How Kansas City’s oldest restaurants have thrived for so long
The KC metro has more than 30 restaurants that have been in operation for decades. Here are the secret ingredients to their success.
They’re gone but not forgotten.
Many Kansas Citians still mourn the loss of neighborhood and downtown restaurant mainstays.
Among favorites over the years were Eddy’s Loaf ’N Stein, Jenny’s Italian Restaurant, Jimmy & Mary’s Steak House, Nichols Lunch, Putsch’s, New York Bakery & Delicatessen, Peppercorn Duck Club, Romanelli Grill, Ruby’s Soul Food, Sidney’s Diner, Tatsu’s French Restaurant, Wimpey’s Drive-in and Wolferman’s.
Here are some more and reasons they closed.
▪ Berliner Bear: Waldo’s authentic German restaurant on Wornall Road claimed to serve the “best apple strudel in KC.” Rooms also were available for private events, and some groups held monthly meetings there.
In 2005, the National Socialist Movement had its national convention at the restaurant. Members dressed in Nazi uniforms and celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday. After much backlash, the restaurant closed a couple of years later.
▪ Costello’s Greenhouse: Vince Costello, who played pro football including a stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, opened the restaurant in late 1979 with the then-trendy brass-wood-plant decor and large salad bar. That and live jazz quickly made it one of south Kansas City’s “in” spots, a local sports columnist wrote.
In early 1997, the restaurant, just north of Ward Parkway Center, closed and the company filed for bankruptcy.
▪ EBT restaurant: In the UMB building in south Kansas City, it was known for its peppercorn steak and bananas foster whipped up tableside. When it closed in 2015, management said, “Dining is not as formal as it used to be.”
That building has since been demolished to make way for a new bank.
▪ The Gold Buffet: In its heyday, the 30,000-square-foot building in North Kansas City could serve up to 1,800 people an hour, offering nearly 100 menu items, everything from watermelon to lobster tail — a “quality product at the right price,” said founder Carroll Meyer when he closed it in 1994. At 68, he was not looking to retire but wanted “independency.”
▪ Italian Gardens: It was a downtown draw for 78 years before closing in late 2003. The owners said downtown redevelopment was not coming fast enough, and members of the next generation were either too young to take over the family business or already had other careers.
▪ Sanderson’s Lunch. A 24/7 downtown diner that drew a wide demographic — some showed up daily — it moved to midtown and then south Kansas City. It opened in 1912 and closed in 2000. A Star review in 1998 said it offered well-prepared American fare at bargain prices.
▪ Stephenson’s Old Apple Farm Restaurant. The owners blamed the 2007 closing on the costs for significant equipment upgrades, and the ages of the founders (both in their late 80s). It was known for its hickory smoked brisket, baked chicken in butter and cream, green rice casserole, apple fritters and hot apple dumplings, with free apple cider in the waiting area.
This story was originally published August 21, 2022 5:00 AM.