CombatCritic Reviews

CombatCritic Reviews
The Restaurants of Lawrence, Kansas

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Best Breakfast Value, Most Arrogant Staff in Town

WheatFields Bakery Café
904 Vermont Street
Lawrence, KS  66044

Phone: 785.841.5553
Monday through Friday - 6:30am to 8:00pm
Saturday 6:30am to 6:30pm
Sunday - 7:30am to 4:00pm
Prices: $$$$

I love a good, hearty breakfast, but because bacon, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy are not as healthy as they are tasty, we normally only indulge on special occasions. I reviewed Wheatfields, a bakery and restaurant one block West of Mass Street in downtown Lawrence, on my birthday last year after going there for breakfast. Coincidentally, my wife and I returned for breakfast yesterday on my 60th birthday, enjoying ourselves and allowing me to reassess the rating I gave them last year (6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!). 

My wife and I have been buying Wheatfields wonderful breads since we moved to Lawrence a little over three years ago. My favorite is the raisin and pecan sourdough ($4.50), a robust torpedo-shaped loaf with a thick crispy crust outside and plenty of raisins and pecan pieces inside. It toasts marvelously and is delicious alone, with butter, or coated in my favorite toppings, peanut butter and bananas.
They have numerous varieties, including sourdough, semolina with sesame and poppy seeds, baguette, ciabatta, Kalamata olive, sourdough, and 100% whole wheat among others. Breads range in price from $4 to nearly $9 for their holiday specials, but the whole wheat with walnuts and raisins is just HALF the price of a similar loaf at a new East Lawrence bakery on Barker, being quite a good value.

You order at the counter immediately in front of you as you enter, pay, and are given a small sign to place on your table so the servers can bring your order to the correct table. Drinks are help-yourself with three varieties of coffee (two regular and one decaf) and a small selection of teas and fountain drinks.
Always keeping it simple, I went with the Classic Breakfast (#1 - $6.95), coming with two eggs, hash browns, toast, and sausage links or bacon (I went with the bacon of course). They raised their price a buck since last year, but it is still the cheapest breakfast in Lawrence. Adding a half order of biscuits and gravy (#5 - $4.25, up 50¢) brought my very hearty and delicious breakfast to a little over $11, very reasonable compared to other downtown breakfast spots. Not a big egg or meat eater, my wife had a scone and coffee. She loves their scones and was quite happy with this cheese and herb variety.
Our meals arrived very quickly, even before I was done pouring coffee and toasting my bread. The Classic Breakfast was excellent with the eggs cooked perfectly over-medium, the bacon crispy and not burnt, but the hash browns were not as crunchy as I like them. The half order of biscuits and gravy was plenty for me with a very large biscuit smothered in a thick, savory country gravy with loads of sausage. The coffee was hot, obviously fresh, and delicious.
As breakfast goes, I have had better, but we enjoyed our meal and I have to say that you will not find a better breakfast value in Lawrence. Wheatfields is a very popular meeting place with great bread, excellent coffees, and tasty breakfasts. They seem to do very well because the place is almost always full.
My only gripe is with the staff who seem to have an "attitude". There is no "Hi, welcome to WheatFields" when you come in, it is more like "Yea, what do you want". Employees are routinely impersonal and abrupt, not warm and inviting. A smile and occasional "thank you" from staff would be much appreciated.

CombatCritic Upgrades Wheatfields Bakery Cafe To 7 Bombs Out Of 10 With A 2 Bomb Deduction For Arrogant Staff ... MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!
Seven Bombs Equates To:

"Shits & Grins"

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Read Chris S.'s review of WheatFields Bakery Café on Yelp

WheatFields Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WheatFields Bakery CaféWheatFields Bakery CaféTabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Lawrence, Kansas: Best Breakfast Value And Most Arrogant Staff in Town

Key Words: Wheatfields, wheat, field, bread, bakery, eggs, bacon, breakfast, dinner, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lawrence, KS: Restaurants Open On Christmas Day

Some do not like to cook on Christmas Day and others have nowhere to go, so I compiled a list for those who would like to go out for a meal this Christmas.

