There are some places that you know exactly what you are going to get. You expect greatness out of Columbus, Ohio, you expect dust and not much else in Lubbock, Texas, and so on.
With that being said, there are a few times you find a place that completely shocks you, like I did this weekend in Manhattan, Kansas.
I’m not a big Kansas guy. I’ve always considered it as the state with “the less cool side” of Kansas City, or the state you drive through to get to Colorado, or the state with equally shit liquor laws, or the state with an obnoxiously good basketball team (Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on me that i’m an Oklahoman and virtually everyone thinks my beloved home state sucks ass). I always imagined Manhattan being much of the same.
Oh was I wrong.
Manhattan isn’t a big travel destination for Sooner fans, especially the week after the Red River Shootout. Which of course makes sense that only Derielle and I made the trek up I-35 through the vast scape of wheat fields that is Kansas. After the 4.5 hour drive through the Middle of Nowhere (a name Kansans proudly claim; it even has a Snapchat filter), we rolled into our traditional first stop: the local brewery.
Strangely enough, we had to cross the local homecoming parade to get there. Once did, we ran into a real gem at Tallgrass Brewing’s Tap House.
Tallgrass, based in Manhattan, is a sneakily large operation that ships throughout the Midwest. Have a few of their beers and you can see why. There is a little of everything and plenty for the non-beer snob (AKA Derielle). The Blueberry and Raspberry Jam beers were incredibly refreshing; some of the best fruit beers i’ve had. Both Buffalo Sweat (Stout) and 8-Bit Pale Ale are staples that are perfect for those looking for more complex beers.
After the brewery stop, we went straight to meet up with an old friend of Derielle’s who happens to go to Kansas State. This guy, who for privacy’s sake i’m just going to call Tim, was just awesome. He had us over for burgers and after about a quarter .750 of my Crown Royal and his Even Williams, we became fast friends.
I had to go back to the AirBNB and finish an online test, but after that Derielle and I went back to scoop up Tim and head on out to the bars. Tim was our tour guide of sorts; the seasoned vet showing these outsiders the ropes. Oh and he was near blackout at this point, as we had fallen behind with my nerdy detour.We parked back at our AirBNB and strolled over to Aggieville.
Aggieville might be the best bar district I have yet to see this season. Everywhere you could want to go in The Little Apple (and honestly everything they have in Manhattan) is right on a few blocks of Moro Street. The street was very similar to Campus Corner’s layout, but with one twist; all the bars were legit college bars.
Manhattan knows what it is. It’s a small college town that should cater to college kids. You won’t find any highrise pizzarias or nightclubs here, just good old fashioned bars with cheap drinks and open dance floors. It was beautiful.
Stop one was a bar called Johnny Kaw’s Yard Bar, a relatively new addition to Manhattan. We got in early, so the bar was relatively dead, but you got the gist of what Yard Bar was about. The bar focused on your traditional bar games mixed with a few tailgate games with ample space for both. For the record, I don’t recommend beer pong in Kansas wind, it doesn’t end well.
- Weird sidenote about Kansas State; they exclusively call 16 ounce tallboys “pounders”. As in, every bar refers to them as pounders and you can’t get one by calling it any other name. I don’t know if this is just me, but this baffled me.
We hopped around a couple bars, downing pounders and absurdly cheap wells and tried to find a bar with enough of a buzz to stay put for the evening. The memory is understandably hazy, but around the time we hit the original Johnny Kaws, our tour guide and noted drunk runner Tim vanished. Luckily, he made it home safe and not naked in the neighbor’s yard.
Anyways, my top two favorites for Best Manhattan Bar are between Original Johnny Kaws and a really cool dive called O’Malley’s. Kaws had a great set up; a bar in the front, a bar in the side room and what can only be described as a freshman play pen called “The House Party”. Yeah, I know that sounds lame but imagine Logie’s but if you put all the 18+ underclassmen in a special section and out of your way? Not too bad if you ask me.
Kaws has a trait that a lot of my favorite bars tend to share; openness. Unlike seemingly every bar in Norman that tries to put as many useless barriers up from easy walking, Kaws just clears everything out and promotes free roaming. It’s a thing you wouldn’t expect helps as much as it does, but trust me it creates a way more fun experience.
O’Mally’s was also a pretty great option. While not as wide open as Kaws, O’Malley’s had tons of bars up and plenty of charm to overcome any overcrowding. The walls were covered in marked up dollars from all around the country, ala Edna’s in Oklahoma City. I even added one for the loyal 48 people that read this mediocre blog.
After our barhopping adventures, we went on the search for the perfect drunk food. In this case, it’s the wonderful Varsity Donut Truck, which serves a Mac and Cheese Grilled Cheese worth missing the final bar stop for. Try it with bacon for full effect.
We drug ourselves back to life the next morning completely exhausted from the night before. Any hard form of pregaming was out of the question; a beer at lunch would suffice. We made our way back out to Aggieville the next morning for some recovery food and settled at Keltic Star, a proper British pub. In an attempt to be cultural, next-day-drunk me ordered the bangers and mash, which was a tad bit of a mistake. Pro-tip; just go for the layup.
Once we finished our lunch, we made our way back to Tim’s house to park and walk over to the game thorough campus. K-State’s campus has a very European feel with a ton of limestone and castle looking buildings everywhere. Their student union sells beer in it’s bowling alley (a sentence i’m not happy about writing about a non-OU school #MakeCampusWetAgain).
We finally made it across the endeavor-like trip across campus (super spread out) and arrived at Bill Snyder Family Stadium (or BSFS), which is as described, in the middle of nowhere. The Wildcats seem to have a good tailgate culture, but we didn’t know anyone tailgating and opted out. That being said, there was ample space to tailgate and it was rowdy.
BSFS wasn’t anything particularly special. It was kinda small and really just some big stands kinda put together by walkways. Just meh. It was however connected to the Bramlage Coliseum, which made the perfect rain-delay hideout.
The K-State fans were nice, if not extremely quiet with the exception of the student section which was loud the whole game. While the atmosphere was nice I guess, K-State constantly crowed about being the “Best Fan Experience in the Big 12” which in my mind translates to “Most Surprising Fan Experience in the Big 12”. Everything they did was met with “oh hey that’s kinda cool”.
They also did the pledge of allegiance in pregame, which was weird. I guess when you have a middle-school nickname like Wildcats, you do middle school things.
That’s the thing about K-State game days; they just take you by surprise so much that you automatically appreciate them more on sheer surprise alone.
As you all know, the game started as a frustrated funeral to a previously well hyped season and ended in that all too familiar blend of excitement and stressed out relief. Kinda like peeing after holding it in for too long; a nice, soothing burn.
On our way out of town, Derielle and I stopped at a Wendy’s. Not only was it was the best damn Wendy’s ever, but it was the first time I sat down and took a breather all weekend. It dawned on me right there, that this season long road trip had only two more planned stops.
Much like the act of eating at Wendy’s, it was both exciting and a little depressing.