The Englewood Theater - which turns 63 years old this summer - is probably the primary tourist draw for the hamlet of the same name. It would be nice if the old movie house was open again, but it's been closed since the weather turned cold last year: "There were boiler problems," said the owner of a store near the theater. "You can't operate a theater without heat."
"Yes, the boiler shot craps in January. We should be reopening the theater in a few weeks," says the theater's owner, Wade Williams. "We just haven't decided if we're going to show classic films or first-run movies."
But even without a theater, there are a few delicious reasons to visit tiny Englewood, a kind of miniature downtown within the boundaries of Independence. There are three really fine little restaurants (and an antique store that serves tea and pastries). Englewood is still a charming place to visit, even after the passing of the five-and-dime store (the latest incarnation is having a going-out-of-business sale). There's even a Third Friday Art Walk in the neighborhood. And it's actually pretty easy to find: Englewood is located between Truman Road and 23rd Street just west of Sterling Avenue.
So what about the food?Mugs Up Root Beer Drive-In at 700 East 23rd Street. The joint turns 56 years old, and the Kendalls have owned it for 53 of those years, still making the best root beer in the city in the basement of the prefabricated building. (Trivia note: The former Wichita-based company, Valentine Manufacturing, which created the neat little counter-and-stool dinette inside the Detour Coffee House, also constructed the building that still houses Mugs Up.)
Williams planned to open his own coffee shop in the space three or four years ago but postponed the plans to focus on some family issues. "And then Ann Kendall came to me and wanted to run the coffee shop, so we worked out a deal." Williams bought the eight-stool counter and backdrop - which dates back to the 1930s - to use as a set for his 1992 remake of the '40s film noir favorite, Detour.
Ann Kendall doesn't sell root beer in the coffee shop ("But we're working on that," she says), but she does sell a couple of signature Mugs Up sandwiches: the loose-meat Zip Burger and the Whiz Burger, a Zip with cheese. "At Mugs Up, we use American cheese," Kendall told me. "Here we use cheddar." The coffee shop is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are a couple of breakfast dishes, including a ham-and-cheese croissant and a pretty good cinnamon roll, but most people stop in for a cup of java and lunch.old-fashioned pies, including hard-to-find varieties like gooseberry and pineapple cream. The blueberry here is glorious, and you won't find a better cream pie on the east side of town.
The Detour Coffee Shop and the Englewood Cafe are venues that are as all-American as apple pie. But the third restaurant in Englewood is the international surprise in the neighborhood. Tomorrow, Fat City will share a South American-style breakfast with you from the Plaza Market & Cafe.