Kansas City-area restaurants you’ll never eat at again, part 2

The response to the first installment of this series has been fun and interesting. We aren’t surprised that Kansas Citians love to talk about restaurants of yesteryear, but the ones they miss are a bit surprising. This installment of the series will have a soft theme of “family style restaurants.” Favorite places like Joe’s Barn, Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant, EBT, Whisker Rivey’s and others. We’ll be visiting some odd concept restaurants, neighborhood Mexican places, and one of our childhood favorite doughnut sources.

More installments of this series are being researched and written, so please use the form at the end of this article to submit names of restaurants that you’d like to see us cover.

Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine

This small national chain had around a half dozen locations, all featuring scenic views and Old West / mining themed décor. The restaurants had a back story about a woman named “Baby Doe Tabor” who had been born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and later moved to Colorado in 1877 after getting married. The miners named her “Baby Doe.” She got divorced, married the governor and there is more story on the back of the menu, but it’s now time to place your orders.

Menu items might include Veal Marsala, Filet Mignon Oscar, Twin Lobster Tails, Mesquite Smoked Swordfish, Miner’s Chicken, Steak and Shrimp Scampi,  and Honey Roast Duckling.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“Great views of the city and a great date night place.”

Betty Crocker Tree House Restaurant & Bakery

If you remember the Rainforest Café chain that was at malls during the 90s and 00s (like at Oak Park Mall), you’ll understand the vibe of this restaurant, which was open on Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park in the early 1970s. The restaurant featured animatronic talking parrots in cages, something that really impressed us kids. The restaurant wasn’t as over the top as Rainforest Café, but it had lots of greenery and the fake talking parrots.

The restaurant was open briefly in a free-standing building near 107th and Metcalf, basically right in front of where Hooters is currently located. We badgered the parents about dining here again and they said it had closed. As kids we couldn’t figure out why such a cool place didn’t stay open.

The Tree House Restaurant was part of a test chain opened by the General Mills corporation. The restaurants closed in 1974, but GM went on to open the Red Lobster chain. The food could be described as like a Chile’s fast casual restaurant. The restaurants also had bakeries next door, which featured Betty Crocker-inspired baked goods.

Chopstix / Chien Dynasty

Can’t remember the first Asian restaurant I was taken to as a kid growing up in the 1970s. It could have been Princess Garden or Chopstix. Chopstix was a south Kansas City institution for decades, located in the front of the building that housed the Ward Parkway Lanes. Years later, Chopstix became a hang out spot for me and friends, as a friend tended bar there and because a Chopstix family member was a high school classmate.

Yes, the restaurant was in the same building as a bowling alley. There was even a door (or opening) from the restaurant to the alley, thus giving the restaurant an interesting vibe. The menu was very typical of an American Chinese restaurant with affordable prices. I recall the food being good. I don’t recall if I tried any vegetarian menu items that would later become staples in my diet.

The Chien family later opened another restaurant called Chien Dynasty in Overland Park on west 87th Street, next to the Central branch of the Johnson County Public Library. I think it outlasted Chopstix. Chien Dynasty had entrees such as Almond Duck, Neptune’s Blessing (crabmeat, scallops, shrimp), Three In A Nest (“chicken, shrimp and scallops sauteed with vegs., served in a potato ‘birds’ nest”), Yu-hsiang Scallops, Sha-cha Beef, and Hot Pepper Chicken.

EBT

EBT restaurant was the destination for fancy dining in south Kansas City for many years. Was located on the south side of I-435 and State Line Road. Boasted an extensive wine selection and a full cocktail lounge.

The restaurant’s menu probably changed often over the decades, but a 1981 menu for a “business lunch” included items like the Hot Crabmeat Royale, Egg Sardu, Veal Saute with Capers, Chicken Crepes, Luncheon Steak Maitre D’Hotel, and the EBT sandwich (sourdough bread, sliced ham and turkey, broccoli spears, with cheese and bacon).

