Restaurant challenge offers taste of Marion County

People who love to eat well and to explore the dining options available in Marion County can reward their tastebuds and their pocketbooks, too.

Seventeen eating establishments in and around Marion County are participating in the Free Press “Dine Around Marion County” promotion that is intended to reward those establishments with new customers and reward 15 participants with a free meal.

To participate, diners can pick up a “Dine Around Marion County” card at any of the 17 participating restaurants. When the participant buys a meal at one of the restaurants, the server or cashier will initial the card beside the name of the restaurant.

The first 15 customers to collect initials from all 17 establishments can return the card to the Free Press office at 116 S. Main, Hillsboro, and receive a $20 gift certificate to their favorite participating restaurant.

“The reason we thought of the promotion was we wanted to devise something that would encourage new customers into different restaurants,” said Tina Groening, advertising representative.

“A lot of the restaurants are in small towns-kind of a little farther drive to come to. So there’s a lot of places people haven’t even tried.

“The whole premise behind it was this would be a way to get people to come out and try the food. Of course, they would love it and would want to come back.”

Groening said the contest has been generating interest.

“I’ve already heard comments from people who say, ‘I never even knew this restaurant existed,'” she said. “I think it’s intriguing for them to look through the list and and to compare, ‘Yeah, I’ve eaten here, no I haven’t eaten here.’

“It’s really interesting to them to see the different places they haven’t been to in Marion County-and then maybe go check them out.”

She said restaurant owners were eager to give the promotion a try.

“They really wanted to participate, and to encourage people to try different places,” Groening said. “Since it started a month ago, people have been handing out cards. They’ve distributed a stack of 100 cards in a month. People are picking them up, definitely.

“As word spread that the contest is going on, it will build. It’s kind of new yet.”

Following is a list of the participating establishments and their hours.

— Angie’s Fast Food in the Holiday Motel on U.S. Highway 50 in Florence serves Mexican food made from scratch.

The restaurant opened in early 2004, and owner Vicki Covarrubias said it has been focusing on tacos, burritos, and enchiladas-things that are quick and may be eaten while driving.

The restaurant recently added pizza to the menu.

Many of her customers are truckers who want fast service and something they can eat on the road. The food may be ordered “to go” or eaten in the restaurant where there is seating for 12.

Angie’s Fast Food is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

— The Big Scoop, located on Main Street in Marion across from Central Park, might just be the place for you if your tastes lean toward hamburgers, fries and ice cream.

The Big Scoop offers a soup and salad bar weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Sunday buffet from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.

The 1950s memorabilia inside the restaurant will remind diners of days when waitresses wore roller skates and the jukebox played Elvis tunes. The decor makes the Big Scoop an entertaining place to eat.

The Big Scoop is run by mother/daughter team Luci and Amy Helmer, who bought the establishment in 2000.

Winter hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday though Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

— Burns Cafe & Bakery, in operation since 1995, continues to attract crowds. The busiest time is Friday evening, when the street in front of the cafe is lined with cars, and people stand outside waiting for a table.

The cafe boasts an extensive guest list. Patrons have come from more than 50 cities and towns in Kansas, 34 states and several foreign countries, including Brazil, Germany, England and The Netherlands.

The cafe offers daily specials and a variety of home-cooked meals. “Most of (the recipes) are from home-how Mom taught us to cook,” said Rachel Koehn, owner. “It is mostly what we grew up with.”

One of the attractions drawing the crowds is their specialty: chicken-fry steak.

“Our customers love it,” Koehn said. “They say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted. Maybe it’s the gravy, because the gravy is homemade.”

For dessert, the Burns Cafe offers several items, but its reputation is built on homemade pies. The favorite is coconut cream, which Koehn says is made from scratch. That includes the pie dough, the pudding and the meringue.

Koehn also offers special-order baked goods for purchase, including cinnamon rolls, pies, poppy seed bread, banana bread and noodles.

The cafe is open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday.

— Canton Cafe actually is located just west of the Marion County line at 128 M. Main in Canton.

