By Jill Draper
Louisburg is an easy drive about 25 miles south of Martin City and south KC. It’s a fun day trip to this town of 5,000 which seems to have an oversized population of highly-rated country food restaurants, vintage finds and farm events focused on apples, alpacas, wine and endangered felines.
Louisburg Cider Mill
Apples are rolling up to the cider mill at the rate of two semi-truckloads per day.
The cider mill on 68 Highway accommodates both paying and non-paying customers. On one side shoppers can listen to bluegrass as they browse the country store, purchase donuts and cider and watch apple pressing in the historic barn where old-timers used to fill up glass jugs, one at a time, with hand-pressed cider. Pumpkins, gourds, corn shucks and crafts are for sale plus kettle corn and food truck items.
On the other side, visitors pay a fee ($16 on weekends) to access a 10-acre corn maze, 12-acre pick-your-own pumpkin patch, wagon rides, giant swing set, jump pillow ($2 extra), farm animals, and a room-sized play area knee-deep with dried corn.
Alexis Hebert, who runs the place with her husband, is the granddaughter of the original owners. A new business line is hard cider which can be sampled in a tasting room. The hard cider and cinnamon-sugar sprinkled donuts are sold only on the property, but their regular cider can be found in grocery stores throughout the Midwest.
“We can barely keep up with demand,” says Hebert, who sources apples from dozens of orchards. The hard cider, though, is made mostly from 3,500 trees growing in their orchard called Pome on the Range near Ottawa, Kansas.
“We tried growing apples on the Cider Mill property, but it was very difficult,” says Hebert. “We’ve always been a manufacturer. That’s why we acquired Pome—to complete the picture.”
Special events at the cider mill are Zombie Forest Night on Oct. 14 when students from Paola High dress up to haunt the corn maze; burning of the scarecrow and fireworks on Oct. 21; and costume weekend Oct. 27-29. Picnic sites with fire pits can be rented until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. See louisburgcidermill.com.
Other fun experiences
Two farms—Willowbrook in Louisburg and Timber View in Paola—raise alpacas and offer tours by appointment. These South American animals are known for their fiber and both farms sell alpaca-related products. See alpacasatwillowbrook.com and timberviewfarmalpacas.com.
Less domesticated animals such as tigers, lions and wolves can be viewed at Cedar Cove Conservation and Educational Center east of Louisburg. Walk-ins are allowed, but reservations are recommended for guided tours or public viewing of feedings on weekends. See saveoursiberians.org.
Louisburg’s Powell Observatory is for looking skyward. Operated by the Astronomical Society of KC, its telescope is open for public viewing twice a month. See askc.org.
Captain Cook’s Treasure Chest
The showpiece at this rambling 5,000-square-foot space nine blocks north of downtown Louisburg is a huge chandelier that once illuminated Truman Corners Theater in Grandview. Later it was moved to Beco Flowers in the KC Crossroads where acrobats and aerialists from MoonDrop Circus sometimes performed beneath it during First Fridays.
Aerialist Robin Cook founded the community circus, and the chandelier now hangs from the ceiling at the antiques store she and her husband run as Captain Cook’s Treasure Chest at 903 N. Broadway. The chandelier is not for sale, but plenty of other items can be purchased—antique and vintage pieces including wooden carousel horses, garden décor, toys, books and local art.
The Cooks opened their store in the same space that once held a dry foods manufacturing business. Today the renovated space features more than 25 vendors plus inventory acquired by the Cooks over the past decade. Additional vendors will gather in the parking lot on Oct. 14 for an outdoor flea market. See captaincookstreasurechest.com.
Housed in an old school, this vintage and boutique store occupies the entire first floor at 5 S. Peoria St., where a Lutheran high school first opened in 1929. The school has been gone for 30 years, and much of the space now is filled with new and vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, home décor items, furniture and an upscale kitchen store called Maxwell’s Mercantile.
“It’s a mix of old and new,” says Karen Cox, one of four women who started the business in 2015 after becoming friends at church. She says the name Selah popped into her head before she fully knew its definition—a musical term that means to pause and reflect.
“We wanted Simply Selah’s to be a place to wander through, relax, see pretty things and enjoy it,” Cox says. “It’s a creative outlet for most of us, and we have a great group of about 40 vendors. There’s a lot of camaraderie.”
The store is currently decorated for autumn, but will be trimmed for Christmas by the first weekend in November when an open house is planned. See facebook.com/simplyselah/.
Timbercreek Bar and Grill
The dramatic spectacle of a reared black horse greets customers outside the entrance of this spacious restaurant at 14 E. Amity St., while a taxidermied grizzly bear beneath a wagon wheel chandelier provides a fun indoor spot for photos.
Open seven days a week with daily food and drink specials, the restaurant features a main dining room and full bar plus two private party spaces and a large deck that overlooks woods. Popular menu items include chicken strips, burnt ends, pork tenderloin sandwiches and chicken-fried chicken dinners.
Large groups are easily accommodated and dogs are allowed on the deck. The doors open daily at 11 am. See timbercreeklouisburg.com.
Miss B’s Café
“This is the diner every town wishes they had!” raves one travel review. Outfitted with checkered tablecloths and situated in a strip mall at 1006 S. Metcalf Rd., the homestyle café can easily handle large crowds and seats up to 150 people.
Owner Debby Bollinger planned to manage the restaurant for three years to build the business, but nearly 19 years later she’s still going strong. “I love it. Maybe I just like the hustle and bustle,” she says.
It’s a family affair—her husband helps out on weekends and her daughter is the baker, famous for pies, cheesecake, bread pudding and cinnamon rolls. “She makes a peanut butter crunch pie to die for, and her grasshopper cream pie is popular, too,” Bollinger says.
Customer favorites include fried chicken, pork tenderloin sandwiches and chicken-fried steak, plus breakfast from 7 am until closing time at 2 pm Wednesday through Sunday. See missbscafelouisburg.com.
Louisburg BBQ & Brew + Pizza
The signature sandwich here is the Spare Tire, a triple-decker stacked with smoked ham, brisket, Swiss cheese and onion straws. But it’s noteworthy that the restaurant at 2 W Amity St. recently made the list of one foodie’s top dozen places for ribs in the KC metro.
The menu features game day specials (pizza and wings), smash burgers, sandwiches, soups and weekend specials like a T-bone steak dinner. Hours are 11-8, Wednesday through Saturday. See facebook.com/louisburgbarbeque/.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
This local winery used to offer wine, frozen sangria and live music on weekends in the courtyard of Martin City’s Rosehill Gardens. Beginning last May, however, owners Dennis and Cindy Reynolds decided to limit events to their property at 29725 Somerset Rd. in Paola.
Live music is scheduled on various Saturday and Sunday afternoons throughout October, and the tasting room is open weekly, Thursday through Sunday. See somersetridge.com.
Day trips usually don’t require an overnight stay. But Louisburg offers some fun options if you want to make a weekend of it. Vickers Schoolhouse is an 1891 schoolhouse situated on three acres a few miles from town. Isinglass Estates in nearby La Cygne is an award-winning bed and breakfast that offers a winery, horseback riding, fishing and a wagon overnight stay. Casa Somerset Bed and Breakfast near Paola offers a romantic getaway in a countryside Italian retreat complete with a culinary chef.