A typical menu in the restaurant’s later year might include high end surf-and-turf entrees like Sweet Blackened Ahi Tuna, Sesame Beef Tips, Grilled North Atlantic Salmon Buerre Blanc, and Kansas City Strip with Béarnaise Sauce. You could also enjoy a three-course dinner.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“Named for the department store Emery Bird Thayer. Rousseau-like painting in the bar. Very elegant restaurant in the UMB bank office building. Excellent fancy entrees. Wine tastings. Loved it!”

The Golden Ox (original)

There is a category of restaurants which could be described as “Dining Near the Stadium Before the Game.” Unfortunately, the current Truman Sports Complex is in a restaurant desert, so there aren’t many places that fit this category unless we talk about downtown Kansas City, Missouri or out at the Legends in Kansas City, Kansas. But years ago, when we used to go to NBA Kings games at Kemper Arena, a favorite dining place for fans was the Gold Ox. A new version of that restaurant exists in the same location, but let’s remember the original.

The original Golden Ox was in the West Bottoms, located in the Livestock Exchange Building, between downtown Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. This was the historic stockyards district, so it makes sense that one of Kansas City’s premier steak restaurants would be in this neighborhood. The Golden Ox originally opened in 1949 and catered to workers who were bringing livestock to the stockyards. The restaurant closed in 2014.

The menu featured high end, aged, and hand cut steaks. If we’re talking about the famous Kansas City Strip steak, the Golden Ox was one of the must visit restaurants in Kansas City.

I visited the Golden Ox a few times in the 1970s with my father, who liked to go there before we saw the Kansas City Kings NBA team play at Kemper. I was not a fan of steak or meat as a young person, so I probably ordered my entrée cooked the wrong way. But it was kind of cool to find parking and dine at a fancy restaurant before walking to the game.

A new incarnation of The Golden Ox was opened in 2016 by Jill Myers and Wes Gartner, co-owners of Voltaire, which is across the street. The new restaurant recaptures the atmosphere of the original with a menu that reflects the original Golden Ox but updates it with a fresh take.

Joe’s Barn

If you ask most Kansas Citians over the age of 40, which restaurant they miss, many of them will mention Joe’s Barn. It was a classic roadside, family style restaurant, where families would make pilgrimages to on weekends. The large red barn-like building was located just north of downtown Stanley on old Metcalf. I vaguely recall eating there once or twice as a kid, but I drove past it, and took the school bus past it, thousands of times over the years I attended Blue Valley schools in the late 70s and early 80s.

I know that a few, or maybe a lot more, of my high school classmates worked at Joe’s Barn during their teen years. It was one of the biggest employers in the Blue Valley School District.

Joe’s Barn had a weekly all-day buffet on Sundays. The big attraction was their “family style” or “country style” dinners. These typically featured broiled steaks, chicken, broiled ham steak, and fried shrimp.

Patrikio's Mexican Restaurant

Pretty sure that Patrikio’s (also Patricio’s) was the first Mexican restaurant that I experienced as a kid. I may have only dined there one or a few times, but the restaurant was the closest to my childhood neighborhood. I still remember how their tacos were delivered to you covered in a bucket of shredded lettuce. Not sure why they used all that lettuce, but maybe shredded lettuce was dirt cheap on the 1970s and 80s?

First opened in the early 1970s, Patrikio’s with its nondescript building was a south Kansas City Mexican restaurant at 99th and Holmes. The founders were Ruth Coleen Bond and Lawrence “Pat” Moran. Later owned by Osamah Aburas, the restaurant closed in 2011.

The curious thing about the restaurant was that while it was opened for decades, nobody I knew ever talked about eating there.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“Yummy tacos. Loaded with shredded lettuce. So good.”

Ruby’s Soul Food

Owner Ruby W. McIntyre .

