Friday, May 8, 2009

Cozy Rider

Yesterday we made the epic drive from Kansas City to western Kansas, and we made our usual stop in Salina, the halfway point. And we made the mandatory trip downtown to the Cozy Inn for their Cozy burgers. We've been going there since last year, when Annabelle's third grade teacher tipped us off about the place. The Cozy Inn is located at 10th and Iron, and has been in business since 1922. Their burgers are delectable little morsels that melt-in-your mouth like doughnuts --a perfect melding of bun, patty and onion.

The onions are the real story here. All Cozy burgers are fried with them, and you can smell their ether as you drive up in your car. And for a time, you carry the mark of the Cozy Inn with you. We got a sack of 8 burgers to go, and then stopped at a convenience store on the way out of town. Annabelle was approaching the counter, when the sales clerk said, "She's been eatin' a Cozy, hasn't she?" She could smell the onions on her.

You can't get cheese on your Cozy burger, so don't even try. Infidels who ask for cheese are referred to the "No Cheese" policy statement on the wall. It's burgers WITH onions, pure and simple, plus ketchup, mustard and pickle if you want it. One time we got there during a slow spell, and the owner kindly left the onions off for Annabelle, but he explained that such customization wasn't possible during a rush. The owner told us that he had replaced the grill with a newer one a few years back, but the customers raised a fuss, saying the burgers didn't taste right, and so he had to get the old, original grill back.
The guy working the grill yesterday asked if we'd be willing to cast a vote for the Cozy Inn, as one of the "8 wonders of Kansas cuisine." He gave us a paper ballot, showing 24 finalists from across the state of Kansas. Most of them were little mom and pop-type cafes that have been around since dirt. But a few of them were newer, shinier establishments. See the full list below.

We cast our vote, and then headed back down the road, eating our burgers and reeking of onions. You can eat inside the Cozy Inn, and we have done that a few times. There is a tiny counter that seats six or seven people. But we had already tarried too long at a previous truck stop, and so we got our sack of burgers and moved on.

I have a theme song I play on every road trip: "Mama knows the Highway" by Hal Ketchum. One of the lines goes: "She can gauge a cafe just by looking at the sign. Little old places always share the grand design."

Other stuff we listened to on our trip: Neil Young: "Are you ready for the country - because it's time to go." Three songs by Englebert Humperdink. (Yes! I am strangely drawn to Englebert's singing - have been since I was six years old - and I am embracing it. ) "Everybody wants to rule the world," "Carefree highway," Beatles for Sale, Keane, Bjork, Seal, Art Garfunkel, and "Rockin Robin" by Michael Jackson, which Annabelle wanted to hear over and over again.

Below is the list of the 24 finalists for the Eight wonders of Kansas cuisine. See any favorites? Then hie yourself over to and cast your vote. Vote early and often. I'm wondering who didn't make the cut. Al's Chickenette in Hays, for one.

Anchor Inn - Hutchinson
Bobo's Drive-In - Topeka
Brookville Hotel - Abilene
C.W. Porubsky's Deli and Tavern - Topeka
Carolyn's Essenhaus - Arlington
Charlie's Mexican Restaurant - Leoti
Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's - Crawford County
Crazy R's Bar and Grill - Goodland
Free State Brewing Company - Lawrence
Grand Central Hotel - Cottonwood Falls
Fritz's Union Station, Kansas City (not exactly Kansas)
Guy & Mae's Bare Butt Barbeque - Williamsburg
Hays House - Council Grove
Hibachi Hut - Manhatten
Homer's Drive-In - Leavenworth
Josie's Ristorante - Scammon
NuWay Cafe - Wichita
Olive Tree Bistro - Wichita
Paolucci's Restaurant - Atchison
Pho Hoa - Garden City
Prairie Nut Hut - Altoona
Trapper's Bar & Grill, Simpson
Wheatfields Bakery Cafe - Lawrence.


  1. Fun story about the Cozy! For a list of all of those nominated (a very long list) check out the website and click on the tab called Nomination Lists or just go to this page:

    Kansans are proud of their cuisine!

  2. damn, i'm hungry for a burger with onions right now! simone,,the list you included just screams foodie road trip. there's a book waiting to be written.

  3. Thanks for telling us about this oasis of local color on the bland corporate-food desert that is I-70.

    Well, I have to cast my vote for Guy and Mae's Bare Butt place in Williamsburg. I went on a road trip there with some friends from Lawrence, and the ribs were just incredible. That was many years ago, but these little places usually don't change their recipe.

    I still mourn the loss of Mojo's in Lawrence (now occupied by Local Burger), which had the best wings I have ever tasted anywhere. They had a remarkable wing sauce called Phat Elvis. Eating one of those wings was better than ... is this a family blog?

  4. well, hmmm. i guess i have eaten at free state, wheatfields and... hibachi hut!