The Breadbasket is a high plains cafe in the middle of Newton, a Mennonite community about 25 miles north of Wichita. Enter the restaurant through the dining room, which is plain and nicely furnished with knickknacks. As you leave the dining room you enter the cafeteria-style serving area and place your order.
I initially found this place back in 2003 after searching the web for bierocks. Bierocks are similar to the Runza served at the Nebraska chain that bears the same name. The ingredients include ground beef, onions, cabbage, and spices, all baked inside a pocket of bread dough. They were initially made by Mennonites from Germany who emigrated to Russia and eventually settled in Kansas and Nebraska.
You can choose a sandwich or one of the homemade bierocks (which usually run out before the end of the day). You can order a small or regular portion with the additional option of including soup or salad bar with the meal. My meal included a regular bierock (you get two), salad bar, and, for an extra charge, the soup bar, too.
The bierocks are stellar. The bread dough is warm, soft, and fresh, and the complementary combination of beef, cabbage, and onions melds harmoniously. Unlike Nebraska Runzas, which are usually rectangular, Kansas bierocks are circular.
The typical heartland salad bar includes several homemade items such as pea salad, German potato salad, sweet and sour cabbage, and apple raisin salad. The homemade soups include smokey green been and ham, creamy chicken noodle loaded with hunks of chicken and soft wide noodles, and chicken borscht soup. My attention was so entranced by the salad and soup bar, I cannot even tell you about the display of homemade breads. I forgot to get a slice or two! A plethora of pies greeted me at the end of the cafeteria line. I chose Toll House pie, which tastes like a big soft chocolate chip cookie.
On Friday nights the Breadbasket stays open for dinner, with a German buffet, and on Sunday there is a general buffet. The bierocks, soup, and salad bar are only offered at lunchtime during the week.
The Breadbasket is good proof that the traditional heartland cafe is alive and well.