Still exploring Marion County — happily
I’m sure you’ve all been waiting eagerly for my next “fresh perspective” column.
That’s a joke, but the wait is over.
I continue to seek out special spots — and there are many — in Marion County.
Here are my latest finds, experienced by someone who sees the county with fresh eyes, ears, and perspective.
Wagon Wheel Express, 202 W. Main St., Marion: My boss, Eric Meyer, is a Wagon Wheel devotee, so I thought I had better give it a shot. I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Burgers and fries are the test for small diners and greasy spoons. I always ask a lot of questions, the most important being, “Are your fries hand-cut?” If they’re not, I don’t order. I’m not interested in Ore Ida crinkle fries, thank you very much.
The fries at Wagon Wheel are hand-cut, I’m happy to report, and the restaurant will be one of my go-to spots going forward.
Zera Coffee, 301 W. Santa Fe St., Marion: Zera has become my caffeine connection. I’m spoiled with a husband who fills my travel mug every morning with coffee from home. When I need more, I head to Zera for an iced dirty chai. With temperatures cooling off, I might switch to hot, but I doubt it. I love iced coffee and chai. I also have an affinity for the scones at Zera.
Parlour 1886, 115 N. 3rd St., Marion: I’ve written about Parlour before and have enjoyed another to-die-for dinner since then (a mix of chargrilled oysters, ribeye, and salad with Chef Kari’s honey cilantro vinaigrette), but today I want to tip you off about bartender Kodi’s divine handmade margarita. Get the original.
A couple from Manhattan had been in Hillsboro for a funeral when my husband and I last dined at Parlour. They’d never been to the Elgin before and had asked me outside about the food.
“Fabulous,” I answered.
Inside, I asked their server to put an appetizer of their choice on our tab. A few minutes later, they asked if they could have dessert instead. Of course they could, and I suggested the Death by Chocolate cake, which they ordered and devoured. We’re returning to Parlour on Friday with two other couples from Wichita. I’m all about spreading Marion love.
Pueblo Viejo Mexican Restaurant, 117 S. Main St., Hillsboro: The chips and salsa were just what I wanted on a recent night when I decided to stay in Hillsboro (more on that below). I ordered chicken fajitas. I’d hoped to find something with mole (a sauce, not an animal) on the menu but had no such luck. The server let me know my margarita would come from a can of Cayman Jack but be served with a salt rim in a proper marg glass. It was and was tasty.
Where to stay
If there were an award for lifelong insomnia, I’m pretty sure I’d win. My sleep issues are chronic and severe. I’ve lived on little sleep for 55 years. It would take brain and heart transplants to help me sleep, and I quite like my mind and heart. They never shut off, but they’re what make me me, and I don’t wish to be anyone but myself.
Exhaustion typically sets in after three or four nights of no sleep. When I say no sleep, I mean no sleep. People who gripe “I only got three hours of sleep last night,” are amateurs.
I kid, I kid. Kind of.
I know when I shouldn’t drive home to Wichita after work. Thursday was one of those days. I recently spent three glorious nights in the Tallgrass Prairie Suite at the Elgin. It initially was going to be a one-night emergency stay. But the Elgin knows how to hook you in, and my husband and I don’t have children. Travel and nice hotels are our jam. Not gonna lie: We’re hotel snobs.
This time, I scoured Airbnb for a place to stay. I bunked in a shipping container in Hillsboro, one of three on 3rd St.
I struggled to use the lockbox (confirming that I don’t have a future as a real estate agent), but that was operator error. I enjoyed a full night of rest and definitely will be back on days my exhaustion makes me as potentially dangerous to others on the road as someone who drives drunk or high.
I hope to try one of the other two shipping containers for rent next time.
Many of you have steered me toward good places, so here are a few Wichita tips for you.
Barbecue: When Pigs Fly, 7011 W. Central Ave. #116, or Bite Me, 132 N. St. Francis St.
Burgers and hand-cut fries: The only place to go is Ty’s Diner, 928 W. 2nd St. N.
Chinese: Lee’s Chinese, 6215 W. Kellogg Dr. Ask for the authentic menu.
Pizza: Ziggy’s, 3700 E. Douglas Ave., #100, or any Knolla’s.
Thai: Thai Tradition, 650 N. Carriage Pkwy. For the 16 years I worked at the Wichita Eagle, I went to “TT” so often that I invited our favorite server, Alex, to our wedding reception. I could eat Thai food every day but am surviving without it in Marion County.
Vietnamese: Saigon (the original, not Little Saigon), 1103 N. Broadway St. Get Vietnamese coffee and an order of egg rolls. I usually get #49.