Manhattan, Kansas Is an Unexpected Food-Lover’s Town

While Manhattan, Kansas hasn’t previously been known as a destination for gastronomic aficionados, that may be changing
food

Ron Stern

The Chef's three egg Buenos Dias Frittata.

Coco Bolo’s
With a fun, festive atmosphere, Coco Bolo’s is the place to eat before or after a football game at K-State. Serving cantina food with influences from the islands, the menu provides a huge variety of dining options.One favorite is the Al Fresco salad (grilled chicken, smoked shrimp, pico de gallo, and guacamole on a bed of fresh greens ($9.99). 

The wood-fired grill in the open kitchen provides the smoky flavor to many of their dishes and red chili is the base for many seasonings. One of the most popular is the Gulf Trio Mixed Grill made with Jamaican jerk chicken, Cajun barbecue pork loin filet, and Caribbean bacon-wrapped shrimp served over Taters las Cruces with fresh sautéed vegetables ($18.00).


Ron Stern

There are no stingy portions here and many are large enough for two people to share. If you love food that is laden with flavor and a little heat, then Coco Bolo’s may be your next favorite Manhattan restaurant.

Della Voce
Having re-opened in downtown in January 2014, the family-run Della Voce has utilized the best of its predecessor’s Italian menu combined with made-from-scratch world cuisine created by executive chef Mariel Edwards.

Della Voce has a full bar menu with some interesting bitters and spirits as well as a full lunch and dinner menu with entrees such as pork tenderloin medallions, roasted Yukon potatoes, and sweet pea puree in a beurre blanc sauce, $24.

Genuine Cox Bros. BBQ
Owners Bud and Bob (who also own Coco Bolo’s), are long-time restaurateurs and food-lovers, and their earliest memories of growing up in the South is learning how to cook barbecue as well as other foods that they grew to love.

Having either cooked in or experienced the four regions of barbecue (Texas, Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City), Bud and Bob decided to offer all four styles and sauces in their retail location on the east end of Manhattan. Here, you can smack your lips on smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, chicken, and Texas sausage.


Ron Stern

They also happen to be huge K-State fans and before each game, they haul out their gigantic smokers adjacent to the Bill Synder Family Football Stadium. They then set up in a designated area known as Cat Town near thousands of other tailgaters for a humongous food for all. Football is serious business in Manhattan and so is barbecue. Each of their smokers holds 1,000 pounds of meat, which they proudly offer to their hungry and loyal fans.

Harrys
Harry’s is one of the premiere fine dining restaurants in Manhattan and has been pleasing customers from as far away as Kansas City for 24 years. Located in the historic Wareham Hotel, Harry’s has won many awards over the years, including being featured in Midwest Living, Travel + Leisure and OpenTable’s Top 100 Overall Restaurants of 2011.

Much of the hotel’s original architecture has been preserved, including the expansive marble floor, crown molding, intricate woodwork, and many of the lighting fixtures, all of which add to a memorable dining experience.

According to owner Evan Grier, the most requested appetizer is their unique bruschetta. Thin strips of French bread are arranged into a triangular log cabin pattern and paired with finely chopped, herbed Roma tomatoes, marinated goat cheese, and green olives ($18). Grier states that this is so loved that he would be run out of town if he ever dropped it from the menu.

Harry’s offers a wide selection of entrees, including their bacon-wrapped filet mignon served with herb butter and accompanied by roasted garlic mashed potatoes — always a popular choice for hungry meat-loving patrons ($34 small, $43 large).

Hibachi Hut
For a city of its size, Manhattan has a wide variety of independent restaurants including the New Orleans-style Creole restaurant, Hibachi Hut. The history behind Hibachi Hut goes back at least 50 years when it was originally started by a retired army sergeant who wanted to serve grilled hibachi burgers the way he had seen meat cooked in Japan.

For decades, Hibachi Hut was a beloved fixture of the community and when it eventually closed down, local business owners decided to reclaim its heritage, purchase the restaurant and relocate it to downtown. Many of the original fixtures, paintings, and booths were preserved, thus keeping a Manhattan tradition alive.


Ron Stern

Today, you will find many of the same circa 1959 items such as Belly Bomb hamburgers together with Creole-inspired menu items like the Big Easy (seared pork belly, blackened and served with Cajun barbecue sauce, sautéed mushrooms, bell pepper, and a fried egg), po’boys, red fish, and gumbo. 

Little Apple Brewing Company
This micro-brewery opened in town in 1995 and has become the top spot for some of the best meat and steaks in Kansas. Unlike other restaurants that promote Angus Beef, Little Apple goes well beyond that with Certified Angus Beef. The subtle distinction between the two is a world of difference in sourcing, taste, and quality and only the strictest standards apply to Certified Angus.

The restaurant has received accolades and has been recognized four times with the highly coveted Kansas Beef Backer Award. They are also a big supporter of the farm-to-table movement and use locally sourced products grown and raised by known producers in and around the region. If you haven’t ever tried Certified Angus Beef, you haven’t really had steak.

Powercat Sports Grill
This is a K-State themed restaurant located in a strip mall near the college. A glowing neon sign advertising a foot-long hot dog provided the inspiration for their Nathan’s foot-long chili cheese dog. Wash down the famous Coney Island all-beef hot dog with beer, cocktails, or soft drinks.


Ron Stern

The Meet Me in Manhattan Pizza is another menu item that locals and tourists seem to love since it doesn’t taste like a typical pizza. Topped with La Fontanella pizza sauce, four Italian cheeses, pepperoni, house-made Italian sausage, bacon bits, and honey pit ham, the pizza is stone-fired until hot, crispy, and brown.  Many consider this the ultimate pizza in Manhattan, Kansas.

Varsity Donuts
Just around the corner from Bluestem and owned by the same group, Varsity Donuts operates out of a converted historic building and features a variety of freshly made, creative confections. Since purple is the color of the local football team, the Wildcats, one of Varsity’s specialties is the K-Stater, a raised donut made with purple and vanilla frosting and purple sprinkles ($.89). Other flavors include maple bacon, red velvet, and peanut butter and raspberry jelly.

Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., hungry bar hoppers can satisfy their cravings out back at the Varsity Truck with corn dogs, glazed donuts and highly coveted mac and cheese sandwiches consisting of house-made mac and cheese and bacon grilled into a cheesy, gooey sandwich for $5.

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A version of this story was originally published by Communities Digital News.