Several friends heartily recommended Free State Brewery's sandwiches and early on a Sunday evening we finally had an opportunity. Other attempts to eat here were unsuccessful as the restaurant was booked full until closing. The restaurant / bar / brewery is located on the north side of downtown Lawrence and limited metered parking spots line Massachusetts Ave. I pulled a quick u-turn in the street to catch the only open parking spot. Good! Parking is free on Sundays.
The entrance to the restaurant looks just like a college town bar. The bar stools were occupied with 21 - 23 year olds. This smoked filled section supported an open balcony on the second floor for those who enjoyed cigarette smoke with their meals. As noted by a large sign, cigars, pipes and flavored cigarettes are disallowed.
Our hostess directed us to the sun-filled room in the back, free from all the smoke. Open balconies filled with smaller tables surrounded this room. Fortunately, an open table was available on the ground floor as my dad would have issues with all the stairs.
Each menu had a different cover and story on the back. Mine described the brewing system. My wife's documented the state laws for liquor in Kansas. My dad's listed information on the state of Kansas. Noting our reading habits, our server brought over other menus that provided additional information, with one showing photographs from a Kansas photographer.
The new Oktoberfest beer had just been added to the menu, so I tried a glass – 14oz for $3. My wife ordered a "sampler" glass, 5oz of beer for 90 cents. I failed to write down the brew of her beer, but it was listed as one brew "lighter" than the Oktoberfest. We both enjoyed her glass much better and I wish she had asked for a full glass so I could have had more.
My bratwurst sandwich was okay, large in quantity, but just acceptable in taste. My wife had asked the server for his recommendation and was pleased with the Reuben sandwich. Fortunately, her sandwich was also large, so she readily shared with me. The corned beef was sliced thin and tender, but not fatty. It was very good. My dad’s hamburger was juicy and cooked just perfectly. His appetite matches mine, so I knew he’d eat every bite. We all had potato wedge fries which practically melted in our mouth while hot. After quickly cooling down, they lost their appeal.
The server monitored our progress, making excellent suggestions, removing dishes and providing drink refills. Overall, his service was the best part of our dining experience. The brews of beer were okay, most of them too "light" for my taste. The sandwiches were acceptable, and I could eat here again. I guess that’s the difference between "recommend" and "highly recommend".