Owner Shari Williams specializes in homecooking and offers a weekday buffet: on Monday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; on Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Tuesday through Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s basically home-cooked meals,” she said of the buffet’s offerings. “One day, for instance, we’ll run country-fried steak, and then usually a casserole-type dish, and then potatoes, gravy and vegetables and a salad bar.”

The Canton Cafe offers a prime-rib dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. Pan-fried chicken is available every Sunday.

Every other Saturday, Williams offers a popular barbecued ribs and chicken buffet from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The next buffet will be offered March 12.

Otherwise, menu entrees are available from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.

— Chuck Wagon Restaurant in downtown Florence has popular daily specials. Linda Britton, owner, said she serves broasted chicken every day because it’s the most popular dish she makes.

The Chuck Wagon offers breakfast on Tuesday nights and Mexican food on Thursday nights. Britton said people come from all over to sample the Chuck Wagon’s entrees.

The building that houses the Chuck Wagon was originally a gas station, but Britton decided Florence and the surrounding area needed a good restaurant more than an old abandoned building.

The hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

— Coneburg Inn, located at 904 N. Peabody, serves from an extensive menu of favorites that includes chicken-fried steak, sirloin steak, burgers and pork tenderloins. The Coneburg boasts that its pork tenderloins are “better than any in Iowa, the pork capital of the world.”

People come to the Coneburg Inn because of its good food and reasonable prices, said owner Carolyn Anderson.

The restaurant offers a variety of specials. In addition to weekend specials, Mexican fare is featured every Wednesday and all-you-can-eat chicken dinners are served on Thursday night. Patrons may also choose from a fresh salad bar. Younger diners may order from a children’s menu.

The Coneburg is open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

— Daylight Donuts, 111 W. Grand, Hillsboro, is a great place to meet a friend for coffee and a doughnut.

Diners will be hard pressed to choose among the many mouth-watering delicacies in the bakery case-bear claws, pinecones, apple fritters, long johns, bismarks and twists.

Of course, doughnuts are also available; the bakery makes both cake and raised doughnuts.

Daylight Donuts is a friendly place where customers can read a newspaper or plan their day. It is open from 5 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday.

— Vogt’s Deli & Bakery wants to do the cooking for you. The Deli offers a variety of main dishes, salads and desserts that may be taken home or enjoyed at one of the tables in the Deli’s dining area.

Fried chicken and chicken tenders are served daily, and daily specials include such things as meat loaf, barbeque and Mexican food.

The Deli is located inside Vogt’s Hometown Market in Hillsboro. Deli hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

— Little Pleasures Coffeehouse & Bakery at 119 N. Main, Hillsboro, invites patrons to sit and stay a while. And that’s just what you feel like doing when you enter this charming establishment that reminds you more of a place you’d find on the coast rather than in the middle of Kansas.

“I want people to feel like this is their place,” said owner Marisa Root.

She offers drinks, food and an atmosphere that will keep customers coming back. Cappuccino, espresso, lattes and some specially created drinks are Root’s specialties.

“But for those that don’t want anything fancy, good old black coffee with cream and sugar” is also available, Root said. Cold drinks are available too.

For customers who crave something sweet to complement their beverage, Root serves tasty homemade cookies and sweet treats made using favorite family recipes.

For lunch, Root serves homemade soups, sandwiches and salads.

Live music is offered certain evenings, and the coffeehouse is open until 11 p.m. on music nights. Call for a schedule.

Little Pleasures is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.Saturday. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

— Main Street Cafe in downtown Durham advertises its “Good Ole Country Cooking” and offers a little bit of everything, the most notable being homemade pie.

Wendell Wedel, owner, keeps at least five or six fresh pies on hand, so the choices are plentiful. If you require a sugar-free diet or count calories, then Main Street Cafe is the perfect place for you too; sugar-free pie is also available.

The cafe offers a variety of specials. Mexican food is featured on “Monterey Day” every Saturday and on the first Monday and third Thursday of each month. Pan-fried or baked chicken is prepared on Tuesdays, bierocks can be ordered on Wednesdays, and chicken-fried steak is the special on Friday. The cafe also offers a Friday night German buffet.