The following list is comprised of restaurants that were open last year, so please check before you go:

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
4 to 11 p.m.

Most locations plan to be open 24 hours on Christmas Day

Hours: Most locations will be open 24 hours Christmas Day but some locations will just be open from 6 a.m. to midnight

Johnny’s Tavern
All the locations are expected to be open from 6 p.m. to close, but some locations may open at 5 p.m.
401 N. 2nd St., Lawrence, 785-842-0377
721 Wakarusa, Lawrence, 785-843-0704

Some franchisee owned locations will be open and some will be closed. The 30 or so company-owned restaurants in the Kansas City market will be open but hours will vary.

Many Chinese restaurants are normally open as are hotel dining rooms.

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Lawrence, KS: Restaurants Open On Christmas Day

Key Words: restaurants open on Christmas day, Christmas, restaurants, day, list, KU, university, University of Kansas, open, 2016, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp

Saturday, November 19, 2016

This Ladybird Kinda "Bugged" Me, But Was Overall "OK"

Ladybird Diner

721 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 856-5239
Prices: $$$$

"Ladybird", by the way, is the British term for what we know as a "ladybug", the cute little red dome shaped things, and member of the beetle family, with black dots that will crawl up your finger and onto your hand, tagging along until they get bored and fly away to find another unsuspecting human being or facsimile thereof.
Anyway, Ladybird Diner is a busy place and got great reviews from respected colleagues, but was underwhelming in my eyes. I somehow expected more and have yet to find a great breakfast place (or lunch and dinner for that matter) in LFK. Big sigh. We stopped by about a month ago on a Sunday around 1pm and they were packed with a 15-20 minute wait, so we went up the street and ate. 
My spouse had a medical procedure and had not eaten for 33 hours, and I fasted along with her for moral support. So by the time we arrived at 9:30 this morning, we were FAMISHED, STARVING, HUNGRY AS A HORSE if you catch my drift.
 My wife loves their pancakes and hashbrowns, but went for a couple of doughnuts (and one to take home for tomorrow - $2.09/ea) and a side of hashbrowns ($2.49). She was happy as a lark, indulging her sweet tooth and getting a massive sugar and carb rush all for just $6.67. Such a deal! 
I, on the other hand, went the more traditional route. I rarely eat a big breakfast, opting instead for a cup or two of joe and some wheat bread with natural peanut butter and sliced bananas. However, 4-6 times a year a get a hankerin' for a full-on breakfast with eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and biscuits and gravy (B&G), so that was what I did. I ordered the Diner Breakfast ($9.99) and a half order of B&G ($5.49). The Diner was decent, nothing special, coming with wheat toast, and the eggs were cooked over-medium as I had asked. The three slices of bacon were lukewarm and petrified, obviously pre-cooked and sitting in a warming tray or nuked because they were difficult to cut with a knife and very chewy if you know what I mean. The hashbrowns were somewhat sparse, but crispy and savory just the way I like them.
The biscuits and gravy were another story altogether. A buttermilk biscuit and a ladle of country gravy cost no more than a $1 max to produce, so I have difficulty understanding a 549% markup. Ladybird is not the only culprit, all the breakfast places on Mass Street do it as do many others around the nation. $2.99, even $3.49, would be a fair price for a single biscuit and gravy for a $2 to $2.50 profit on less than a buck's worth of flour and fat. Enough about price. 
The order of B&G looked appetizing enough, but there was an odd taste to the gravy I could not quite put my finger on. Did they add honey mustard to the gravy? It sure tasted like it, so I asked to cook as I came back from the loo and was told that it was not honey mustard, but nutmeg. I was wrong, but the taste of the gravy was even wronger (look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls). Why can't I get some good ol' fashioned overpriced biscuits and gravy on Mass Street? This place adds nutmeg, another tops it with watery green chili sauce ... give me a damn biscuit and some freakin' normal salty and peppery country gravy for cryin' out loud!
Sorry, the country gravy has me talkin' like a country boy, so let me digress y'all. The service was "OK", not bad, but not very good. Maybe they were shorthanded because I only saw two servers running around to the 15 or so tables, but I sat and waited for a coffee refill for a good 10 minutes while our server ran back and forth avoiding eye contact the entire time. I know servers somehow expect that they deserve a 20% tip nowadays (there I go again, dammit!) no matter how well they perform, but I put myself through college waiting tables and am a bit picky when it comes to service. This young lady got a 15% tip, generous in my eyes, but I am sure she cursed me as we walked out the door. 
Sidenote: I rarely give less than 15% because I know these folks work mostly for tips to pay their bills and routinely give 20%+ for very good, friendly service. This service was neither, but not bad enough to warrant 10% or less as sometimes has to be the case. If I do tip less than 15%, I normally inform them of their shortfalls or leave a note if they are very busy in order to, hopefully make it a learning experience. In this case, I left my card and she can read the review (or not). If she does read this review, I hope she smiles more in the future, makes eye contact and ensures coffee mugs are full, and maybe makes a little idle chit chat so customers feel like we are appreciated, human, sentient beings.

