We all know about the cultural phenomenons that are beloved by Kansas State community: Wildcat athletics, Aggieville eateries and beautiful outdoor spaces. But are some of these places and experiences worth the hype they receive? With some friends in tow, here are my rulings on these Manhattan staples: Are they worth the hype?
1. Taco Lucha/So Long Saloon/Raspberry Bean Dip
It’s not unusual to see seasoned K-State students talk on social media about grabbing a bite at Taco Lucha or So Long Saloon — or they’ll share how much they miss it after they have left Manhattan. I had heard many accolades about both eateries in my time at K-State, and almost every time I walk down Moro Street I see that So Long is packed with customers. However in my first three years at K-State, I hadn’t tried Lucha, So Long or their fabled appetizer: the raspberry bean dip.
To see if the bean dip nostalgia is real, I went to lunch with Kyle Hampel, 2019 K-State graduate in English, former Collegian contributor and my romantic partner. He had not eaten at Taco Lucha or So Long Saloon, either.
When our hot dish of raspberry bean dip arrived at our table with tortilla chips, the use of whole black beans caught us off guard.
“They’re using black beans instead of refried beans, which is already an offense on me and my house,” Kyle said. “And just how cheese and raspberry — that’s like putting peanut butter on a hot dog. It just doesn’t work for me.”
I had to agree; I’m not the biggest fan of beans, and the combination of flavors was unique, but the dip wasn’t worth its $9 price point.
The rest of our meal was fairly tasty, but Kyle and I didn’t see the appeal of going back for more. While the raspberry bean dip might tickle some people’s taste buds, it was not worth the hype.
2. Pillsbury Crossing
Another hyped-up place to visit in the area is Pillsbury Crossing. Located along a dirt road east of Manhattan, Pillsbury Crossing presumably gets its name from the shallow area of the waterway that vehicles can actually cross during periods of low water. There’s a drop-off that creates a low waterfall and a deeper area of the stream that people sometimes swim in, even though that’s against the law.
Pillsbury Crossing was another place I had not visited until this summer. One evening, I carpooled with former Collegian photo editor Olivia Bergmeier, junior in mass communications and biology, to see the area.
Recent rains had made the stream a little murky, but the water was fairly clear. Olivia pointed out that she was “pleasantly surprised” when she first visited.
“I thought it was going to be like this grand, amazing — so I went to Jamaica once and there was this place called the Blue Hole, and that’s kind of how I was envisioning in my head,” Olivia said. “It was gorgeous. But I was still really pleasantly surprised because you can take your kids here and let them step in the water and have fun.”
I had to agree; all by ourselves, the secluded area was a calm place to stand in the ankle-high waterway and enjoy the sounds of nature. Just for the scenery and atmosphere alone, Olivia and I thought that Pillsbury Crossing is worth the hype it gets.
3. K-State Football Games
Out of all the activities and places in this list, K-State football games are the quintessential student experience. It goes beyond the actual game itself; the marching band and cheerleaders keep the student section loud and active with different traditions (like jingling your car keys at kickoff).
At the time of writing this, it was too early in the year to attend another football game, so I called upon the insight of Paige Kyle, senior in music education. Paige has seen three years of home football games as a marching band member. Her instrument: mellophone.
“The first Wabash [Cannonball] of the first game, before pregame in front of the student section is definitely my favorite moment, maybe of the entire season,” Paige said. “It’s just so much fun, and the students and the band definitely play off of each other, and we’re all really pumped.”
Though we both prefer to watch other Wildcat sports — volleyball for me, and basketball for her — Paige said that her sports preference does not matter when performing with 400 other band members makes the whole experience fun.
“There’s like 50,000 people in that stadium, and it’s just so fun and we’re all hyped together,” Paige said.
We agreed: K-State football games are worth the hype.
4. Varsity Donuts/Varsity Truck
Both the Varsity Donuts storefront and the late-night Varsity Truck in Aggieville are notable places to gather with friends and have a snack. While patrons can get boxes of donuts and cups of coffee in the building, night owls can visit the stationary food truck out in the alley for mac n’ cheese grilled cheeses, corn dogs and (surprise, surprise) more donuts.
I must declare a conflict of interest here, though: I was a Varsity employee during summer 2018 and summer 2019. So I leaned on Zach St. Clair, senior in English, to give a well-rounded, unbiased opinion of Varsity.
“Full disclaimer: Grilled cheese is one of the most important things to me in my life,” Zach said. “I have a rule that if I go somewhere — if I go to a restaurant and they have a grilled cheese option … then I’m going to get that. That’s my rule.
“So, the Varsity Truck is prime time for me,” Zach continued. “I think both the storefront and the Varsity Truck, especially after a late night in the ‘Ville, they’re both very well worth the hype.”
Zach and I agreed that donuts are fairly cheap, so a customer can get a nice treat for not too much money. His favorites are the red velvet donut and the flat tire (a square donut with cookie topping), while I favor the blueberry cake donut and the Larry (PB&J twist).
To us, Varsity is worth the hype both in the day and at night. However, there’s one important consideration: If you take your parents there or don’t particularly like late-night, drunk strangers, go early in the evening.
“I am speaking from a more privileged position; I have not been in a position where I felt threatened or anything like that,” Zach said. “That can be different for different people. That is a caveat to be taken into account.”
5. Top of the World
Out on the northwest side of Manhattan, a high vantage point called Top of the World features hiking trails, a circular parking area and a 360-degree elevated view of the city and the Flint Hills. It’s a spot familiar to Tara Magaña, senior in psychology, and me, as we used to live in Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House together and visited Top of the World as part of a bonding activity.
Though Tara has lived in Manhattan her whole life, she didn’t start visiting the viewpoint area until she started her K-State studies.
“I never really thought about coming up here until I was a little bit older, because it was not something I was ever really interested in,” Tara said.
While Top of the World offers a nice view of the sunrise and sunset, Tara said the area is not worth the hype when compared to other vantage points in the area.
“I really like Observation Point that’s up by Tuttle Creek [Reservoir],” she said. “I really like overlooks, but this is like — if I had to choose between all the different ones in town, this is the bottom of the list for me. There’s not as much of the city to look at.”
The verdict: While still cool, Top of the World is not worth the hype.
Dene Dryden is the Collegian’s copy editor and a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was produced in coordination with Wildcat 91.9 radio. Listen to the Discover MHK with Dene episodes about these hyped-up Manhattan staples on SoundCloud: