As days get shorter, the summer breeze fades to a wintry chill and fall descends slowly on campus, there’s one important question we were dying to answer: where can I find the best autumn snacks?
After a quick online search, we stumbled upon two nearby locations selling seasonal items. The first was Blackdog Coffee Shop, a sprawling cafe in northern Lenexa; the second was The Wooden Spoon, a homey family-run cafe across the street from the college.
Here are our head-to-head reviews about each restaurant.
Blackdog Coffee House
When we walked into Black Dog Coffeehouse off W 87th St Pkwy, we were greeted by a modern and spacious looking area. The always bustling coffeeshop was filled with the sound of old friends chatting and business execs typing away on laptops. A tiny chalkboard near the door listed Blackdog’s seasonal drinks, two of which were created by baristas working in the shop. When you approach to order, one incredibly nice staff member or another will be happy to help you find exactly what it is you’re looking for.
Although it isn’t food related, the first point I want to make is how exceptional Blackdog’s layout is. Within the coffeehouse itself, the lively seating area in the main lobby is lit by natural light and filled with the sounds of people chatting and baristas calling the names of customers. Through a doorless archway, though, there is a softly lit lounge area with comfortable chairs, less noise and several power outlets for any electronic needs. If you go past the lobby and down a few steps, you enter Ibis Bakery, which supplies Blackdog’s pastries. There, you can see the pastries being crafted right in front of you in the spacious white kitchen. Board games, green plants and giant windows make this room feel comfortable and fresh.
The first food item I tried at Blackdog was the Fall Fowler. The moment I picked up the drink, I was hit with an aroma of pumpkin. The pumpkin flavor was fainter once I actually tasted the drink, but the power of the coconut shavings sprinkled over the top made up for whatever flavor was lost.
The second drink I tasted was the apple cider. The cider was supplied by the Louisburg Cider Mill, a local favorite. This cider remained simple, which was a bit disappointing considering the flair Blackdog usually puts on their otherwise simple items, like their hot chocolate, which is elevated with Shatto chocolate milk.
I also tried Blackdog’s two seasonal food options: a pumpkin spiced pound cake and nectarine and hazelnut danish. The pound cake wasn’t necessarily impressive, but the flavor was good and the icing was delicious. The danish itself was tasty, and it’s obvious that Ibis Bakery puts extreme effort into the pastries they create. The nectarine and hazelnut in the middle was a strange combination that I couldn’t decide if I liked at first. It was definitely an acquired taste, and this pastry may not be for everyone.
Blackdog’s paramount advantage over The Wooden Spoon was their selection. Upon asking, four seasonal options were briskly presented, while The Wooden Spoon had only pumpkin pancakes. While I enjoyed the waiter and I liked the pancakes, the café wasn’t much to look at. The color palate used was red, green and yellow, with a painting of what looked like a California vineyard in Sonoma on the wall. The kitchen didn’t fit well in the restaurant and made it feel cramped.
This isn’t my first time at Blackdog, and I can say that with each experience I come away fully satisfied. I don’t feel as inclined to return to The Wooden Spoon, which was overall underwhelming. For a modern, refreshing coffeehouse with a multitude of seating areas and friendly baristas, as well as festive options to get you in the mood for fall, Blackdog is the place to go.
Story by Jake Ditto
The Wooden Spoon
We arrived at The Wooden Spoon at 1:30 p.m., half an hour before the café’s close. The early close makes sense for this small restaurant with a distinct local diner feel, though, since their menu contains only breakfast and lunch options.
Despite our late arrival, we were greeted with a smile by one of The Wooden Spoon’s owners, Wayne Yake. His wife, Tina, inspired the creation of their small restaurant after being a home cook for over two decades. Now, The Wooden Spoon has two locations: one across the street from the college and the other on Roe Avenue near I-435.
Wayne indulged us in conversation throughout our stay, taking time to explain his integration into the culinary world as we ate and kept us from feeling rushed in any way. Our search for seasonal options yielded only pumpkin pie pancakes, which Wayne thoughtfully ordered for us in several mini-pancake forms with syrup in containers on the side.
The pancakes themselves were delicious. Although sugary, the pumpkin flavor came through with every bite and the presentation was stellar. The quaint restaurant was right on brand with their cinnamon-sprinkled swirl of butter topping each stack, making them look picturesque and delightfully rustic.
Over at Blackdog Coffeehouse, I wasn’t as pleased. We tried their seasonal options, too, in the forms of a hazelnut and nectarine danish and a slice of pumpkin spiced pound cake, as well as two seasonal drinks, apple cider from the Louisburg Cidermill and “The Fall Fowler.”
Danishes, admittedly, are meant to be flaky. However, Blackdog’s pastry took it to a whole new level. It was nearly impossible to eat and left the floor coated in crumbs. The first touch of this pastry left my hands disgustingly sticky, making the overbearing flakes even more frustrating. The crust was simply a regular danish, blandly buttery and simple; the only seasonal addition was within, in the form of syrupy sliced nectarine that left the breading grossly soggy. The pound cake lacked flavor or zest and even looked underwhelming on the plate but was saved by tasty icing across the top that added nice texture.
The drinks were equally disappointing. The Fall Fowler was an in-home creation by a Blackdog barista, which is a nice touch. Although the drink smelled and tasted okay, the toasted coconut flakes across the top utterly ruined it. It might seem like a small detail, but every sip left long, wet flakes hanging out of my mouth. There was no clean or graceful way to consume this drink, and the taste was lost to the uncomfortable feeling of the coconut. The apple cider tasted like, at best, hot apple juice. The presentation was nice, with white froth blanketing the top of the otherwise simple drink, but the flavor was just bad.
Blackdog baristas are friendly, but can’t compare to the small-business feel of The Wooden Spoon. For any simple breakfast or lunch options, or delicious pumpkin pancakes, The Wooden Spoon is a perfect option. The fact that it’s right across the street from the college is like the cherry on top: for a light breakfast after a morning class or two, keep The Wooden Spoon in mind.
Story by Samantha Joslin