CombatCritic Gives Ladybird Diner 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For Exotic and Overpriced B&G, Cold and Chewy Bacon, And So-So Service... More Bombs Are Better!

Six Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

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Read Chris S.'s review of Ladybird Diner on Yelp

Ladybird Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ladybird DinerLadybird Diner


Title: Lawrence, KS: This Ladybird Kinda "Bugged" Me, But Was Overall "OK"

Key Words: Ladybird Diner, ladybird, diner, bug, beetle, breakfast, lunch, Mass, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog, 

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Imperfect, But A "World" Of Difference At Planet Fitness Versus Other Health Clubs

Planet Fitness

2525 Iowa Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number (785) 865-3771
Prices: $$$$

If you travel as much as I do and like to stay in shape while on the road, then a gym membership with reciprocal privileges and numerous clubs across the U.S. is a convenience you cannot do without.
New on South Iowa, Planet Fitness is a breath of fresh air in Lawrence after being an abused member at The Summit and Genesis health clubs over the past three years.

They have dozens of stationary bikes, ellipticals, treadmills, stair climbers, weight machines, and other top of the list be equipment. They also have 32 TVs with 8 set channels and free Wi-Fi available, all for $10 a month. That's why I left Genesis where we were paying $80/month. 

Oh, and by the way, guests are free and you can upgrade to a Black Card, adding hydro massages, tanning (not my bag), drink discounts, and reciprocity at Planet Fitness locations nationwide for just $10/month more. The hydro massage beds (2), recliners (2), and chairs (2) are a relaxing way to finish a workout and almost as good as a real massage. The even have buckets of free chocolate and grape Tootsie Rolls ... HOOAH! The only thing missing are towels, a sauna, and shampoo in the showers, but hey, what'ya expect for $10-$20 a month?

My one primary complaint are the giant, and I mean HUGE (as The Donald would say), ceiling fans whirling over the aerobic equipment. There are two long rows of equipment divided into two groups, each with a giant fan overhead. As a matter of fact, I have been in the airflow created by a C-130 Hercules propeller with less force than these fans. Not all of us like cold air blowing on us when we are sweating profusely during rigorous exercise. Some do, but many, including me, do not. I have asthma and many of us who suffer from exercise induced asthma should not have unnecessary air blowing on us while working out. It exacerbates the condition and, in some cases, could lead to death.
I went to the front desk to inquire about a suggestion box or other portal where I could share my dismay about the fans and was referred to the Assistant Manager. Because the machines are symmetrical with basically the same number of identical machines on each side, I asked her if it would be possible to turn one fan off so people have a choice whether or not they have wind blowing on them. Made perfect sense to me and a win-win situation. Her response was: "No that's not possible. We have to turn them on during business hours.", being the wrong answer from a customer service perspective. The correct answer would have been: "That's a great idea, let me look into it and get back to you", but all I got was a bureaucratic, lazy, "that's the way it has always been done, so that's the way it's going to stay" attitude. Unacceptable.

