businesses do their best to accommodate all comers.
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Here are several places The Star has checked out recently along or near the National Scenic Byway KS-177, which runs from Manhattan in the north to El Dorado in the South.
Where to eat
Tallgrass Tap House, 320 Poyntz Ave., Manhattan, 785-320-2933
Better-than-average bar food and really good craft beers make this a fun stop. Don’t miss the pork belly Cuban and the small-batch craft beers on tap. Lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Saddlerock Cafe, 15 S 6th St., Council Grove, 620-767-6411
Homemade, from-scratch comfort food and friendly, not-in-a-hurry service. Try the biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak and giant cinnamon rolls. Breakfast and lunch daily; dinner 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Ad Astra Food & Drink, 318 Cottonwood St., Strong City, 620-273-8440
After abruptly closing last summer, this popular upscale bistro with a full bar is open again. Crowd favorites are the hearty burgers on pretzel buns and the fried Brussels sprouts. Lunch and dinner Friday-Sunday.
Grand Central Hotel & Grill, 215 Broadway St., Cottonwood Falls, 620-273-6763
The hands-down choice for premium Kansas-raised steaks in a handsome dining room that evokes the area’s ranching heritage. Treat yourself to the super-fat, flaky onion rings. Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.
Keller Feed & Wine, 317 Broadway St., 620-273-5050
Rustic antiques create a cool 1940s vibe and huge portions of smoked meat, comfort food and milkshakes keep the locals coming back. Brunch Saturday and Sunday, dinner Friday and Saturday.