Ruby’s Soul Food was a Kansas City institution at 15th and Brooklyn from 1955 to 2004. While I never ate there, my father always raved about the food. Back in the 1970s, he worked nearby and evidently would go there for lunch. Ruby’s had the standard soul food options: fried chicken, chitterlings, mashed potatoes, greens and cobbler. Ruby W. McIntyre was the owner.

In the 1990s, I picked up an appreciation for soul food, albeit the vegetarian variety. There were several vegetarian soul food restaurants in Washington, DC (like Soul Veg and Everlasting Life Cafe), which I tried to patronize whenever possible. I’ve argued for some time the Kansas City really needs a vegetarian soul food restaurant.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“A fried chicken sandwich it was difficult to eat all the fried chicken huge portions. Peach cobbler was to die for.”

Stephenson's Apple Farm Restaurant

Partial view of Stephenson's Apple Farm Restaurant located at the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Lee's Summit Road in Independence, Missouri. View is looking toward the north, showing the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Lee's Summit Road. The restaurant closed in February 2007. Credit: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri.

We got lots of suggestions of restaurants of the past in response to part one of this series and the most popular suggestion has been Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant. Stephenson’s orchard and restaurant were mainstays on old U.S. 40 in Independence for more than a century.  The orchard first opened in 1879 and the restaurant in 1946. The restaurant closed on 2007 and is evidently greatly missed by many fans.

Venture

If you were shopping at a discount department store in Kansas City in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably made a few trips to Venture with its bold black-and-white diagonal stripe branding. Founded in 1968 by Target founder John F. Geisse, the chain eventually grew to 70 locations around the U.S. before closing in 1998. Locations usually had a little dining area inside the store called Cafe Venture. What I remember about Venture as a kid, and what many of my peers remember, was the doughnut counter. I recall the doughnuts being amazing, the variety being overwhelming, and the smells wafting throughout the stores (probably an annoyance to employees).

Fresh doughnut counter at a Venture store.

Whisker Rivey's

Was located at the Red Bridge Shopping Center in south Kansas City. Started by the family that ran the Waid’s restaurant chain. The restaurant was popular for years and featured an American fast casual menu. A friend, who was a cook there, recalls preparing a dish that featured an entire cooked trout on a platter. They would prop up the fish head so the eye was looking at the diner.

The staff must have been a tight group, as they recently tried to organize a re-union a few years ago on Facebook.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“I remember their delicious banana bread, and the very retro dark wood and stained glass feel of the whole place. It was at the corner of Red Bridge and Holmes in south Kansas City. I was a kid when we went, but it was great. Still can’t believe there was a time where hearing, ‘Smoking or non?’ when you walked into a restaurant wasn’t weird.”

Zepi's Pizza

Zepi's pizza in birthday party mode. Photo: Austin Hooper

Before the growth of corporate pizza chains and the rise of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza casinos for kids, there were independent family-style pizza joints all over the place. Many Kansas Citians are probably familiar with roadside favorites like Fun House Pizza, large capacity restaurants which can accommodate multiple children’s birthday parties.

In the mid-twentieth century, Zepi’s Pizza on Wornall Road was a popular destination for great pizza and for children’s birthday parties. Their mascot was a clown, so what says mid-twentieth century kid party like a clown mascot?

Sold a shrimp pizza on Friday nights.

Zepi’s closed in 1978, after 43 years of slinging pizza pies for Kansas Citians.

What do you remember about the restaurant?

“The establishment had a merry-go-round.”

“Good pizza and a train for kids.”

Photos: Austin Hooper

Zuider Zee

South Kansas Citians will remember that Sam Wilsons replaced Zuider Zee (profiled in part one of this series), on 103rd Street, between State Line Road and Wornall. I recall that the restaurant pretty much used the original building and added a windmill. While the Zuider Zee was a small national chain, the windmill thing was perfect for the location, which was right next to the historic Watt’s Mill.

The restaurant featured a seafood menu with many menu items that were flown in fresh daily.

What readers remember about the restaurant:

“Replaced Sam Wilsons and had great seafood.”

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