CombatCritic Gives Planet Fitness An Initial 6 Bombs Out Of 10 With A Two Bombs Deduction For Uncomfortable Conditions And Management Complacency ... More Bombs Are Better!
Six Bombs Equates To:

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Read Chris S.'s review of Planet Fitness on Yelp

Title: Lawrence, KS: Imperfect, But A "World" Of Difference At Planet Fitness Versus Other Health Clubs

Key Words: Lawrence, KS, Kansas, Iowa, World, Planet Fitness, planet, fitness, health, club, gym, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, service, review, Yelp, elliptical, weights

Translation for Civilians: G2G =  "Good To Go"

Monday, November 14, 2016

Turkey Bend? Windy Bend? Eagle Bend! Nice Course, But Little "Wiggle" Room

Eagle Bend Golf Course
1250 East 902nd Rd
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 748-0600
Prices: $$$$

If you find yourself traveling to or through Kansas City, Topeka, or Lawrence, Eagle Bend is not the cheapest public course by far, but it is a well maintained and challenging layout. The first six holes are links-style with undulating fairways surrounded by native grasses (sorry, no gorse) with the final 12 meandering through marshy woodlands surrounding the Wakarusa River.
Prices range from $22 (walking/18 holes/M-F) to $49 (riding/18 holes/weekend) with seniors (60+) and juniors (under 18) getting a slight price break during the week. There are no military or veteran discounts and, oddly enough, no "twilight" or winter rates and "NO DISCOUNTS (PERIOD) ON WEEKENDS". You pay full price no matter what time of year or time of day it is, no wiggle room (more on that later).

The clubhouse is small with a snack bar that seems to do little business, a very limited pro shop, restrooms, a few tables and a couple TVs. I am not sure what capability to snack bar has, but I have never seen anybody sitting in the clubhouse eating a hamburger or sandwich. The pro shop has a small selection of balls and tees, a couple golf bags, and a few gloves, hats and shirts. It does not appear that Eagle Bend's clubhouse is intended to generate much income as far as I can tell and it obviously does not.
The course is very walkable with the exception of the 300-yard treks between the clubhouse and 1st/10th tees and the 1st/10th greens and the 2nd/11th tees. Relatively flat, the only exertion you will encounter are the large gullies in front of the 17th and 18th greens.

The fairways are Zoysia grass and very well maintained. I have been told that their greenskeeper used to work for a cross-town course, Alvamar, and from what I have observed, they are lucky to have him because their fairways are in much better shape than semi-private Alvamar's Zoysia fairways. If you hit a ball in the fairway, you should have a good lie, a ball that sits-up, and that is normally the case at Eagle Bend. The only exception, strangely enough, is the 18th fairway where the Zoysia stops at the 150 yard marker, leaving a routinely poor lie off of what looks like Perennial Rye grass for your approach shot to the final hole. 

The greens are decent and fairly fast, but few people seem to repair their pitch marks, so even the best putt can go astray from time to time. Maybe they could sell, or even give away, inexpensive pitch mark repair tools in the pro shop and post a few signs reminding people to clean up after themselves. Zoysia on the landing area of the 18th would also be a big plus.

There are not a lot of sand traps, but the few they have are strategically placed. The sand is heavy, likely river sand from the nearby Kansas River, leading to difficult shots and inconsistent results for those of us who do not carry a PGA Tour card.

