Jazz In Topeka – London Style

Last night was the Friday night art walk and I had a great night planned for Amy & I…plans that never happened due to circumstances which aren’t all that important. BUT the we ended up stumbling upon a great little gem of downtown Topeka – London’s Jazz Cafe. It’s located just off 6th & Kansas, in the old Himer’s Luggage store.

What got me interested was a rumor going around that they served fried chicken and waffles. Now that is southern soul food, right there. And don’t knock them until you’ve tried them.

MINOR RABBIT TRAIL: One of the biggest issues of living in the midwest and west is that these people out here don’t know really how to cook to fried chicken. So it’s risky ordering fried chicken. Most places out here have this crispy, golden skin (good) with a bone-dry meat underneath (horrific). OR the breading on the chicken is slimy, not crisp and golden. There are not to many things more disappointing than getting your stomach all set on some good fried chicken and having to eat that junk. And for the record — the best way to fry chicken is in a cast-iron skillet.

BACK TO LONDON’S: You could hear the live music spilling out onto the street. That Blues Band was in a groove…and it was good. Not Bealle Street good but good enough. The owner (Lisa Kirk) met us at the door, gave us a great big friendly welcome and off we went to experience the food.

THE GOOD:
$5 cover charge – more than reasonable. Great musician and good vibe in the room.

$10 Chicken & Waffle Special – you get two big pieces of chicken, a waffle, all the sweet tea you can drink and a dessert the size of a hubcap. The chicken was cooked about to perfection. Very good, very moist.

Dessert – there were 6 or 7 different choices, one of which was a lemon cake that probably weighed 4 lbs. One dessert is plenty big enough to share. Try the brownie/ice cream/cookie tower dessert as well.

Atmosphere – about halfway through the night, I noticed two distinct things. First, there was no alcohol and there was no smoking. Finding good live music on the weekend is a tricky proposition. Most of the time when you find great music, you have to fight the smoke-filled room the first part of the evening. I have ridiculous allergies so not having to sneeze, hack, or cough my way home was a nice treat. The second part of the evening is avoiding the intoxicated people whose lack of dancing ability is no longer an issue for them OR they want to tell you how wonderful of a person you are even though you just met. Again — nice benefit of the night at London’s. Good food. Good music. Good atmosphere.

Needs Some Work:

Sound/Volume – the band sounded great, the guitars and bass, drums and percussion were tight and clean. The vocals were muddy in the mix and it was just a bit to loud for that size room. Especially for jazz and blues. A softer touch on the mix with a bit more emphasis on the vocals will do wonders for an already great experience.

Service – people were friendly but wait staff was not outstanding. It was average. Plus, the cups they served their beverages in were extremely small. So constant refills were needed but wait staff could seldom keep up with the demand. (They should have left a pitcher at the tables…another idea.) On the positive side, we did not have to wait long at all for our food.

Overall – great experience and will return. Highly recommend for our Topeka friends looking for a good night on the town. Check website for schedule.

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