Category Archives: DESTINATIONS — in U.S.

Return to: Wheatfields Bakery/Lawrence KS, Arthur Bryant’s/KC and Arrow coffeehouse/Manhattan (KS)

We didn’t get too much time to hang out in Kansas (or Missouri) last weekend because the focus of our trip was attending the wedding of my niece Whitney in Manhattan, Kansas. But a family’s got to eat, right? So we stopped for lunch at Wheatfields in Lawrence, which was fairly quick in and out and had a solid selection of sandwiches (and excellent looking tomato soup). After a quick tour of his alma KU by Dirck, we drove another two hours to the Comfort Suites in Manhattan, which proved serviceable, as always. We stopped for coffee and iced tea at Arrow coffeehouse, where we also could have gotten cocktails as it doubles as a bar. The wedding was in Aggieville (the KState entertainment neighborhood), at a venue on Moro street next to…an offshoot of The Cozy Inn, the famous slider place in Salina, KS. (Who knew there was another Cozy Inn?) On the way home, after shopping for famous Kansas potato chips (Art & Mary’s) that we found out, sadly, no longer are made (Art & Mary went bankrupt about a year ago, we discovered), we ended up happily at Arthur Bryant’s. Emma, our pregnant daughter, was craving ribs and Rachel had never been to KC or for ribs (she was not long ago a vegetarian).  One of the few things I’m not that keen on at Bryant’s is the sauce (yes, I know, the sauce is beloved by many). It’s too peppery. But we discovered Bryant’s offers two other sauces including, I believe, the President’s sauce, which – dare I say it – tasted much like the sweet and tangy sauce served by its competitor, Gates. We had hoped to go to Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) but found out it was closed on Sundays. Good to know.

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Filed under Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas misc, Missouri

Fluffy pancakes we spotted in Tokyo in 2016 have arrived in the U.S. What next? A new kind of ice coffee maybe?

In July 2016, we were intrigued in an Tokyo coffee cafe to see Japanese people eating fluffy pancakes as an afternoon treat. Now comes work that those pancakes (apparently known as “souffle pancakes”) have come to NYC, Pasadena, LA and London, according to the NYTimes.

What next? I predict a new kind of ice coffee that we also saw in Tokyo circa 2016 — details below!

July 2016: At about 4 pm we stopped at a chic coffee cafe called 24/7 where people we eating stacks of fluffy pancakes. It didn’t occur to us to eat them any time other than for breakfast but must say they looked delicious. My ice coffee was served in a ceramic soup bowl with a giant block of ice and a little pitchers of milk and simple syrup. Made iced coffee quite exotic. Must try that at home.


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Filed under Japan, New York, New York City

My story in Minneapolis Star Trib on Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood

Here’s my story on Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood with major assist from my kids. Click on the link to see who got the much-deserved credit for the photos in the story (which are not the photos below. )


Emma at Hopleaf

MARCH 29, 2019 — 9:16AM

The Andersonville neighborhood offers a buffet of delights, Swedish and otherwise.

By Betsy Rubiner Special to the Star Tribune

Glögg goes down easy on a cold winter night in Chicago, as I learned recently when my son-in-law insisted I visit the venerable Simon’s Tavern to get a full-bodied taste of the city’s North Side neighborhood of Andersonville (

With a sweetness that masks its punch, the traditional Swedish mulled wine is a Simon’s mainstay (served warm in the winter and cold in the summer, as a “glögg slushie”) and a robust reminder of Andersonville’s past, when mid-19th-century Swedish immigrants settled in what was then the boondocks north of Chicago.

Other signs of Swedish-ness endure — the most obvious being a water tower replica painted blue and yellow to resemble a massive Swedish flag, perched above a former hardware store housing a Swedish American Museum. Nearby is Svea, a Swedish cafe opened in 1924, serving meatballs, pancakes and a chicken sandwich named after Pippi Longstocking; and, of course, Simon’s, opened in 1934, with its landmark neon sign of a blue and yellow fish holding a cocktail, a nod to another Swedish delicacy, pickled herring.

But as the neighborhood’s Middle Eastern bakery, feminist bookstore, high-end art supply shop and other independently owned galleries and vintage/antique stores make clear, Andersonville offers a smorgasbord of stuff, Swedish and not. During frequent visits, I usually discover yet another enticing shop or restaurant, often with help from enthusiastic transplants — my young adult kids who have found relatively affordable housing in Andersonville and the surrounding Edgewater area.

Shopping standouts

Lined with low-rise, turn-of-the-20th-century brick buildings, some clad in creamy decorative terra cotta, Andersonville’s main commercial drag — a roughly milelong stretch of N. Clark Street — retains an endearingly small-town feel that sets it apart from the big city, making it ideal for wandering and people-watching.