With four sets of tees (gold, blue, white and red), the course is challenging for both sexes and all skill levels. Being close to sixty, I have lost some distance in recent years and find the blue tees a tad too long for my pleasure, so I normally play the whites when I want to enjoy myself. With prevailing winds from the south/southwest, all but four holes are reachable in regulation for the average golfer from the whites:
Hole #7 - From where the white tees are normally placed, hole #7 (par 4) plays close to 400 yards, normally into the wind, making it very difficult to reach the green even with two good shots. 
Hole #8 - A par 3, hole #7 normally plays between 150 and 170 yards directly into the wind with a lake running down the right and a large bunker left of the green, requiring anything from a six iron to a five wood off the tee. 
Hole #15 - Very similar to #7, this nearly 400 yard par 4 routinely plays into the wind with native grasses on the left and woods to the right as well as protecting the green on all sides.
Hole #18 - Another 400 yarder from the new, slightly elevated tees, this hole play into the teeth of the wind and has native grasses and woods lining the entire hole. There is a large gully in front of the green with a creek running under and on both sides of the fairway, narrowing to less than 20 yards for any short or errant shot.
When you are a high handicapper or senior and have difficulty hitting a drive over 220 yards with no wind, a par 4 that is 400 yards or a long, well-protected par 3 into the wind makes birdie impossible and par unlikely. From the white tees, 375-385 yards should be the longest par 4 on the course if you want to be fair to the average golfer and speed play.
Otherwise, Eagle Bend is fair and a good challenge as the wind is almost always blowing, swirling and changing directions because of the influence of the Clinton Lake Dam which towers over the west side of the course. Two of the four par 5s, #9 and #12, normally play downwind where par, even birdie, are very possible. Hole #12 is a double dogleg par 5 with trees to the right off the tee and a large lake guarding the left side of the fairway on your second and third shots. Hole #17, a short par 3 over a gully where par is achievable and wild turkeys can often be seen on the terraced slope in front of the green, is esthetically the nicest hole on the course.
Eagle Bend does not participate in GolfNow or other web-based discount green fee schemes, something a lot of courses utilize to fill empty tee times and generate additional income for the course. After all, it does not cost anything to have more people playing golf because overhead is the same while additional revenue is generated through green fees, cart rentals, pro shop and snack bar sales, and range ball fees. 
While on the topic of range ball fees, Eagle Bend's are some of the highest in the area at $5 for 25 balls and $400 for an annual pass (unlimited balls). I get 75 balls for $8 at a crosstown range and paid a little over $100/year for unlimited balls while a member at Alvamar, so Eagle Bend's prices are "out of range", pun intended. High range ball prices are another phenomena I do not understand. The investments (balls, facility, personnel, equipment) have already been made, so why not get as many people hitting range balls as possible by lowering fees to a more reasonable level? I refuse to pay $5-$15 for a bucket of balls as do many others I know, so instead of generating some income, they generate little. Penny wise and dollar foolish in my opinion.

I play Eagle Bend several days a week and would think that with all of the empty slots I see, that the city would be clamoring for income, but the City of Lawrence and their employees do not seem to be very interested in profit. Maybe if the course had more play and a more enticing clubhouse, they could lower green fees, offer military/veteran discounts, extend junior/senior discounts to the weekend, and have twilight rates, adding even more revenue from those who would have played elsewhere. As an example, I play most of the winter at Alvamar because they reduce green fees to $15 (18 holes/walking/7 days a week) in the winter, several dollars lower than Eagle Bend's "unbending" fees. 

The City of Lawrence government seems eager to maintain the status quo in this city of around 90,000. They stifle competition in favor of their friends (not a decent chain restaurant or selection of retailers in town) and are stuck in the 20th Century when it comes to managing their only golf course. Eagle Bend could be the premier golf destination in eastern Kansas, but backward thinking and poor management make it an average, underutilized entity likely on the brink of obsolescence and ultimate closure to become another park or free Frisbee/soccer golf complex.

If you play a lot like I do, they do not have an annual membership, but they do offer punch cards for 10, 20, 50 or 100 rounds (good for more than a year) with savings ranging from 25% to 60%, bringing green fees down to as low as $11 per round (walking) for a 100-round card ... if you are willng to pay $1,100 in advance.

Eagle Bend is a fun, challenging course in desperate need of innovation, creative marketing, and management that embraces thinking "outside box" rather than maintaining the status quo. Golf courses are losing business and thousands are going bankrupt across the nation, a path I hope Eagle Bend is not headed down because the only other options in town are private and very expensive.

CombatCritic Gives Eagle Bend 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

TripAdvisor - Top Contributor

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!

... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Turkey Bend? Windy Bend? Eagle Bend! Nice Course, But Little "Wiggle Room"

Key Words: Eagle Bend Golf Course, eagle, bend, golf, course, links, City of Lawrence, Lawrence, Kansas, university, KU, Jayhawks, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"