Leavenworth, Kansas, northeast of Kansas City, and known primarily as the home of a Federal Penitentiary and a Military Prison, could be considered “off the beaten track”. Though it was once, in the mid 19th century, the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, today it has a decidedly sleepy, small town atmosphere. There aren’t too many places worth eating if you find yourself in Leavenworth—but there is one tiny place that is terrific—perhaps even worth a special trip.
Marfield’s is a small Bar-B-Que joint in downtown Leavenworth—in a part of the country famous for Bar-B-Que and steaks. It was recommended to me by the proprietress of a local giftshop, the wife of a retired army officer who had lived for many years in Europe, and seemed to have a great appreciation for good food.
I Didn’t know what to expect really, as it’s a very unassuming sort of dust colored stucco shack on an empty block—with not even a sign outside. But once you step through the door it is a real surprise—very nicely done up in a manner that is both friendly yet stylish. There are nice wooden booths with really nice copper clad tables and pale spare walls. The place is quite small, but divided by a low wall into two rooms—one with six small booths and the other with a long bar and a few tall tables. The building was once a carriage house, and had been a bar and restaurant for a long time after that. It had been closed for a while when David Spangler, proprietor and chef, acquired it. After extensive interior renovation, he opened Marfield’s in January 2002.
We arrived for lunch a bit after two, rather late for lunch—especially in the midwest—and as we were the only customers at that hour, we had a long conversation with David. He had previously owned a larger restaurant, but wanted to get away from the problems of management, and have a small place where he could fully indulge his passion for good food. He did all the renovations himself—including inlaying the bar top with a collection of vintage souvenirs—and during our visit served as both chef and waiter. And the food was excellent. I had the BBQ ribs—they are falling off the bone tender, with a fine smoky crust and accompanied by David’s own-recipe sauce for dipping. (This is his Dixie sauce—vinegary and complex; he offers a sweeter, more conventional BBQ sauce as well, in response to local demand). Of course I had to order all the side dishes as well—a fine potato salad, crunchy fresh-tasting coleslaw, and a special concoction of baked beans that are perhaps the finest I have ever had. The menu is limited—ribs and steaks; a few large salads; a hamburger, and some sandwiches at lunch. There’s a nice assortment of beer on tap, and a full bar as well.
This is truly Travel Tip material—a real find. It’s delicious, it’s new, the owner is great, there are not so many good places to eat in Leavenworth—and it is not a place you’d be likely to wander into on your own.
David did say he was having a sign made, however!—Clay Doyle
Marfield’s Smokehouse & Pub
312 North 2nd Street, Leavenworth, Kansas