A Little Bit of Bangkok in Kansas
Located in a strip shopping mall along a busy Overland Park thoroughfare, Thai Place continues to provide good, reliable, reasonably priced Thai food in the 'burbs. Nice Pad Thai, not at all greasy! A bit disappointing that they don't have more seafood dishes, though. Remember, this is Kansas, and you may not find all of your favorite specialties, but Ann Libera (the owner and restauranteur) knows her client base, and she's gone on from here to establish her own empire of Thai Restaurants in the Kansas City area.
I wish the Thai Place had been here - and I'd been brave enough to sample the fare - when I was a student at Shawnee Mission West High School, just a few blocks away!
Looking for Mr. GoodCoffee
On a recent trip to the O.P. area, I set out on a quest to discover the good, the bad and the ugly in the cappacino world. My quest was not limited to Overland Park - my relatives live throughout the Shawnee Mission Metroplex - but I decided to place this travelogue on the Overland Park, because that seems to be where I spent most of my coffee dollar. I present my findings here.
"PT's Coffee -- College Blvd near JCCC"
In order to conduct this objective, non-partial, and completely disinterested survey, I decided to maintain a uniform procedure at each coffee emporium I visited. I would order a medium (usually 16 oz.) double cappuccino, "wet", and accompanied by an oatmeal raisin cookie, or some such pastry if no oatmeal raisin sweet was available.
My first stop was PT's Coffee, near the Johnson County Community College. It's in a shopping center at the NW corner of the intersection of College Boulevard and Quivira.
The barista did not know what "wet" meant, and I had to explain it for him. Points deducted. I was also disappointed in the ambience - or rather lack of ambience - which did not hide the fact that this was basically a strip mall operation.
Ambience: 3 (out of 10)
Cappucinno experience: 4
"LatteLand on the Plaza"
You might think that the Spanish-themed Country Club Plaza district would be a natural spot for a "Euro-style" coffee place. But rents are high here, and sidewalk space prescious. The one upscale coffee place of the Plaza has the ambience of an Italian Espresso Bar - it's not really meant for lounging, or people-watching, for that matter. Which is a shame. A Viennese style cafe would do well here.
Inside LatteLand there are about four tables when you can sit and read through the newspaper, but most customers get their coffee to go. I thought my cappuccino was fine - above average - but all drinks here are served in paper cups, which I find unacceptable when you want to stay and enjoy your coffee at a place that charges Plaza-style prices.
On 47th Street, just east of Wornall
Cappuccino experience: 5
"Top of Its Class - La Prima Tazza"
No doubt about it: I was served the best cappuccino in months at "La Prima Tazza" in Lawrence. This cappuccino acknowledges its Italian roots, cappuccino that owes more to Milano than to Seattle-o.
The barista here took his time, but came up with a drink that had just the right proportion of espresso, steamed milk, and light foam - all created a spiral design on top, just as I like it.
(Another point in its favor: cappuccinos here are served in broad, wide cups - not in tall glasses which constricts the ability of espresso to "breathe".)
Great location on Massachusetts St., in between Liberty Hall and the Free State Brewery.
But - it _is_ in Lawrence. And not too many people in Overland Park are going to drive 35 miles for a good cappuccino. But if you are going to Allen Fieldhouse, or the Lied Center, or the Bottleneck, or the Free State, or your sister who goes to KU, this might be your coffee destination.
Ambience: 8 (it's a little crowded)
Coffee Experience: 10
"Mildred's:The Alternative Scene in Downtown O.P."
For several years now Mildred's has been an excellent suburban coffee spot. If my memory is right, this space used to be a hardware store - but you would never know it now. Bright colors and comfortable mismatched non-Pottery-Barn furniture inside. Mildred's also serves soups and salads for lunch people.
Mildred's is a deservedly popular place, and it's been my impression that the quality of the espresso-drinks slides when they are "slammed" - or when a non-experienced barista is "pulling." Last time I was here I had to explain what a "wet" cappuccino was - AND even though it was barely noon, they were ALL out of bakery goods. I should probably come earlier in the day.
Cappuccino Experience: 5
"The Black Dog: Consciousness in Lenexa"
The Black Dog has become a community center in the 87th Street corridor of Lenexa. (It's just a quarter mile west of 87th and Quivira, on the south side of the street close to the big video outlet.) It's good to see a modern coffee house fulfilling its traditional function as a "great good place" where people can gather outside the home in a relaxed and friendly environment, free of rampant commercialism. I have to thank VT member basstbn (Frank) for bringing this place to my attention!
The Black Dog hosts music events in the weekend, has free internet access, and serves "Fair Trade" coffee. Bravo on all three points.
My double wet cappuccino was good - a little too much foam. When I come back here I'll ask for less. Good baked goods, although they didn't seem to be made "in house."
There is an internationally known coffee chain outlet almost right across the street on the north side of 87th Street. But the Black Dog is the place where you'll find VT people in Lenexa.
Cappucino Experience: 7
"Homer's: A Faith-Based Coffee Initiative"
Clean, modern and friendly, Homer's is another coffee option in downtown Overland Park. This is a Christian coffeehouse, but it operates as a business, not a religious center, and you don't have to worry about the baristas trying to convert you with your cappuccino (unless of course your want them to.) The use of Christian iconography is minimal - there are some spiritually uplifting photographs of the Holy Land on the walls, but that's about it. I don't want to speak for others, but I can't imagine a non-Christian having a difficult time enjoying a good espresso here.
And the espresso IS good. In fact, my double wet cappuccino here was excellent, second only to the one I received at La Prima Tazza (in Lawrence) in terms of quality.
They seem to place a lot of emphasis upon music here. Apparently, Homer's has become an important venue for Christian Music events in the Kansas City area. Homer's is just west of Metcalf at 7126 W. 80th.
Cappcuccino Experience: 8