Main Street Cafe specializes in homemade sausage, which is sold retail to the public as well as being a popular menu item.

Not only can you enjoy a home-cooked meal at the cafe, you can find baking supplies in bulk for your home cooking needs.

Cafe hours are 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, plus 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.

— McDonald’s, with those familiar golden arches, is a great place to go when you need a quick hunger fix.

Located on D Street on the eastern edge of Hillsboro, McDonald’s provides a globally known product at affordable prices.

McDonald’s hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

— Ramona Cafe is run as a hobby by owners Reign and Marlene Anduss to keep them busy in retirement.

The cafe has “friendly people, good food and low prices,” according to Reign.

They are open on weekends, a time when many area restaurants are closed.

On Saturdays and Mondays, customers may order from a menu of sandwiches and dinners. On Sunday, there is a family-style buffet.

One of the cafe’s specialties is fried chicken.

“It’s deep fried, and it’s big pieces,” said Marlene. “When they bite down on that crust, the people eat everything but the bone. And I’m sure they’d eat the bone if they could. It’s just like my grandma used to make.”

Marlene’s pies are another restaurant specialty.

“I make homemade crust and almost any kind of pie people would want,” she said. “Coconut is the favorite, and then cherry, apply and chocolate. But I also make pineapple and gooseberry, too.”

Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Monday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

— Sharon’s Korner Kitchen offers a relaxed, small-town atmosphere in Peabody’s historic downtown.

The restaurant specializes in homemade food like mom used to make. Owner Sharon Oursler says the homemade hamburgers and fries are a customer favorite, as is “garbage,” the nickname for a special breakfast mixture of homemade hashbrowns, ham, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and optional scrambled eggs..

Oursler also makes homemade pies and cinnamon rolls every day, and the daily specials are local favorites.

Hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

— Sonic Drive-In, located along U.S. Highway 56 in Hillsboro, offers a variety of entrees, from juicy hamburgers to foot-long Coney hot dogs, plus fries, tater tots and onion rings. And there’s nothing like Sonic cherry limeade to quench your thirst.

Sonic also serves breakfast all day.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 11 pm.. Sunday. During the summer, Sonic is open until midnight every night.

— Stone City Cafe, 211 E. Main, offers breakfast throughout the day in Marion. If you crave hash browns or omelets at nontraditional hours, then Stone City Cafe will become a favorite.

The menu is not limited to breakfast entrees, though. Stone City offers a variety of items to please a wide range of tastes. In addition to pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads, the cafe offers “Chef’s Suggestion meals.”

Stone City is casual and down-home-exactly the atmosphere owners Donna Boone and Debbie Cook wanted to create. A mother/daughter team, they have run the cafe since 1988. Boone’s collection of about 250 coffee cups gives the cafe a homey feel, and you won’t be able to resist sitting down for a cup of coffee.

The cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Thursday.

— Town and Country Cafe, located on U.S. Highway 77 in Florence, attracts patrons from across the county and beyond with its homey atmosphere and family-style cooking.

“Anything you want, we will fix and have ready,” said Carolyn Spencer, owner.

Spencer offers daily lunch and dinner specials. Fried chicken is the luncheon special on Wednesday and Sunday. Nightly specials are Mexican on Tuesday, half price burgers on Wednesday, shrimp on Thursday, catfish on Friday and prime rib on Saturday.

Spencer said the cooks make all of the salads and desserts at the cafe.

The cafe is open seven days a week. Hours are from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and Monday; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

— Wagon Wheel Express, located on the west edge of Marion, serves a variety favorites such as made-to-order hand-pressed hamburgers, chicken strips, barbecue beef, milk shakes and a special cherry limeade made with homemade cherry syrup.

Owners Linda and Lloyd Meier fire up the smoker twice a month and serve smoked ribs and brisket every second and fourth Saturday. Served with potato salad, beans and slaw, the ribs and brisket are ready by 4 p.m.

“Most of the business is call-in and carry-out,” Linda said.

A covered patio with picnic tables is available for diners who just can’t wait until they get home to eat.

Hours for the Wagon Wheel are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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