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Where to eat, drink in Manhattan, Kansas

Heading to Manhattan, Kansas to see the Wildcats? Here are a couple of must-hit restaurants near Kansas State. 

Heading to Manhattan, Kansas soon? I’ve offered recommendations for dining in Manhattan before—I’ve written about places in Midtown, the Lower East Side, the West Village and Chinatown. But until now, I’ve never told you what to eat in the Manhattan that college football fans care about most. It’s time to correct that oversight. Whether you're looking for a meat frittata or a red velvet doughnut, here is the ultimate guide to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Little Apple, home of the Kansas State Wildcats.

The Chef

111 S 4th St, Manhattan, KS 66502
These reviews of The Chef, Radina's Bakehouse, Cox Bros. Barbecue, Bourbon and Baker and Varsity Donuts originally appeared Aug 22., 2016. 

We start with breakfast. For the full sit-down experience, head to The Chef. Get there about 10 minutes before they open if you want a seat. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting outside for a table. Once inside, you’re ordering the I (Heart) Meat frittata. This isn’t anything fancy, but a great breakfast doesn’t need to be fancy. It’s a fistful of bacon, sausage, ham and cheddar jammed into three eggs and baked.


227 Blue Earth Pl #111, Manhattan, KS 66502​

For a quicker, coffee shop breakfast, head to Radina’s Bakehouse. Either the Black Forest Mocha or the Snickers mocha will provide your caffeine fix. For your caloric needs, order the Butter Flight. This is the same concept you’d expect with wine, beer or bourbon, except with butter. Choose the herb butter and the honey butter, and spread it on sourdough. Then hit the gym, because you’re going to need to burn off some of that butter before hitting our next spot for lunch. 

Cox Bros. Barbecue

223 McCall Rd, Manhattan, KS 66502​

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Bud and Bobby Cox spent some time in Memphis, and they dared to open a couple of barbecue joints this close to Kansas City without adhering to KC’s dump-four-gallons-of-sauce-on-everything ethos. I had their ribs on a previous trip to Manhattan and came away impressed. But their Memphis inspiration doesn’t stop at protein. It also veers into carbohydrates. 

The barbecue spaghetti for lunch at Cox Bros. Barbecue.

The barbecue spaghetti for lunch at Cox Bros. Barbecue.

Bar-B-Q Shop and Interstate Barbecue in Memphis serve Barbecue Spaghetti, and the Cox brothers have brought this delicacy to Kansas. Basically, this is the barbecue version of Cincinnati’s chili three-way, but smoked meat replaces chili. In Memphis, it’s pulled pork. In Manhattan, it’s brisket and sausage. The Cox brothers pack a huge portion of these meats into spaghetti. Barbecue sauce replaces spaghetti sauce, but the key here is tossing the noodles so that there is no excess sauce at the bottom of the dish. Each bite has a tangy sliver of sauce but nothing more, because that would overpower the meat and the noodles.

This one is dangerous, and you probably should head back to the gym before you go to dinner. 

Bourbon and Baker

312 Poyntz Ave, Manhattan, KS 66502

Bourbon and Baker offers a huge variety of small plates and dozens of bourbons. Get some of each. The old fashioneds and the Manhattans are mixed perfectly and are less than half the price of their counterparts in that other Manhattan. Among the small plates, get the Brussels Sprouts (bacon, sea salt, sweet cider vinaigrette, parmesan cheese), the duck fat fries (with a broiled egg and Mornay sauce), the fried bologna slider and the chicken and biscuit. This last one, with a hunk of fried chicken over a fluffy biscuit resting on a small pool of cream gravy and honey hot sauce, could be a meal all by itself. For dessert, get the chocolate ganache sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies.

Varsity Donuts

704 N Manhattan Ave, Manhattan, KS 66502​

If you opt not to get dessert at Bourbon and Baker, then head on over to the Aggieville bar district on a Friday or Saturday night and seek out the Varsity Donuts truck. Varsity’s brick-and-mortar location is open daily for your donut needs, but on the weekends, the donuts are also sold out of a truck for those who have had a few too many Nancys (Old Milwaukee and pineapple juice; this is a thing in the Little Apple). Get the maple bacon bar, the Fruity Pebbles doughnut or the red velvet doughnut. That last one is red velvet cake in doughnut form, which seems like the perfect way to soak up Old Milwaukee and pineapple juice.​