My favorite shops, mostly concentrated in the eight blocks south of Rascher Avenue, tend to have a distinct sensibility, environment and mood. At the self-described feminist bookstore Women & Children First, which caters to Andersonville’s sizable LBGTQ community as well as women and children, it’s always interesting to see which books are prominently displayed, with helpful staff reviews, and I often discover unknown gems (

Also carefully curated is Martha Mae Art Supplies & Beautiful Things. Owned by a young Art Institute of Chicago alumna, the small, light and airy shop sells a remarkable assortment of elegant utilitarian objects — from Swiss fountain pens, French stationery and Japanese papers to brass staplers and wrought iron scissors — impeccably arranged in uncluttered displays near the occasional contemporary painting and taxidermied animal (

In contrast, the dense collection of vintage decor at Brimfield — heavy wool blankets, plaid thermoses, college pennants, wood tennis racquets, tweed sportcoats, flannel shirts, wicker picnic baskets, darts and scouting patches — feels like the set of a Wes Anderson movie ( Visiting the tiny vintage clothing store Tilly, packed with gowns and costume jewelry, is like stepping into the closet of a glamorous starlet from decades past (1-773-744-9566).

At the midcentury furniture store Scout, the vibe is hip retro urban (1-773-275-5700), while the eccentric offerings at the shop/gallery Transistorinclude lamps made from old rotary telephones, slide projectors and desk fans (transistor­

Dining and drinking

A colorful history and atmospherics are a big part of the charm at Simon’s, opened by a Swedish immigrant who ran a speakeasy in the basement and a bulletproof mini-bank in what now looks like an abandoned broom closet in the bar.

Warm and welcoming, the neighborhood tavern’s dim, tunnellike space includes the original 60-foot-long mahogany bar with a ship etched into the glass, across from a long 1956 mural titled “The Deer Hunter’s Ball,” its canvas buckled with age. Nursing our glögg, served in a glass mug with a thin Swedish ginger snap, or pepparkakor, we could clearly see the mural’s deer in the wild and murkier scenes of people partying (1-773-878-0894).

A block south, Hopleaf Bar offers an extensive beer selection (craft, draft, bottles) and upscale Belgian-inspired pub grub, from mussels steamed in a Belgian beer broth to a Wisconsin smoked ham sandwich on dark pumpernickel bread with Gruyère and coleslaw. The pomme frites are delicious. Even better are the thin and crisp onion rings, served in a large mound.

We like eating at a wood table in the comfortable back dining room, which has old tin beer advertisements hanging on exposed brick walls, a wood-burning stove and windows overlooking a backyard patio. One heads up: no kids — or anyone under 21 — allowed. This is a bar, even though the backroom feels like a restaurant (

Specializing in “heirloom Southern cooking,” Big Jones( produces delicious crispy-not-greasy fried chicken, cooking it in lard seasoned with bacon grease. Its traditional Cajun-style gumbo is made with a proper roux. Need I say more?

At Lost Larson, a stylish Swedish bakery that opened last year, the traditional pastry cardamom buns, or kardemummabullar, taste pretty darned close to those we ate last year in Stockholm during many a fika, the Swedish coffee-and-cake break. But, psst, the cinnamon roll and monkey bread are pretty great, too (lostlar­

Next visit, I hope to try one of Lost Larson’s open-faced sandwiches, served on heavy Swedish rye, flavored with fennel, anise and orange peel. I also want to eat at Passerotto (, one of last year’s hot new Chicago openings, serving “fun Korean” dishes with “minor” Central Italian touches. Its cavatelli with nori butter landed on Time Out Chicago’s 2018 “Best Dishes and Drinks” list.

Before leaving Andersonville, I often stop at the Middle East Bakery & Grocery to order a shawafel wrap (a chicken shawarma/falafel mashup) to go at the counter and load up on hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush and cushiony barbari flatbread for the drive home (

Des Moines-based writer Betsy Rubiner ( writes the blog Take Betsy With You.


Swedish goodies at Lost Larson


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Filed under Chicago, Illinois, Uncategorized

Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay – British invasion (of 2019)

Our London friends had a great March trip to the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, including Annapolis, St. Michaels and Easton, which has inspired us to visit the area sometime soon during our next visit to Washington DC. They stayed in a rustic airbnb cottage in Claiborne, on the water near St. Michaels. (And got very lucky with the weather, which cooperated!) They enjoyed the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park in the area.
Here’s some suggestions from our friend Nell who lived in the area!
  • Cantlers Riverside Inn,South of Annapolis ( close to Bay Bridge on way to Eastern Shore)
  • Pier Street Marina in Oxford,
  • Crab Claw in St. Michaels next to Maritime Museum
  • Harris Crab House in Grasonville , near Kent Narrows ( after you cross Bay Bridge to Eastern Shore).
  • Harrison’s Chesapeake Restaurant   – historical old place on on an narrow peninsula that sticks out into bay.  Interesting views, Tilghman Island. (West of St. Michael’s)
  • Tidewater Inn in Easton- historical inn and restaurant

Also- Annapolis best for walking- harbor town on Bay. 

