Imagine dining on roast buffalo like the Native Americans or baked ham with strawberry sauce just as the early settlers did, with your meal delivered by servers in period costumes inside a Victorian era decorated home built in 1861 along the famous Santa Fe Trail. Find this unique cultural experience inside Council Grove’s Trail Days Café and Museum where you truly step back in time dining on historical foods in a historic setting.

Café manager Shirley McClintock offers the opportunity to smell and taste history through a menu of American Indian, Old World, Early American and early 20th Century foods, with each recipe extensively researched for historical accuracy.

Dining on the same foods the Native Americans ate over 150 years ago helped me connect with those who roamed the prairie long before Kansas became a state. I learned from Shirley the Osage and Konza cooked what was available on the prairie, trading with other tribes for seasonings and foods not found in the area. Elk was plentiful here then, and my roasted version was deliciously tender after being prepared using the same method the Native Americans used - seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper and cooked with moisture over a long period of time. Pepper really spiced up the succotash, a side dish consisting of corn and lima beans.I also sampled the tasty French croquet-monsieur - ham and Swiss cheese on French bread, grilled and topped with melted cheddar cheese and walnuts. Other Old World entrees include the English Toad in the Hole, Swedish meatballs, German Schnitzel, and Scotch-Irish Bangers. The extensive menu also has Early American ham and beans, the 20th Century American farm meal of oven-fried chicken with mashed potatoes, and a Town Square Reuben sandwich. Vegetarian dishes honor a colony of vegetarians that settled here in the mid-1800s.

History abounds inside this café located in the oldest stone home remaining along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas; be sure to ask Shirley to interpret the Kansa/Osage pictograph on a door casing. Tour the home’s historical exhibits, then venture outside to view the country schoolhouse, log cabin, 1930 tourist camp cabin in period décor, and the other displays for more insight into the past.

Do you know another restaurant that serves elk or buffalo?

CECILIA HARRISI cooked up the idea of making a career combining my love for writing, eating, and traveling after my sons were born. I grilled my friends living in other parts of the state about their favorite restaurants, and some of those establishments eventually became the topic of my Historic Restaurant series, and later the Tastes column, published in KANSAS! magazine. I simply enjoy the adventure of discovering great food found at unique restaurants, small-town grocery stores, and farm-based processors throughout Kansas, and then sharing what I’ve learned with you.