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TOPEKA — In the capital city of Todd Renner’s youth, he could ride his skateboard through downtown and not be bothered by anyone if he picked the right time of day, he shared.
“After 5 o’clock, it was nothing but tumbleweeds down here,” explained the general manager of The Pennant, a restaurant with retro arcade games and a bowling alley that sits just a block away from the Kansas Capitol.
“Now you come down here and you can’t find a parking spot after 5 o’clock on a Wednesday night,” he added.
“It was just to help start bringing people back this way so that we can provide Topeka with the food, lifestyle and fun atmosphere that they deserve,” he said.
Each concept serves its own niche, Renner explained. The Pennant — which opened in March 2018 as the first of the downtown concepts — is a family-friendly venue that is ideal for large groups.
“I’ve never worked in a restaurant that’s had so many 15-plus tops coming in at the same time,” he continued. “That’s kind of our wheelhouse, birthday parties, family gatherings, things like that.”
The Pennant — a nod to the Pennant Cafeteria previously operated by Miss Patricia Beezley in the second floor of the building during the 1950s and 1960s — aims to be a food and entertainment destination with signature burgers like the Bacon Me Crazy, “Instagram famous” milkshakes, seven varieties of fries, and fun cocktails like the Kansas Avenue Traffic Jam. The food is all made fresh to order in the 80-percent from-scratch kitchen, Renner said.
Click here to explore The Pennant menu.
“The menu isn’t just a standard menu,” explained Yolanda Uhl, marketing director for AIM Strategies. “There’s unique flavors. There’s thought that goes into everything that they prepare; it’s not just thrown at you. And I think that this team does an amazing job continually going back to the board, figuring out what’s not only tasting good, but what’s trending, what’s going to elevate the taste profile, what’s going to make people happy, and what’s going to really put The Pennant on the map for something that’s unique and creative.”
On the side, The Pennant also serves up entertainment with bowling downstairs and retro arcade games — like Frogger, Pac Man, and Donkey Kong — and skee ball upstairs.
“It’s a great time for the family,” Renner added.
The restaurant also features a beer garden that overlooks downtown and a large event space upstairs. Three times a year, the upper floor also turns into a pop-up bar, including the Mistletoe at Christmas, Renner shared.
“We’ll try to pick two others that are pop culture-centric,” he explained. “Last year we did one that was loosely-based around ‘Stranger Things.’ It was very popular. We’re in the process of deciding what we’re going to put on for this year’s pop-ups.”
“I just love the fact that this is a restaurant that really cares and really wants to not only impact downtown Topeka, but really wants to take care of the customers that come through the doors,” Uhl added.
AIM Strategies’ concepts in downtown Topeka also include Iron Rail Brewing — which opened in November 2018 — a brewery with barbecue and what Renner refers to as “Kansas comfort food,” he said. The Weather Room inside of the Cyrus Hotel is a little more upscale — with a menu that includes steak and lobster — and is a great date night place. The coming-soon TaCo is expected to serve a variety of tacos and tequila perfect for happy hour.
“We all kind of have our own unique little place and purpose that we fit into down here,” he continued.
“Everything is so unique and different,” Uhl added. “It’s a different experience in each one, but it’s a very nice experience in each one with really extremely friendly staff, amazing food, and just a great time every time you go.”
This series is possible thanks to Go Topeka.
Go Topeka seeks economic success for all companies and citizens across Shawnee County through implementation of an aggressive economic development strategy that capitalizes on the unique strengths of the community.