Is East Lawrence the best culinary neighborhood in the great state of Kansas?
The last several years have seen a great deal of development in East Lawrence, a section of the college town that’s east of Massachusetts Street and north of 23rd Street. But the growth there hasn’t been gross and corporate; it has managed to maintain the essential rebellious and artistic qualities we’ve always loved about Lawrence. The Warehouse District, at 8th and Pennsylvania Streets, is now home to a smattering of galleries, affordable apartments, and some of the city’s best eating and drinking destinations. But there are other gems in the neighborhood, too. Here’s our guide to it all.
Bon Bon ⇑
804 Pennsylvania Street
Glorious Thai sticky wings, tempura-fried fresh garden veggies, and crispy confit La Belle Farms duck served with house-made ramen noodles (*drool emoji*) are just a few of the reasons to pop into the century-old former fireworks warehouse that houses Simon and Codi Bates’ three-year-old Bon Bon. The cocktail menu — classics, thoughtful seasonals, mocktails, and more — and the quarter-acre garden across the street (which provides much of the produce for the restaurant) are a few more. And as of this year, there’s more Bon Bon to love: a permanent kitchen to replace Bon Bon’s food truck, a bigger menu with more variety, and a new, modern, 40-seat glass-and-steel expansion, complete with garage doors that open in favorable weather to the large outdoor patio.
1900 Barker Avenue
In a modest white East Lawrence building that formerly housed a laundromat, baker Taylor Petrehn has built a pastry paradise. Here, you can get impeccable 27-layer (!) croissants, cinnamon buns, galettes, quiche, and cookies, in addition to the nine handcrafted breads that are available daily. (A few of our favorites include various organic sourdough styles, the chewy Danish Rye, and a decadent cheese slipper-like smoked cheese bread.) The coffee is pretty outstanding, too. Petrehn’s efforts have earned him not one but two James Beard Award nominations, a rare honor around these parts, and one that’s certainly very well-deserved.
826 Pennsylvania Street
Lawrence Beer Company just does everything so damn well. Brewmaster Sam McClain is super versatile, creating everything from hoppy, full-powered IPAs to tart Berliner Weisse-style beers to bright, seasonal saisons to deep, full-bodied stouts — all of them wonderful. Executive chef Ken Baker keeps the menu straightforward, but his team cooks at a very high level, serving up one of Lawrence’s best burgers alongside waffle fries with pimento cheese, plus tons of seasonal veggie options (pickled peach crostini, garden-fresh salads, fire-grilled asparagus). We’ve been crushing on LBC since it opened a few years ago, and we’re still just as dazzled by this welcoming neighborhood spot.
What started out as a weekends-only coffee hangout in a quiet neighborhood has evolved into a full cafe, coffee shop, and cocktail bar that also hosts local arts exhibitions and readings. Morning: Pick up a pour-over, cortado, or even a house-blended tea to drink while bathing in the natural light that beams in through the old warehouse windows. Afternoon: Try a sundried tomato grilled cheese or a vegan avocado-mushroom bowl with coconut rice for lunch. Evening: Seasonally inspired cocktails, mocktails, and sodas.
706 East 23rd Street
Cory Johnston is a partner in the Great Plains Custom Grains Company, which produces custom local strains of corn, wheat, and barley for local distillers and breweries. With Fields & Ivy, which Johnston opened earlier this year in East Lawrence, he’s getting into the brewery business in a more direct way. Johnston’s brewery, the newest in Lawrence, features a steam-powered production floor with bottling and canning lines, a live music venue, a wood-fired pizza restaurant with 130 seats, and a large outdoor beer garden.
512 East 9th Street
Husband-and-wife team Aaron and Regan Pillar offer veg-heavy, Mediterranean-inspired dishes at their beautiful 40-seat restaurant, located in a 100-year-old limestone building near 9th and New Jersey streets. Among your options here: crispy roasted pork shoulder with pomegranate molasses; creamy labneh (a soft cheese made with yogurt) drizzled with Calabrian chili oil and served with crusty bread; and pan-roasted squash served with Spanish chorizo and goat cheese. The cocktail and wine menus are also stellar.