  • Two important walking circles- Church Circle and State Circle. 
  • Naval Academy is right off town, facing harbor. 
  • Can get to Cantlers – the back way ( instead if Rte. 50) and then continue over Bay Bridge.  Annapolis also has lots of old taverns  .  Check to see if Cantlers is open in March.

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Filed under maryland

Hectic trip home on Southwest from LA


Not in LA anymore

At 5 a.m. we got a text from Southwest telling us that our flight home was cancelled. At first I thought it was our Las Vegas-Des Moines flight, due to snow. But it turned out to be our Burbank-Las Vegas flight — no snow but instead due to labor unrest with the mechanics union, a bunch of flights were cancelled. argh.



We ended up getting a flight from LAX which involved considerable hustle and hassle to get there (a much long Uber ride at 6 a.m.) but we made our close connection without a hitch, thanks in part to a nearly 1/2 hour early arrival. Phew! One trick I learned: I could NOT use the Southwest website to find an alternative flight. It didn’t work. At first I called and pressed the number for the “change existing flight reservation” (or some such)…and the wait for a callback was 55 minutes. So we called back and pressed the number for “make a new reservation” — miraculously, that was an 8 minute wait. (Why help existing customers when you can get new paying customers, right?) As it turns out we didn’t really have 55 minutes to spare because we had to hightail it to LAX for our alternative flight. Live and learn. Bit disappointed in Southwest, which I’ve long flown and liked.

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Filed under Airlines, California, flying, Los Angeles

Las Virgenes Rd, Neptune’s Net, El Pescadore Beach, Point Mugu Beach/Malibu and Topanga Canyon

On the nicest day, weather-wise, of our visit we took a scenic drive to Malibu – down Las Virgenes Road, then along the PCH (Pacific Coat Highway) all the way to Ventura County and Point Mugu Beach, and then back up Topanga Canyon Road. Rather than another visit to Malibu Seafood, we tried Neptune’s Net, which was fun — less expensive, more fried food and range of seafood than the other place. I had good crab cakes, Dirck had fish and chips which we ate at a picnic table on a roofed open air patio with a great view of the ocean. No complaints.

I thought Point Mugu was the beach I visited a few years ago but I was mistaken. Still nice. But not quite as secluded as El Pescadore Beach (the beach I was looking for and finally found…) We saw quite  bit of damage from the fire that ravaged Malibu late last year, mostly charred trees but the vegetation may have been greener than usual, which is what happens when farmers routinely burn their pastures to spur new growth (something I learned about up close and personal in Kansas).  We stopped at the Malibu Country Mart which was surely a tongue-in-cheek name, since it’s not the least bit country. It’s a chichi shopping center. Not much there of interest. In Topanga, we stopped as usual at Cafe Mimosa where we had to endure an old hippie talking to his friend about how Obama was the “anti-Christ.” Yes, Obama. Not Trump. Wanted to tell him where to shove it but I refrained.

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Filed under California, Los Angeles

Sycamore Kitchen, LACMA/LA and Burbank playgrounds

356711D7-13FE-4E6B-9CF1-BA272F0A4507An art exhibit I was dying to see in DC turned out to be in LA this trip, hence our first trip to LACMA, which was a great option on a chilly Sunday. The show, about the interplay between untrained and trained artists, was fascinating and as I suspected, one of my favorite Kansas sights, The Garden of Eden in the small rural town of Lucas got a prominent nod in  the exhibit (“Outliers and American Vanguard Art.”)


Dora, Denise and Dirck at LACMA

We parked for free on a residential street near LACMA.  Before the museum, we had a good quick lunch at Sycamore Kitchen – the fried cauliflower side was a favorite (in a hot red sauce with a cool creamy dressing).


Dirck and Dora at Sycamore Kitchen

In Burbank, we have done the tour of playgrounds, thanks to our 6-year-old niece Lucy who prefers Johnny Carson Playground and Betsy Lueke Playground. Dinner tonight was in Venice at my cousin Jenny’s house, with superb food by her husband Jay. We enjoyed walking down the narrow sidewalks lined with beautiful cottages, bungalows and  modern showpieces, plus dense gorgeous foliage and flowers.

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Filed under California, Los Angeles, Uncategorized